3 mins read 09 Nov 2021

New Zealand Gravitational Wave Research Awarded Funding

An expansive New Zealand project dedicated to deciphering gravitational waves has been awarded $3 million in funding by the Marsden Fund.

A still from a computer simulation of two black holes merging. An event such as this would create gravitational waves like those being investigated in a project just awarded funding by the Marsden Fund. Credit: LIGO.

A massive interdisciplinary project investigating gravitational waves has been awarded \$3 million funding from Te Pūtea Rangahau a Marsden, the Marsden Fund. The Marsden Fund allocated \$82.345 million (excluding GST) to 120 research projects led by researchers in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Fund supports a wide variety of projects, with funding available for both budding and established researchers alike. The projects funded in this round, including the investigation of gravitational waves, all align with one of the Marsden Fund Council’s goals for the fund:

Ka pūmau tonu te hapori mātanga i te katoa me te whānuitanga o ngā kaupeka rangahau

which translates to Maintain a New Zealand community of experts in the full, and expanding range of research fields. 

Te Pūtea Rangahau a Marsden (The Marsden Fund)

The research projects underwent a highly rigorous selection process, including substantial international peer review. Marsden Fund Council Chair Professor David Bilkey says, “Te Pūtea Rangahau a Marsden is a fund designed to enable and create momentum for our leading and up-and-coming researchers to develop their most innovative and ambitious ideas. This support of fundamental ‘blue-sky’ research is crucial to ensuring a healthy, vibrant and resilient research culture in Aotearoa, capable of addressing major societal challenges, as we have seen recently with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The range of knowledge represented in this year’s funded research is something to be proud of, with research excellence and scholarly impact in areas such as hauora health, climate, and languages. The outcomes of this research will benefit Aotearoa in many ways, for example, by helping us to better understand who we are and by discovering novel solutions for some of our most pressing problems.

“It’s great to see the increasing engagement with mātauranga Māori, which has been recognised across a range of disciplines,” notes Professor Bilkey. “Some examples include studies investigating the cultural importance, sustainability and affordability of urupā tautaiao (natural burials); exploring the potential for green innovation – including by Māori – in the environmental impact of body disposal; the genetic variations associated with gout; and using cutting edge tools to better align archaeological findings with Māori history. Some of the funded projects have also committed to supporting early career Māori researchers through endeavouring to recruit Māori students – an effort we commend for its potential positive impact on the under-representation of Māori in academia.” 

Researching Gravitational Waves

This year, a massive project dedicated to researching gravitational waves led by Professor Renate Meyer from the University of Auckland was allocated millions of dollars of funding. Gravitational waves are the ripples in the fabric of space-time caused by the acceleration of massive objects, such as the merging of black holes and neutron stars. These waves don’t affect everyday life here on Earth, but they can be detected using a variety of methods, including interferometers and  pulsars

This interdisciplinary project involving experterts in mathematics, computational science, fundamental physics, and novel statistical methodologies from across Aotearoa will look into deciphering gravitational waves, and will facilitate participation in the international LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) mission.