15 Aug 2008

Blind fish study bags scientist top award

7:29 am on 15 August 2008

An Otago University scientist whose study of a blind underwater fish is helping to understand how the land and sea work together has been named the country's top young scientist.

Rebecca McLeod was presented with the McDiarmid Young Scientist of the Year award at a ceremony in Auckland on Thursday night.

She's studied the hagfish, a purple eel-like creature living in Fiordland.

Even though it lives in the sea, much of its diet comes from bacteria that feed only on forest vegetation washed into the water.

Ms McLeod was recognised for her findings and the ground-breaking chemistry tools she used to undercover them.

Runners up

Professor Richard Faull says experiments often lead scientists down paths they never imagined.

Massey University's Matthew Brodie has found a way to illustrate the way alpine ski racers move - without using cameras. His team used sensors and a GPS device to provide a data illustration instead.

Psychologist Gwemda Willis hopes her study will have a big impact on crime in New Zealand.

She's found that better, more detailed release planning has a huge effect on preventing sex offenders reoffending after they leave prison.