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

man smiling

Darren Ngaru King, Ngāti Raukawa (NIWA)

Vision Mātauranga

Darren is a research scientist with experience spanning the earth and human-systems sciences. He is a member of NIWA’s Māori Environmental Research (Te Kūwaha), Natural Hazards and National Climate Centres; and, is the Science Leader for the Vision Mātauranga Science Programme as part of the Deep South National Science Challenge. He was a contributing author for the ‘Indigenous People’ section of the Australia and New Zealand Chapters in the Fourth and Fifth Assessment Reports produced by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. His principal areas of research include (i) Climate and Māori society – investigating the linkages between human and biophysical systems including the factors that influence the risk, vulnerability and endurance of climate-sensitive Māori sectors, systems and groups; and, (ii) Tsunami Geology – assessing tsunami disturbance, recurrence and risk along New Zealand’s coast using grounded approaches in applied geology and Māori studies.


Phone: +64 9 375-2086

woman walks on beach on a windy day

Dr Rhian Salmon (Victoria University of Wellington)


Rhian leads the Engagement Team and is a member of the Science Leadership Team (SLT). She has a PhD in atmospheric chemistry from York University, Canada, prior to working as a research scientist for the British Antarctic Survey, which included spending one over-winter at Halley Research Station. In 2006, she switched careers to become Education, Outreach and Communication Coordinator for the International Polar Year 2007-8.  After moving to New Zealand in 2010, Rhian continued to work in public engagement related to polar and climate science, which included support by Antarctica New Zealand to work on the New Zealand IceFest and the Our Far South expedition and education programme led by the Morgan Foundation. She now co-leads the Science in Society group at Victoria University of Wellington, and carries out research and teaching in public engagement with science.

Deep South Challenge Engagement Team - Read more

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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

New Zealand's water systems particularly vulnerable to climate change

The recent Edgecumbe floods saw raw sewage floating through the streets, making the clean-up extremely challenging. Over 300 homes in the district were damaged and six months later, 240 houses are still unliveable. Flood-proofing the town itself remains a distant goal.

Insurance: the canary in the coalmine of climate change?

The Deep South Challenge announces new research into who should bear the cost of our changing climate, and when.

All over New Zealand, from Haumoana to Westport, from Edgecumbe to the Kāpiti Coast, from Dunedin to Wellington City, homeowners and businesses are starting to feel the financial effects of climate change.

“Gaining traction on intractable issues”: An interview with Partnerships Director Susan Livengood

Susan Livengood is the Partnerships Director of the Deep South Challenge, and works within the Engagement programme – which tries to connect what’s happening in every programme of the challenge with both the broader public and with targeted individuals and organisations throughout New Zealand’s public and private sectors.