Science Leadership Team

The Science Leadership Team is responsible for scoping, leading and advancing the development of The Deep South Challenge.

Dr Mike Williams stands outside, hills in the background

Dr Mike Williams (NIWA)


Mike’s research interests are in New Zealand's Deep South, and are centred on ice-ocean interaction both in sea ice, and under Antarctica’s ice shelves. He is also interested in the changing climate in the Southern Ocean and New Zealand’s Subantarctic. Prior to starting at NIWA in 2001, Mike completed a PhD in oceanography at the University of Tasmania, and was an Assistant Research Professor at the University of Copenhagen, where he worked on coastal ocean circulation off Chile and tracking icebergs across the North Atlantic.

Phone: +64 4 386 0389

Lucy Jacob stands in field clouds and hills in background

Lucy Jacob (NIWA)

Challenge Manager

Lucy facilitates the smooth running of the Challenge across all programmes and partners.  She originates from the UK and has a background in marine science and psychology. Her career has focused on marine protected area design and development in coral island groups, with an emphasis on incorporating resilience principles and socioeconomic dynamics to management.  Lucy also has a keen interest in climate science and adaptation.  She has experience in socioeconomic research and participatory community workshops and has been a representative on various local government led working groups, including on climate change.  Prior to moving to New Zealand, she developed and managed international projects in the Pacific region with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

Phone: +64 4 382-1616

man with hat stands on snow topped mountain

Dr Olaf Morgenstern (NIWA)

Earth System Modeling and Prediction

Olaf holds a PhD in meteorology and has worked in the UK and Germany on the development of atmospheric chemistry and chemistry-climate models. He has led chemistry-climate modelling at NIWA since 2009 and has been a Programme Leader since 2012. In addition, Olaf is a Principal Investigator of the core Capability and Clouds & Aerosols projects and the contestable Stratospheric Ozone project. The aim of the Capability project is to make available, support, and coordinate the development of the New Zealand Earth System Model (NZESM). The Clouds & Aerosols project is targeting the representation of Southern-Ocean clouds and aerosols, and the Stratospheric Chemistry project will improve the representation of stratospheric chemistry, particularly of the ozone layer, in the NZESM.


Phone: +64 4 386-0928

Sandy Morrison

Associate Professor Sandy Morrison (Waikato University) | Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Rārua ki te Tau Ihu, Ngāti Tama ki te Waipounamu

Vision Mātauranga

Sandy is tribally grounded, globally informed and whānau tested against the everyday realities in which whānau exist. From 2004-08, Sandy served as President of the Asia South Pacific Association for Adult and Basic Education (ASPBAE), the largest non-government organisation on adult education in the world. Sandy was also inducted into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame by the University of Oklahoma. Her current position as the Assistant Dean (Academic) for the University of Waikato’s Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies allows her to continue to challenge the thinkers of tomorrow and concentrate on her research interests around Treaties, Adult Education and Indigenous Development. Sandy leads the Te Tai Uka a Pia (Iwi relationships with the Southern and Antarctic Oceans) project in the Vision Mātauranga programme, and is also part of the Culture and Climate Change project of the Engagement programme.

Phone: + 64 7 838 4737


Dr. Wendy Saunders (GNS Science)


Wendy is a social scientist specialising in land use planning and natural hazards – whether geological or weather-related, and including hazards that are exacerbated by climate change. Wendy has worked for many years at GNS Science, where a core part of her work is engaging with communities, councils and others, to improve the way natural hazards are incorporated into planning for land use. In 2013, Wendy was a World Social Science Fellow in Risk Interpretation and Action, and in 2017 she won a New Zealand Planning Institute award for best practice, in relation to an online hazard planning toolkit she developed for councils. She is also a member of the Mātauranga Māori and Governance programmes in the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges National Science Challenge. 

Deep South Challenge Engagement Team - Read more

woman smiling

Dr Suzi Kerr (Motu)

Impacts & Implication

Suzi is a Senior Fellow at Motu and an Adjunct Professor at Victoria University. She graduated from Harvard University in 1995 with a PhD in Economics.  Her current research work focuses on climate change. She empirically and theoretically investigates domestic and international climate change policy with special emphasis on emissions pricing and land use in both the tropics and New Zealand. She also leads work on climate change impacts and adaptation in New Zealand.

Phone: +64 4 939-4250

man with glasses sits in front of bookshelf

Assoc Prof. Adrian McDonald (University of Canterbury)

Processes and Observations

Adrian is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Canterbury. His current research work focuses broadly on understanding the physical processes that underpin the working of the climate system. In particular, he concentrates on processes that are important in the polar regions and the influence of these processes on the rest of the Southern hemisphere. Adrian has strong connections in the polar research community built up during over 10 years leading fieldwork in Antarctica. For the Deep South, Adrian is currently a Principal Investigator of the Clouds & Aerosols project and the contestable Satellite Simulator project. In the Clouds & Aerosols project he is making targeted observations to help the representation of Southern-Ocean clouds and aerosols in the NZESM. The satellite simulator project aims to facilitate comparisons of satellite data and model output from the NZESM via the use of software simulation tools.

Phone: +64 (3) 364 2281

Latest news and updates

Creating a climate-safe Dunedin through community-driven climate action

2018 may well be the year New Zealand gets serious about adapting to our changing climate. Last year, and the start of this one, gave all of us plenty of opportunities to experience a future in which creeping sea level rise and extreme weather – from drought to flood to surprise storm surges – make day-to-day life more precarious and more expensive.

Stormwater, wastewater and climate change: Impacts on our economy, environment, culture and society

In October 2017, the Deep South Challenge released a report into the state of the nation’s storm and waste water infrastructure, in the face of a changing climate. The report garnered significant media attention – not surprising given the infrastructure is currently valued at well over $20 billion.

The Deep South Challenge awards funding to investigate climate-resilient, high-value crops for the whānau of Omaio

The whānau of Omaio in the Bay of Plenty have joined forces with NIWA researchers to explore the viability of climate-resilient, high-value crops for the rohe. The group has won a $250,000 research grant under the Vision Mātauranga programme of the Deep South National Science Challenge to better understand Omaio’s changing climate and how it might support the community to create a local economy based around a high-value product like kiwi fruit.