Connecting With Our Community

We’re committed to investing in science-based community initiatives, projects and education activities in Te Tau Ihu.

As a community-minded organisation – and in the spirit of our founder Thomas Cawthron – each year we deliver science-based community initiatives, projects and education activities in Te Tau Ihu (top of the South) with investment from the Cawthron Institute Trust Board. On this page you’ll find out more about some of these events and how to get involved.
Cawthron Memorial Lecture

The Thomas Cawthron Annual Memorial Lecture is a free annual community event held by Cawthron for the people of Te Tau Ihu to commemorate the legacy of Thomas Cawthron and to share science with the public. For the first time in 2020, the lecture was held virtually, helping to make this informative event accessible to all. 

Over the years many distinguished scientists and scholars have shared their knowledge on a wide range of subjects. Past speakers include Dr Siouxsie Wiles, Sir Edmund Hilary, Sir Ernest Rutherford, Professor Lord Robert Winston, Rt. Hon. Helen Clark and Sir Jonathan Porritt, as well as our own Cawthron scientists. 

You can view our Thomas Cawthron Annual Memorial Lecture collection here.

Sign up to our Friends of Cawthron newsletter to receive updates about future lectures, as well as other Cawthron events.

For more information contact 

Cawthron Open Day

Cawthron regularly opens its doors to the public and provides presentations, tours of the laboratory and research facilities, and displays for the public. Scientists representing Cawthron’s wide range of research disciplines share their knowledge and explain their work. 

We love sharing our research with the community, and open days are a fantastic way to connect with our community and allow people to see some of the world-leading science happening in their own backyard. 

The next Cawthron Open Day will be held in October 2023. Watch our Facebook page or sign up to the Friends of Cawthron newsletter for updates.  

Summer Scholarships

Each summer Cawthron Institute offers 10-week scholarships to tertiary students, providing them with an opportunity to contribute to an active scientific research project and be mentored by top Cawthron scientists.

Cawthron has established three scholarship funds to support students studying at New Zealand tertiary institutions:

  • Sir Theodore Rigg Scholarship for an undergraduate student: Sir Theodore Rigg (1888-1972) was one of Cawthron’s most renowned agricultural and chemistry scientists. He retired in 1956 having written over 80 scientific papers and devoted his entire scientific career to Cawthron Institute.
  • Kathleen Curtis (Lady Rigg) Scholarship for an undergraduate woman: Kathleen Curtis (1892-1994) was the first New Zealand woman to graduate with a Doctor of Science. Curtis was a founding staff member of Cawthron Institute and the first woman appointed to a research position in New Zealand.
  • Te Pītau Whakarei Karahipi for a Māori undergraduate student: this scholarship supports Māori research capability and capacity building in partnership with Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence.
  • Emerging Scientist Scholarship/s: these scholarships are offered if there are suitable projects and funding.

You can contribute towards our existing Scholarship Funds, or establish your own. Please get in touch if you would like to support our scholarships.

Cawthron Scitec Expo (Science Fair) 

The Cawthron Scitec Expo continues a tradition of science fairs in Nelson that goes back more than 30 years. Cawthron Institute has been heavily involved for much of that time – originally as a sponsor and now as manager of the event. The Expo brings together scientists, students, teachers, local and national businesses – all working together to support our region’s young enquiring minds. 

Our founder, Thomas Cawthron, believed science was the key to a better future and this event aims to inspire the next generation of scientists in Te Tau Ihu.

The next Cawthron Scitec Expo will be held in August 2023. More information on Scitec is available here

Mussel Biology Workshops for Year 13 Students

The Year 13 Mussel Biology workshops are an opportunity for students to fulfil requirements of the NCEA Level 3 Biology 3.1 curriculum assessment.  

Run annually in collaboration with Otago University, Spat NZ and NMIT, students undertake a mussel investigation in the NMIT teaching laboratory at the Cawthron Aquaculture Park at the Glen.  

The workshops allow students to get fully immersed in ‘real science’ in a purpose-built lab, meet Cawthron scientists and see how Cawthron science has enabled huge industry advancements. 

Cawthron New Zealand River Awards

Cawthron is proud to run the biennial New Zealand River Awards. The health of our rivers and streams is crucial to the future well-being of our environment, society and economy. 

The Awards were established to draw attention to the state of our rivers, but more importantly, to recognise where communities, councils, farmers and industry are achieving significant improvement in water quality in one or more of their local rivers. 

The Awards celebrate improvement in water quality. All rivers, whether they are in poor health or in pristine condition can potentially win an award for being the most improved river in a region or nationally. The most improved rivers are determined by a judging panel of scientists using statistical analysis of monitoring data from LAWA.  

The Awards were established by the Morgan Foundation and the NZ Rivers Trust in 2013 and have received valuable support from regional and local councils, and many other stakeholders in the freshwater space. 

See more info about the Cawthron New Zealand River here.