Climate change, crime scene clues and resilience on the menu at Tūranga Speaker Series

Christchurch residents now have the opportunity to come to Tūranga and listen to a variety of free and interesting talks from experts in their fields.

The monthly event Speaker Series @ Turanga offers presenters on topics as diverse as crime solving with forensic science, climate change and rebuilding your life after a traumatic experience.

14 March: Professor Jon Hickford - Agriculture and greenhouse gases

The speaker series launches on Thursday 14 March with Professor Jon Hickford from Lincoln University who will present on the challenges we face in reducing our greenhouse gas footprint, while remaining financially viable as an economy. Professor Hickford’s presentation will start at 6pm in Spark Place on He Hononga, Tūranga’s ground floor and there will be an opportunity for questions and answers from the audience before the event concludes about 7pm.

Professor Hickford’s research is focused on the molecular genetics of cattle and sheep, with emphasis on genes that underpin milk, meat and wool production, and that make livestock more resilient to disease and environmental challenges.

A key aim of his research is to develop gene-markers for livestock breeding, and he has been responsible for the delivery of twelve commercial gene-marker tests to market. Jon leads a research group that includes two permanent staff. He has authored over 200 refereed articles in international journals and maintains a high level of postgraduate supervision.

Sought after as a speaker for farming groups in New Zealand and Australia, Jon maintains a high level of activity in the rural and general media, with over 500 news, commentary, and opinion pieces. These range from specific items about wool, and breeding and genetics, to more general commentary around sustainability, rural matters, farming, and agriculture.

He is passionate about recruiting young people into agriculture to address the skills and labour shortages that the industry is currently facing.

Following Professor Hickford’s presentation there will be a speaker at Tūranga on the second Thursday of each month, starting at 6pm.

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9 May: Dr Bethany Growns - The "Sherlock factor" and forensics

On Thursday 9 May cognitive scientist Dr Bethany Growns from the University of Canterbury will talk about crime-solving through the use of forensic science techniques.

Find out if you have the “Sherlock Factor” by completing her “Are You A ‘Super-Matcher’” test before or after her presentation which will be in Tūranga’s Activity Room on Hapori | Level 1. Dr Grown’s test is designed to identify people who have a talent for detecting patterns in forensic evidence collected from crime scenes.

Her research hones in on finding the right people to analyse evidence. She says: “Despite how it is portrayed in the media, outside of nuclear DNA and chemical analysis, forensic science largely relies on human decision-makers who analyse forensic evidence with little input from computers or algorithms. This is why it is important to understand exactly what underpins the expertise of forensic scientists – how and how well do they make decisions?”

Dr Growns is aiming to find out: How does a fingerprint examiner determine whether two fingerprints are from the same person or two different people? How does a firearms examiner decide whether two cartridge cases have been fired from the same gun or two different guns?

“My research examines the psychology behind how forensic scientists make these decisions and how they reach their ultimate conclusions.”

Her insights into what makes a good forensic scientist can then be used to improve training for these crime solvers.

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13 June: Julie Zarifeh - Grief and resilience

Clinical psychologist Julie Zarifeh published Grief on the Run in 2021 which told her personal story of unanticipated grief and adversity. As well as her story Julie will discuss the life skills and tools available to us all that help us navigate what life throws at us on Thursday 13 June.

She will focus on New Zealand Mental Health Foundation’s Five Ways to Wellbeing and how we can conceptualise the control we have over our behaviour and how we approach life’s challenges. Her life story includes her recovery from the loss of her husband and then eldest son, aged 27, three weeks apart in 2017.

As well as writing her book Julie featured in the documentary, Camino Skies, which followed six pilgrims on the Camino De Santiago in Spain in 2018. She also cycled Sri Lanka and ran the New York marathon that same year – fundraising for Variety.Org NZ, and the New Zealand Mental Health Foundation, respectively.

She is a qualified and registered Consultant Clinical Psychologist and has treated people presenting with depression and anxiety. She has also done academic research on broken heart syndrome and the psychological ramifications of the 15 March Christchurch terror attack on the city’s Muslim community.

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