Tāmaki Innovation Campus


NEW PROFESSOR’S WASP EXPERTISE GAINS INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION


Professor Jacqueline Beggs Professor Jacqueline Beggs

‘A high point in an interesting career’ is how Jacqueline Beggs sees her recent appointment as Professor in the School of Biological Sciences.

Professor Beggs moved to the University of Auckland’s Tāmaki Campus in 2003, following several years with Landcare Research (and its DSIR predecessor) in Nelson.  She completed both her undergraduate and Masters studies at Auckland, before completing a part-time PhD at the University of Otago.

Her role, as Director in the Centre for Biodiversity and Biosecurity was a logical fit for her ecology specialty; focussing on the biodiversity, biosecurity and restoration of New Zealand’s natural, agricultural and urban ecosystems. 

“The main purpose of my research has always been to contribute to our understanding of the ecological consequences of anthropogenic change, principally the threat posed by invasive species and ultimately to assist in conserving and restoring the native biodiversity of New Zealand,” she says.  “A key focus is the ecology and control of invasive invertebrates, particularly invasive social wasps. This is complemented by research on the biodiversity and conservation of native species.”

Her research on invasive wasps has been a major focus this summer and also initiated a significant honour, in being asked to write a review for the Annual Review in Entomology.

“They publish only by invitation and this has really nailed my professional colours to an international mast,” she says.  “It summarises a lifetime of my work, and it is a huge honour to be noticed and asked to contribute.”

Professor Beggs sees the variety of her research area as part of its appeal - working on anything from urban ecology to kiwifruit orchards or dung beetles and a range of invertebrates. She is keen to communicate her research to a broad audience and is active in social media via a science blog (aucklandecology.com) and twitter (@JacquelineBeggs).

But it’s an interest in Māori (she whakapapas to Ngāti Awa) that has her attention in 2018.  “I’m looking to foster a Māori strategy in the department and faculty to build stronger relationships with iwi, so that Māori gain better access to the resources and skills that universities have to offer, and so that universities can learn from Te Ao Māori.”

“There are some good initiatives across the university as a whole, but it is finding what works in each school that will make the difference.  I’m looking to align Māori and science to deliver the social, economic and cultural outcomes that are important.”

She is hoping to see more Māori at postgraduate level in biological science, and says her new role opens up more opportunities for her to work with really bright young students.  “It makes me realise what a privilege it is to teach them.”