Home Education Innovative $2.4m research into microplastics, Antarctic predators, respiratory function

Innovative $2.4m research into microplastics, Antarctic predators, respiratory function


Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Ian Wright is delighted with the high number of new Rutherford Discovery Fellows at UC, representing three of the 12 fellowships awarded this year.

“These exceptional, innovative women are already groundbreaking academic leaders in their fields, and all three researchers are committed to solving challenges faced by Aotearoa and the world due to climate change in our southernmost environment, microplastics in our atmosphere, and even how we breathe, swallow and cough,” Professor Wright says.

“The funding of these exemplary new Fellows highlights their national and international significance and relevance, and we are proud to support their research at UC.”

The University of Canterbury 2022 Rutherford Discovery Fellowship recipients are:


Associate Professor Michelle LaRue received her PhD in 2014 in conservation biology from the University of Minnesota (US) and is an Associate Professor at the University of Canterbury. Her research speciality is marine ecology, to which she embraces a Te Ao Māori view with emphasis of marine life interconnected to environment. Dr LaRue recognises the importance of science communication and engagement. She completed a first-of-its-kind citizen science project called Satellites Over Seals (SOS), engaging more than 320,000 citizen scientists to help her search for Weddell seals on satellite images. Her team went on to determine the world’s first population estimate for Weddell seals in the Southern Ocean in Antarctica.

Senior Lecturer Phoebe Macrae (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) is an internationally recognised Māori scholar whose research improves the health and wellbeing of individuals impacted by swallowing and coughing dysfunction. Dr Macrae received a Bachelor of Speech and Language Therapy from the University of Canterbury in 2004 and practiced as a clinical speech-language therapist in Auckland and Canterbury District Health Boards for several years before returning to the University of Canterbury to complete her PhD in Speech and Language Sciences in 2012. Dr Macrae then received a Philip Wrightson Postdoctoral fellowship to work at Johns Hopkins University, US. On returning to the University of Canterbury, Dr Macrae was named the Deputy Director of the Rose Centre for Stroke Recovery and Research, based at St George’s Hospital.

Associate Professor Laura Revell received her PhD from the University of Canterbury in 2012 and went on to a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at ETH Zürich. After a small stint in industry, she returned to academia at the University of Canterbury in 2018. Last year she received the Royal Society Te Apārangi Cooper Award for Early Career Research Excellence in Technology, Applied Sciences and Engineering. Associate Professor Revell is a world leader in the emerging field of airborne microplastics, where she develops best-practice methods to measure their concentrations and models their impacts on climate. Her work on how airborne microplastics contribute to climate change was published in Nature last year and received global media attention. Her expertise in aerosols extends beyond microplastics, including the influence of the Antarctic ozone hole on climate change and the potential atmospheric impacts of rocket emissions from the burgeoning space industry.

Rutherford Discovery Fellowships

The Rutherford Discovery Fellowships seek to attract, retain and develop New Zealand’s most talented early-to mid-career researchers and support their career development by helping them to establish a track record for future research leadership. Each Fellow will receive $800,000 in total for five years (excl. GST). The Research Honours Aotearoa medals and awards will be presented in November.

Royal Society Te Apārangi manages the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship programme on behalf of the New Zealand government. The Rutherford Discovery Fellowship scheme receives government funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment of $8 million per annum.

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