New Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chair in lake and freshwater science

New Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chair in lake and freshwater science

13 November 2017

The University of Waikato has appointed a new Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chair in Lake and Freshwater Science.

He’s Dr Troy Baisden, who will take up the professorship on 14 November, leaving his current position at GNS Science.

“My particular interest is to provide New Zealand with the ‘big-picture’ understanding required to manage our most important environmental issues, with a focus on water quality, climate change mitigation and climate impacts,” says Dr Baisden.

“The science behind the management of the Rotorua Lakes has been seen as national and international success. I look forward to building on that,” he says.

“The next steps for improving water quality are well-matched to my experience, which runs from soils into water. I’m confident the tools I’ve been developing at GNS Science will help the community find further steps to improve water quality, while we begin to assess risks from climate change.”

Dr Baisden says his career has closely tracked the efforts of environmental science to address big issues. “My first project looked at acid rain, just as government and industry agreed on solutions to this issue in North America and Europe, and a global treaty tackled ozone depletion. Those successes provide a model we can apply to climate change and water quality, but today’s issues are harder because solutions need commitment from communities rather than just a few big companies.”

He says he was attracted to the professorship and Chair appointment because the relationship between the Bay of Plenty region and university is well designed to seek solutions to big environmental problems, where the stakes and uncertainty are both very high because they’re such large catchments. 

Regional Council Chairman Doug Leeder says the Council, the community and iwi look forward to working with someone of Dr Baisden’s calibre with the expertise to continue the great work that has been undertaken in the past 15 years.

“His work in isotope monitoring will enhance our understanding of nutrient and water flows in the terrestrial environment and the interaction with fresh water. This is a key component of the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme in confirming land use change targets.”

The Chair position was established in 2002 and is funded by the Regional Council.  

“We pride ourselves on delivering actions and interventions to improve water quality that are based on a solid foundation of science,” says Mr Leeder. “The relationship with the University of Waikato, a world leader in fresh water science research, and the appointment of an independent Chair is integral to that commitment.” 

Dr Baisden grew up deeply connected to tidal waterways in rural Maryland, USA and completed his PhD at the University California, Berkeley. He has been in New Zealand since 2001, working at Landcare Research before moving to GNS Science. In addition, Dr Baisden has been appointed a Principal Investigator with Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre of Research Excellence to lead a project that develops tools to detect where and when climate change may push ecosystems and agriculture toward tipping points.

He has 15 years of leadership experience on national research programmes and has served on a number of leadership teams co-ordinating climate change research nationally. He also has an effective presence on social media for academic and community communication.

Dr Baisden is no stranger to the University of Waikato, having supervised PhD students in both soil and freshwater research.

University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Bruce Clarkson says the university is delighted to have attracted an appointee of Dr Baisden’s calibre. “We look forward to fully reconnecting with our Bay of Plenty sponsors and stakeholders. Over time, we will have additional positions that Troy will be in a position to appoint suitably qualified scientists and post-grad students to complement his own expertise.”

The Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme is a partnership with Rotorua Lakes Council, Te Arawa Lakes Trust and Bay of Plenty Regional Council with funding from Ministry for the Environment. The partner organisations work together to protect and restore water quality in 12 Rotorua lakes for the enjoyment and use of present and future generations.