23 Jan 2014

Landcare team wins science medal

6:51 am on 23 January 2014

Agricultural scientists are among those who have been recognised at the annual New Zealand Association of Scientists awards.

A team from Landcare Research, headed by Graham Nugent, won the Shorland medal for its work over the past two decades looking at pest species and their role in spreading tuberculosis.

The Association of Scientists says their work has resulted in major reductions in agricultural production losses from bovine Tb.

Dr Nugent says while the win is still sinking in, he's proud of the achievements.

He says in 1994 there were more than 1700 infected herds in the country, while a year or so ago there were as few as 60.

Dr Nugent says this has been achieved partly through the large amount of funding provided by the industry. "But also because of the work my group and I have done across the spectrum really, of working out what the problem is, what the main wild animals involved are."

He says the research has shown that although pigs and ferrets are important hosts they're not as important as the possum, so the effort is directed at possums.

The team has also looked at ways that ferrets, pigs and deer can be used as sentinels to show where Tb is in the landscape, so the Animal Health Board can more accurately target its control.