Meet our new Natural Science Commissioner, Geoff Hicks

Geoff Hicks image providedDr Geoff Hicks replaced Dr Bob Frame as National Commissioner for Natural Science on 13 November. Geoff recently retired from the role of Chief Scientist at the Department of Conservation where he led and advised on the development of a long-term strategic agenda for research and managed the department’s science relationships and investment activities. Trained as a marine biologist, he had a productive research career spanning 25 years in both academic and cultural settings. He was Conceptual Leader and was responsible for creating the three popular natural environment exhibitions (Awesome Forces, Mountains to Sea and Bush City) at Te Papa, Museum of New Zealand.

Geoff has considerable experience working across UN agencies and for the last eight years has been New Zealand’s head of delegation to the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Serving on a number of governance and advisory committees, most recently as co-chair of the End-User Advisory Panel of the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, he maintains strong science system networks and is an Emeritus Research Associate at Landcare Research. He holds a Diploma from the World Cultural Council (Consejo Cultural Mundial) and is a standing member of its Interdisciplinary Committee that elects the annual Albert Einstein World Award of Science.

What attracted you to the role?

I have represented New Zealand at a number of UN related conventions and agreements, working at the science-policy interface. The opportunity to join the National Commission and contribute further to the internationalisation of New Zealand’s natural sciences is very appealing. At my retirement earlier this year I was delighted to be appointed Emeritus Research Associate at Landcare Research, which will assist the creation of stronger links between domestic and global natural sciences.

What do you hope to bring to the role?

Enthusiasm. I am enthusiastic about the potential of the National Commission and the contribution it can make to realising the wider goals of the organisation. I will draw on my extensive networks and knowledge of the operation of the New Zealand science system and my governance and advisory experience to gather support for our domestic initiatives. My hope is that this will help raise the visibility of UNESCO in this country.

What issues in science would you most like to see highlighted in New Zealand and around the world?

  • Stronger linkages between natural science and policy to enhance the uptake and use of relevant science knowledge
  • Stronger emphasis on loss mitigation programmes within the climate change and biodiversity and ecosystem services space
  • Stronger emphasis on development of practical frameworks to enhance the use of indigenous and local knowledge. New Zealand occupies a unique and distinctive place in this discussion and has the potential to lead the science/indigenous and local knowledge thinking globally.