MAORI TANGI RITUALS
Researchers at the University of Waikato say tangihanga - the way Maori culture experiences death - is not talked about enough.
"For Maori people, the experience of death is one of the ways in which our lives are celebrated and our identities as Maori and as members of a particular iwi or whanau are most strongly affirmed," said Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku.
"Tangihanga is about healing and moving through a time of pain and loss and we need to share it."
Professor Te Awekotuku, Associate Professor Linda Waimarie Nikora and a team from Waikato's School of Maori and Pacific Development have embarked on an extensive study comparing past and present practices of tangihanga.
They will look at archived material including pictorial records and death-related artefacts and document personal Maori experiences of tangi through interviews and case studies.
Professor Te Awekotuku said the last book about tangihanga was published in the 1970s by a foreign academic and she and other scholars were keen to ignite new discussion.
They aim to explain the reasons guiding the rituals of tangi and also to support the cultural, economic and decision-making processes of bereaved Maori.
$984,000 OVER THREE YEARS
We all have the bacterium that causes meningitis living in our throats but little is known about what triggers the development of the potentially fatal disease.
Dr Joanna MacKichan says there are more than 100 cases of meningitis in New Zealand every year and factors such as dust storms and respiratory illness increase the risk of the illness developing.
Dr MacKichan has been studying meningococci for two and a half years at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research.
She has found that disease-associated meningococci seem to be able to take advantage of wounded cells in the airways. This may explain why people with throat damage or inflammation are vulnerable to the disease. "We want to know more about how it goes from being a carried organism to one that can cause an invasive disease," said Dr MacKichan.
She said the goal of her research was to better understand meningitis and the results could help with designing a vaccine.
$300,000 OVER THREE YEARS
An apparatus to simulate eruptions will become an international testing ground for the effects of volcanic activity.
A team from Massey University will work with researchers from Germany, France and the United States to build what Associate Professor Shane Cronin describes as a "little tower with a container full of hot ash and gas". The North Island-based outdoor experiment will stand 10m high and the simulated explosions from it will generate super-heated moving clouds of volcanic ash.
The movement of the clouds will be captured by sensors and Professor Cronin expects international researchers will come to run experiments at the site.
A volcanic eruption often results in pyroclastic flows, which are red-hot ashes that avalanche away from the mountain on a destructive path. Professor Cronin said it was difficult to predict the behaviour of these flows and he hoped that by the end of the project he and his colleagues would have realistic computer models of them.
"We want to look at how the flows behave and how we can best set up evacuation zones and protect people in the event of an eruption."
$789,000 OVER THREE YEARS
DYING CORAL REEFS
Coral reefs around the world are in serious decline with about 2 per cent being lost every year. Dr Simon Davy, from Victoria University's School of Biological Sciences, says coral bleaching due to warming seawater is the first stage in the loss of the reefs.
Next year he will begin a study into why some corals bleach more readily than others in response to climate change. He said one possible reason could be the algae living inside the corals are dying off. "Coral gets its nutrition from the algae and can only survive about four weeks without it."
He said if researchers could figure out why some varieties of coral were more susceptible to bleaching they could better predict what might happen to the reefs in future. His research will take him from the Great Barrier Reef to the subtropical Lord Howe Island, site of the most southern reef in the world.
"I hope there is a major push in coral reef circles to understand why reefs bleach. If we knew why, it could inform our conservation efforts."
$960,000 OVER THREE YEARS
POSITION OF 'SLAVES'
In the early 19th century, war-captives or slaves made up to 50 per cent of the Maori population.
Dr Hazel Petrie from the University of Auckland department of history says there is a lot of confusion about how the captives were treated.
"In research I have done on Maori history I kept coming across statements that were completely contradictory as to what it was like being a slave."
She said the use of language was part of the problem as there were many Maori words that had been translated as slave, a word with negative connotations in Western society.
In her research she will work with a native Maori speaker to look at old Maori writings from the 19th century.
Dr Petrie said nobody had really looked at the subject at all and she hoped her research would lead to publication of a book.
"It's completely virgin territory so it's very exciting for me."
$300, 000 OVER THREE YEARS
MAORI TANGI RITUALS