NZAGRC Science Leadership Team

The role of NZAGRC Science Leadership Team (SLT) is to play a key part in the development, implementation and monitoring of all of the Centre’s science programmes and strategies.  It consists of respected New Zealand-based researchers with excellent science credentials accompanied by strong leadership, communication, strategic and inter-personal skills with expertise in those areas of science covered in the NZAGRC Strategy and Science Plan.

Membership is agreed by the Steering Group and includes the NZAGRC Principal Investigators in addition to the NZAGRC Director and NZAGRC Operations Manager.  

Dr Graeme Attwood  AgResearch  
Dr Cecile DeKlein   AgResearch 
Professor Hong Di  Lincoln University 
Dr Robyn Dynes  AgResearch  
Dr Peter Janssen  AgResearch  
Dr David Whitehead   Manaaki Whenua


Science leadership & capability building 

The NZAGRC is committed to providing opportunities for researchers to be trained and work with leading experts in New Zealand.  Some students go on to continue their studies or enter a postdoctoral position under guidance from NZAGRC science leaders, other enter into industry based positions.

The NZAGRC supports more than 50 researchers and students by providing funding via its core research programme or via its student scholarships programme.

Below are profiles of our scientists and past students. 

Principal Investigator - Dr David Whitehead

Funding Brings Clarity to Soil Carbon Research

NZAGRC funding over the last decade has improved clarity about soil carbon research and provided a structure for building a knowledge base both in New Zealand and the international scientific community, says Dr David Whitehead.

David, of Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, is one of four Principal Investigators leading the Plants and GHGs (greenhouse gases) research programme for the NZAGRC.

Asked what the research programme has delivered since the NZAGRC began its work, David points to the progress made in science knowledge. "It has provided the opportunity to start new programmes and approaches and we have gained so much knowledge about carbon stocks in New Zealand soils and how they are changing in relation to management.”

David’s role has been to review progress, identify and prioritise research gaps and co-ordinate integrated research programmes.

After specialising in science at school he went to the University of York to study biology then did his PhD at the UK Government organisation Rothamsted Research and his Post Doc research at the University of Edinburgh where his perspectives were transformed by working on water use by Scotland’s forests.

David’s training in carbon uptake and water use led him to explore management options to increase productivity when he began working at the New Zealand Forest Research Institute (now Scion) in Rotorua. The focus developed to improve wood quantity rather than quantity and this in turn led to studying opportunities to increase carbon storage in vegetation and soils to offset greenhouse gas emissions.

David says that in New Zealand, interest is growing in ‘regenerative agriculture’ but much of the evidence for success is anecdotal and lacks scientific credibility. “While I am not suggesting that we revolutionise our agricultural practices, I do feel that we need to be more willing to address opportunities provided by, for example, changes to grazing intensity and frequency, multi-species mixed cropping, soil amendments, etc. There is growing evidence that increasing diversity leads to more sustainable, resilient farming systems.”





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