2021 NZBI Scholarship
Category: National. Posted: 4 April 2022
Research on a potentially invasive beetle has won three students at Unitec, Auckland each a NZBI Scholarship.
Chrystal Jones, Sarah Kate Wechsler and Maddy Gibson each have a scholarship to work on a project to research granulate ambrosia beetle (GAB - Xylosandrus crassiusculus) in NZ.
Chrystal Jones, in her third year of a Bachelor of Applied Science will be the lead researcher. Sarah Kate Wechsler, and Maddy Gibson, both in their second-year of a Bachelor of Applied Science will be contributing to the granulate ambrosia beetle research by undertaking the field work to determine the beetle’s distribution in the Auckland region, and in which plants it might be present.
The beetle is native to South East Asia and is now widespread in America, Europe, some Pacific Islands and recently Queensland. In 2019 it was found in New Zealand and has the potential to affect a wide range of native commercial tree and shrub species here. In addition, it could be a mechanism for the introduction of pathogenic fungi. The aim of the research is to determine the current distribution of GAB within the Auckland area, and catalogue all plant species in which invasion is detected, and to conduct a literature search on the current knowledge of the plant associations of GAB, and the presence of associated pathogenic fungi currently in New Zealand.
The awards committee decided the GAB project is an important one, and that each of the researchers has a role to play in it, and it will assist their academic work.
Chrystal said the scholarship validated her research.
“For me this scholarship just validated that I’m moving from ‘just a uni student’ to someone doing something that seems worthwhile to the scientific community. It adds value and a level of importance to the work I’m doing that I haven’t had before.
“In a literal sense it means I can purchase the equipment I need to get the research done that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford as a full-time student.”
The students will be supervised by Associate Professor Diane Fraser in collaboration with Andrew Pugh of Scion, Rotorua.