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. 

Science Profile: Louis Schipper

As one of the Principal Investigators leading the NZAGRC’s work on plants and GHG mitigation, Louis says there is value is listening to the thoughts of the men and women who actually work in the paddocks each day.

“We decide on the specific lines of research that are most likely to bear fruit in different ways,” he says. “There’s background reading, talking with colleagues at conferences, and testing these ideas against the advisory groups we have had in NZAGRC etc.

“I look for gaps in people’s arguments when everyone thinks all is well, a sort of systematic bias in thinking by the broader community. Farmers often have excellent ideas about what might work or what we should think about for our research programmes.”

Farmer feedback and collaboration is essential as Louis and his team research across several fronts, including investigating plantain properties, nitrous oxide inhibitors and soil carbon storage. He says a key to this work is a clear understanding of the importance of plant traits and their roles in modifying the soil environment and consequent impacts on nitrous oxide emissions and carbon cycling. For example Plantain is an example of a plant currently being examined. Also ryegrass survives a wide range of conditions, clover fixes nitrogen, plantain copes with dry conditions and seems to modify nitrogen (and probably carbon) cycling.

Born in Australia to Dutch immigrants, Louis has had a lifetime of globetrotting, starting with his parents moving from country to country as a result of his father working for United Nations’ organisations.

Louis moved to New Zealand when he was four, then Samoa between the ages of eight and 13, back to Wellington until he was 15, then Rotorua before going to university in Hamilton for his BSs and MSc studies.

He did his PhD at Forest Research in Rotorua, married an American who visited NZ on a Rotary Fellowship, then did his postdoc in Florida before coming back to NZ to work at Landcare Research for 12 years before ending up back at Waikato University in 2005.

Although agriculture was not high initially on his research agenda, he “…just found out that microbiology and chemistry happen in the real world (e.g. soil) and I wanted to figure it out. Microbiology is an obvious expression of chemistry and its rules in the real world.

“I always wanted to do something to benefit the world (big dreams, small steps) so a focus on applied research followed.”

Louis’ PhD work introduced him to nitrogen cycling. “It is like carbon's elemental sibling -- where nitrogen goes carbon follows and vice versa. I became more focused on greenhouse gasses when I appreciated the size of the problem.”

Now, he leads the plants and GHG research programme with Cecile de Klein, Hong Di and David Whitehead, looking at the big picture of carbon cycling and connections with nitrous oxide emissions.

A further central motivation is to mentor the next generation of scientists. They are addressing a challenging long-term multi-generational problem that will require the abilities of a series of talented hard-working researchers who need support while training.

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