Research awards set up

The Otago Museum is establishing a series of research fellowship and scholarship awards in a bid to learn more about its internationally significant collection.

Felix Marx, who recently completed a University of Otago PhD in geology, became the first person to receive one of these research awards mid-last year, when he gained the Otago Museum Linnaeus Taxonomy Fellowship.

This fellowship had been established through working with Otago University and a committee chaired by Dr Ted Nye, but was not restricted to Otago University students, officials said.

Last year the Otago Museum Trust Board also approved the establishment of two scholarships for Otago University postgraduate students - in zoological research and geology, respectively. Both are major disciplines in the museum collection.

University approval had since been gained, and the scholarships would soon be advertised and awarded by mid this year, museum officials said.

Each scholarship is for $5000 and runs for one year only for each successful candidate.

The museum board last month also approved the creation of two further $5000 scholarships for Otago postgraduate students.

These awards were devoted to, respectively, taoka Maori (''Maori treasures'') and the humanities, and were still subject to the university's approval process.

The first appointments were eventually likely to be made for the 2014 academic year, museum officials said.

Museum collections, research and experience director Clare Wilson said all scholarships were directly linked with the museum's research strategy.

The museum was actively encouraging research on its collection by others in a way that ''adds value'' to the museum's knowledge of the collection.

The collection was ''very large and broad'' and the museum would never be able to afford a large research staff.

Accordingly, the museum needed to ''work with experts locally, nationally and internationally'' to increase its knowledge - both for museum use and use by future researchers.

The scholarships also offered a ''clear bridge'' between the museum and Otago University and highlighted the collection's ''importance and availability'' for research. The research awards were being established initially for three years, so the museum could assess whether they provided ''the best investment for our limited resources'', she said.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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