Professor Michael Walker, who works in a field poles apart from his father, political commentator and academic Dr Ranginui Walker, has been recognised internationally for his work.
Science magazine has featured his research explaining how fish use deposits of a mineral with magnetic qualities in their noses to navigate. The research has been the focus of the 53-year-old biological sciences professor's work for much of his career.
Science, not politics, called as a career from a young age, even though at Mt Albert Grammar he was near the bottom in the subject and the "absolute bottom" in maths, he said.
"What drives me is a desire to understand and to know. Discovery is an incredible bloody thrill, it's un-bloody-believable."
Still the attention's a bit embarrassing he said, especially when there were calls in the piece that a Nobel prize for his ground-breaking work wouldn't go astray.
"It's high praise and that's very nice, but there's so many good people who don't get prizes. I would like to train the first Maori to receive one, I'll admit to that."
And if someone were to mentor a Maori winner, Professor Walker is in the right place. He's a joint director of Nga Pae o te Maramatanga. Founded in 2002, one of its goals was to support 500 new Maori PhDs who had enrolled or completed their studies within five years, a target that was met last year.
For now though, Professor Walker thinks he's found the latitude and longitude pigeons use as a reference point to navigate, and working on that project will be a major part of his summer work. GPS equipment he helped develop will also be used to track possums around Ruatahuna - he hopes the information collected will lead to better pest management that does not include using 1080 poison.
"For many Maori in rural areas, possums are part of an economic activity - the price for fur has continued to rise. Subsistence hunting is big in these areas - pigs, deer - but what about the effects of carpet bombing using 1080?"
More scientists should be asking questions, like those surrounding possum management, he said.
The Walker whanau is one of achievers. Besides his father, sister Wendy is a clinical director at Middlemore Hospital's Kidz First, and brother Stuart is an anaesthetist.
Looking to his wider Whakatohea family there are other examples of determination and success.
Because Professor Walker's great-great-grandfather, Wiki Walker, had Pakeha blood, he was not allowed to succeed to any tribal land. So he headed north from the Bay of Plenty to work the gumfields and eventually returned home with enough money to buy land which would have been lost to him.
"Eventually some of his 14 children ended up on that land," said Professor Walker. "We spent a lot of time down there when I was small - that's a pretty powerful example to me."