Keynote Speakers

We are pleased to announce confirmation of the following plenary speakers at the 50th New Zealand Freshwater Science Society Conference in Nelson on 10-14th December 2018. 

Professor Emily Bernhardt

Dr Emily Bernhardt is a Professor of Biology at Duke University, North Carolina, USA. Emily’s research focusses on the effects of global environmental change on the biogeochemistry of rivers, wetlands and watersheds. She grew up in a small town in western North Carolina, gaining a love of nature from frequent hikes in the Appalachian Mountains. During her undergraduate and graduate years, she spent time at the University of Michigan, and in Venezuela and Chile before obtaining her PhD from Cornell University in 2001. Her dissertation research at Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study explored the impacts of forest age, ice storms and carbon supply on stream nitrogen cycling. Following postdoctoral placements, at Duke and University of Maryland, she joined the faculty at Duke University where she has established a dynamic research lab, which has supported dozens of scientists to grow their potential and to love ecological science. Emily was the President for the Society for Freshwater Science from 2016-2017, serves as an associate editor on three journals, and is the recipient of numerous awards and honours including being named a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America earlier this year. Emily has two daughters and a K9 who keep her heading up those mountains. 

Surfing the Data Wave at the Frontiers of Freshwater Science 
We are living in a very exciting time in freshwater science, in which the advent of new technologies and high computing capacity is changing the temporal and spatial scales at which we study our ecosystems. One part of this wave is due to the reduced cost and reliability of aquatic sensors and corresponding advances in the modelling frameworks for estimating river metabolism and river loads.  Until very recently we had only a few published records of continuous productivity and respiration from stream ecosystems. By the end of 2018, the StreamPULSE project will be hosting continuous annual metabolism records for more than 500 rivers. We expect that number to double by 2020. Over the same period, new remote sensing technologies and strategies are providing high-resolution data on river colour from satellite imagery, and converting that to turbidity, chlorophyll a and dissolved organic matter concentrations and loads. This data revolution is allowing us to ask new sorts of questions about rivers and to reexamine many of our ideas about rivers that have largely been based at the reach scale. Answering these new frontier questions effectively will also require a new scientific culture that facilitates the rapid exchange of BigData through Open Science platforms. I will talk about several of the frontier questions I believe Freshwater Scientists are best poised to attack in the next decade and discuss the opportunities for our discipline to use this opportunity to simultaneously become more collaborative, less hierarchical and more diverse
Professor Yvonne Vadeboncoeur

Dr Yvonne Vadeboncoeur is a Professor of Biological Sciences at Wright State University, Ohio, USA. Yvonne’s research focuses on the importance of energy linkages among habitats in freshwater ecosystems. She is especially interested in the function of benthic, or bottom, habitats in both lakes and rivers. She has shown that attached algae are critical, but often cryptic, resource in aquatic food webs. Yvonne’s passion for exploring aquatic habitats (especially while SCUBA diving) has taken her to Canada, Denmark, Greenland and East Africa. Yvonne looks forward to seeing more of New Zealand during her 2019 sabbatical as a Fulbright Scholar at Cawthron Institute. 

Clearing a way back: illuminating the littoral in lakes and limnology
Aquatic ecosystems worldwide experience widespread degradation owing to multiple, diffuse, anthropogenic stresses.  In lakes, a persistent focus on planktonic algal biomass (water column chlorophyll) and nutrient concentration have left scientists, and the public, unaware of other forms of degradation. Human activity is concentrated at lake edges, but there is no corresponding scientific emphasis on the structurally and biologically complex littoral habitats.  Using data from lakes around the world, I illustrate that littoral zones are hotspots of biodiversity and an integral component of lake food webs.  Attached algae are a cryptic, high-quality resource that forms the base of strongly inverted pyramids of trophic level biomass. Littoral and open water fish populations are energetically dependent on attached algae. Complex feedbacks between grazers and attached algae promote low-nutrient, high productivity clear-water ecosystems that provide high value to human society.  Humans are eroding these consumer-resource feedbacks, and we must overcome a severe knowledge gap to restore littoral zone function in lakes. 
Professor Russell Death

Russell Death is a Professor in Freshwater Ecology in the School for Agriculture and Environment at Massey University. With nearly 30 years’ experience in ecological research and teaching, Russell’s main area of expertise is the ecology of stream invertebrates and fish. He has over 100 peer-reviewed publications in international scientific journals and books and has given around 60 conference presentations and supervised 38 post-graduate research students. Russell has been a Quinney Visiting Fellow at Utah State University and an International Distinguished Visitor to the University of Birmingham. He is also on the editorial board of the international journal Freshwater Science. Although Russell’s primary interest is ecological research he has also been involved in applying that science in planning arenas such as the One Plan, Canterbury Regional Plan and Ruataniwha irrigation scheme. Russell is the recipient of the 2017 New Zealand Freshwater Science Medal.

Is Good Science Good Enough?
As a relatively affluent, prosperous, and educated country, New Zealand likes to pride itself on making policy, environmental, and economic decisions based on well-developed and rigorous scientific facts.  Although, the recent debacle on “methamphetamine contaminated” houses clearly illustrates that this does not always occur. Members of the New Zealand Freshwater Science Society have made sustained significant intellectual contributions to the advancement of science, both in New Zealand, and on an international stage over the last fifty years. However, despite this, freshwater biodiversity and water quality continue to decline in many New Zealand rivers and lakes. It seems that in some cases there is a fatal disconnect between the scientific facts and how those facts are used for New Zealand. Despite the NPS-FM having the explicit intention of safeguarding life-supporting capacity of aquatic environments nutrient limits for lakes were included in the policy but not for rivers. Irrespective of the science – that elevated nutrients degrade water quality and life-supporting capacity, the stated values of the New Zealand government and those espoused by the public there remain barriers to integrating scientific knowledge successfully into policy to achieve good environmental outcomes. The challenge for NZFSS as a society, moving into the next fifty years, is to ensure that rigorous freshwater science plays a critical and effective role in making New Zealand the place we want. To that end, we compiled readily available data and used a weight-of-evidence approach to objectively determine thresholds for nutrient attributes in rivers. In the case of nutrients, it clearly seems lack of science is not the reason riverine nutrient thresholds are absent from the NPSFM. If we truly want to manage ecosystem health, we must surely consider the most important determinants of its condition so that informed, objective decisions can be made on the implications of particular actions.
Tina Porou (MNZM)

Tina is of Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāi Tāmanuhiri. She has been an environmental planner for the last 20 years working with local authorities, iwi and hapū, central government and the private sector on a range of natural resource matters. Her expertise is in connecting mātauranga Maori with technical skills in the planning field to build win-win outcomes for the environment and our sustainable businesses. Tina was the Head of Sustainability and Environment at Contact Energy before deciding to follow her calling to establish Poipoia. She has a 17-year-old daughter Te Rina, five nieces and one nephew making for a very full life. Tina was the recipient of a Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award in 2015 for her work with the environment and was honoured as a member of the NZ Order of Merit in 2016.

Te Mana o te Wai and the experiences of implementing the kaupapa through current planning tools
The Pou Taiao Iwi Leaders Group was instrumental in introducing a range of changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the Resource Management Act. These changes were a reflection of a wider framework, Te Mana o te Wai. I will discuss the development of these tools, why they were developed and how we can see these being implemented across the country in different iwi and councils. I will focus on the challenges that are facing many iwi in this space and the diverse ways in which these challenges are being addressed in both post and pre-settlement Iwi. I will also discuss the next space of allocation and giving effect to rights and interests in freshwater and some views from my experience across multiple Iwi experiences.

Thank you to our sponsors


Neil Deans

Neil Deans is a Principal Advisor at the Department of Conservation—Te Papa Atawhai. He has been involved in freshwater science and management throughout New Zealand for over 30 years. Neil has been a member of the Freshwater Sciences Society for most of that time and was President in the early 2000s. He has worked for and with many groups with interests in freshwater, including the former Wildlife Service, Fish and Game, the Land and Water Forum, the Minister for the Environment’s office and has just rejoined the Department of Conservation. Much of his career has been at the interface between science, environment and policy and between the practical and the theoretical. Neil brings a wealth of experience to share, from field work to writing peer-reviewed publications, expert witness to wildlife ranger, advising Ministers to working with tangata whenua for improved water management. 

NZFSS 50 years young
The Society for our country’s freshwater scientists is celebrating 50 years. This presentation reflects on the Society, what and who preceded it and its context and contribution to science and to and from the wider society.  Given freshwater issues have never been at a higher level in public discourse, it is timely to consider what it is about our past that can help inform the future of the science and its contribution to policy and the community.  This personal view is based partly on interviews undertaken with senior Society members for the Society’s 40th anniversary and more recent narratives.  Times have changed, but the need for rigour and vigour in, and good communication of, our science is undiminished if it is to make a sound contribution to policy and to wider society.



Hon David Parker

David Parker is a Member of Parliament appointed as Attorney-General, Minister for Economic Development, Environment, and Trade and Export Growth, and Associate Minister of Finance. Born in Roxburgh, David grew up in Dunedin and has a BCom and LLB from the University of Otago. He was a litigation and managing partner in law firm Anderson Lloyd and was a co-founder of the Dunedin Community Law Centre. David is an experienced CEO and company director in a range of industries and has experienced both success and failure. He held various portfolios in the last Labour-led Government and in opposition. In 2008 he was named by the Listener magazine as Environmentalist of the Year for his work as Minister of Energy and Climate. He pioneered New Zealand’s emission trading scheme, then described by many as the most significant environmental reform for decades. He maintains strong interests in the protection of civil liberties, as well as economic and environmental policy. David pursues policies which both enhance economic growth and address the growing extremes between rich and poor in New Zealand, while protecting the environment. Passionate about the outdoors, David is a keen tramper and skier.

Making polluted rivers clean again
As Minister for the Environment, Hon David Parker will be speaking about the Government’s commitment to deliver a noticeable improvement in freshwater quality in five years.

Following last year’s election, the Minister says the Government has a mandate and duty to improve the quality of our waterways and he welcomes the contribution of anyone who is willing to share that duty. 

As a long-time advocate for our waterways, the Minister will speak about his experience and his personal commitment to turning around water quality in New Zealand. He will talk about where he sees positive signs of progress and where challenging issues remain to be resolved. He will discuss the Essential Freshwater work programme and its focus on ecosystem health. To support this programme, the Government is engaging with an advisory network including a science and technical advisory group, and the Minister will provide an update on progress.

Other Sponsors






Jonathan Tonkin

Jonathan is a Postdoctoral Fellow and soon-to-be Rutherford Discovery Fellow at the University of Canterbury, having just returned to New Zealand after six years abroad. Following his PhD at Massey University, Jonathan conducted research as a Lecturer at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in China, and as a Postdoctoral Researcher at Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum, Germany, and Oregon State University, USA. He has published 50 peer-reviewed papers and is on the editorial boards of Freshwater Biology and PeerJ. Jonathan's research couples basic ecological theory with quantitative modelling to address major global issues in freshwater ecology and management, including metacommunity dynamics in dendritic networks, flow management under hydroclimatic non-stationarity, river restoration, ecological interaction networks in dynamic systems, and developing community-wide mechanistic models. These scientific interests combine with a love of rivers that see him in backcountry whenever he gets the chance.

Equipping river ecosystem management for a highly uncertain future
Human exploitation of rivers has imparted a severe ecological cost, threatening many essential services that river ecosystems provide to humanity. Principles of ecosystem management are widely employed to actively restore and sustain river function and services. But it is increasingly recognised that contemporary patterns of hydrologic variability are shifting beyond their historical ranges, thereby violating assumptions of water resources management and directly challenging many prevailing principles of river ecosystem management. New approaches to sustainable river management in a nonstationary world are urgently needed. I argue that the reliance of management on historical benchmarks and the current practice of extrapolating future river ecosystem states from contemporary trends is destined to fail. Process-based models that explicitly link critical biological processes with hydrologic dynamism provide an alternative solution that are robust to highly uncertain futures. To demonstrate the utility of these approaches for river ecosystem management, I will use several case studies focused on the management of river flow regimes for populations, communities, ecosystems and ecological networks of invertebrates, fish and riparian plants. In particular, I will share recent work using process-based approaches that demonstrate the ecosystem-wide trade-offs associated with designing river flow regimes for particular ecological targets.

Plenary Speakers
Barney Thomas

Ko Tokomaru, ko Tahumatā rātou ko Piripiri ngā maunga
Ko Wairau, ko Okana rātou ko Waitohi ngā awa
Ko Tainui, ko Tokomaru rātou ko Takitimu ngā waka
Ko Barney Thomas tāku ingoa
Barney was born and educated in Picton and moved to Nelson in 1979; encouraged by his mother who was a shareholder in Wakatu incorporation. Through Barney’s mother, his iwi connections are Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Toa, Te Ᾱtiawa, and thought his father, Ngāi Tahu. Barney has been a Trustee of Ngāti Rārua Ᾱtiawa Iwi Trust since its inception and Vice Chair since 1998. He is also a Director for Wakatū Incorporation. He is currently Chairman of both Tiakina te Taioa and Manawhenua ki Mohua which are the RMA structures for Nelson/Motueka and Golden Bay respectively. Barney is currently the Pou Tairangahau (all-encompassing cultural adviser) for the Department of Conservation in the Nelson/Marlborough area and has worked for the Department since 1996. He was formerly with the Inland Revenue Department and the Department of Labour.  Barney is married to Shona who is a very patient and supportive wife, has three children (Renee, Fraser and Jackson), and a granddaughter, Sophia. 

Kaitiaki roles and responsibilities
The roles and responsibilities of kaitiaki (guardian) can be complex. Barney will share his experience as mana whenua (authority over land or territory) in the context of defining and protecting the Cultural Values of Wai. He will also discuss issues related to Te Waikoropupū as a wāhi tapu (sacred site) and the processes that whanau, hapū and iwi had to consider when protecting this taonga (treasure). He will also reflect on the water take the application of Kahurangi Virgin Waters, from his experience when he was the Chairman of Ngāti Rārua Iwi Trust.