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Our Changing World

May 2022

Kia ora,

Its been an exciting week, with the announcement on Tuesday of the Prime Minister's Science Prize winners for 2021! 

In today's episode we speak to both the Science Teachers and Future Scientist Prize winners, as well as the main Science Prize winning team leader Distinguished Professor Dame Jane Harding.

The show has explored a few different habitats this month. From naturally rare and threatened limestone ecosystems in the Waitaki valley, to the murky waters of Otago Harbour, to the remnant patches of forest in Kirikiriroa Hamilton.

I also visited the University of Auckland to catch up with researchers involved in a new Centre of Research Excellence tackling inequity gaps in heart health. Pūtahi Manawa co-director Dr. Anna Rolleston explains why to do this it needs to be 'business not as usual'.

And in great news for the show, Our Changing World has been nominated as a finalist for two categories in the 2022 NZ Radio Awards - Best Weekly or Daily Feature and Best Factual Podcast. Winners will be announced in July.

If you want to keep up to date with the show, or to get in touch, you can connect with us on Facebook or Twitter where we use the handle @RNZscience or you can email the show on

Ngā mihi nui,
The 2021 Prime Minister's Science Prizes
Claire Concannon visits the Science Teachers Prize winner Bianca Woyak at Burnside Primary School in Ōtautahi Christchurch. There she gets a guided school tour to learn about the outdoor hands-on science activities that the students have been up to.
Claire also visits Year 13 Future Scientist Prize winner Carol Khor to learn about her investigations into drug treatments for melanoma.
Plus, Professor Dame Jane Harding, who leads the Science Prize winning Neonatal Glucose Studies Team, talks about the impacts of their two decades of research into low blood sugar in babies. 
Biodiversity and the city
Claire Concannon goes for a forest walk, in downtown Kirikiriroa!
Hannah Rogers and Professor Bruce Clarkson of the People, Cities and Nature research programme explain their investigations into the best ways to bring native biodiversity back to urban centres around Aotearoa.
The red seaweed of Otago Harbour

Claire Concannon spends a day with PhD student Nam Chand as she collects samples of the native red seaweed she studies.
This seaweed grows on the soft sediment bottom of the Otago Harbour and is thought to play an important role in providing habitat for other seaweeds and marine critters.
Nam explains how and why she has been tracking its growth each season for the last two years, and how the long-lost art of seaweed pressing has helped her in her studies.
Business not as usual for heart health

A large portion of the life expectancy gaps between Māori and non-Māori, and Pacific and non-Pacific people is due to heart disease. A new Centre of Research Excellence aims to tackle these gaps in heart health.
Funded in 2021, Pūtahi Manawa (Healthy Hearts for Aotearoa) has 7 years and $40.5 million to tackle the problem. Co-director Dr. Anna Rolleston explains to Claire Concannon that to do this, it will have to be ‘business not as usual’.
Naturally rare and threatened

New Zealand is home to over 70 ‘naturally rare’ ecosystems - ecosystems that make up less than 0.05% of the total area of New Zealand.
These small areas can hold an incredible amount of plant and animal biodiversity, much of which is under threat.
Claire Concannon speaks to a team of scientists, rangers and tangata whenua who are working together to care for limestone ecosystems in the Waitaki valley, and the threatened plants that grow there.
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