What On Earth Colloquium




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Dr Michelle Dickinson

Michelle has a PhD in biomedical materials engineering, runs New Zealand's only nanomechanical testing laboratory and is a selfconfessed adrenaline junkie.

Her passion for both sports and science has enabled her to travel the world on the search for her next adventure or research project. With specialist knowledge in nanotechnology, Michelle has contributed to the development of cutting edge technologies.

Secretly, however, Michelle has been working on advancing these developments to help her to achieve her childhood dream of becoming a real life superhero. In her spare time you will usually find her outside kitesurfing, cycling, running, paddle boarding, or inside practicing martial arts.

Her recent move to academia from industry was a step towards her goal of inspiring females to push the boundaries in both science and sports, and to encourage environmentally sustainable living through engineering design.

Member of New Zealand Order of Merit Michelle was winner of the Women of Influence award for science and innovation in 2016, was awarded the Sir Peter Blake Leadership in 2015 and was winner of the Prime Ministers Science Media Communication Prize and the New Zealand Association of Scientists Science Communicators Award in 2014. Dr Michelle Dickinson uses the popular twitter handle' Nanogirl ' (@medickinson) On a mission to use science for good, not evil.

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Dr Peter Crabtree

Dr Peter Crabtree is the General Manager Science, Innovation and International at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. He currently has responsibility for enterprise policy, science and innovation policy, international science partnerships, trade and regulatory cooperation, international strategy and leadership of the New Zealand Space Agency functions. 

Prior to this role, Peter was Deputy Chief Executive, System Strategy and Policy at the Ministry of Science and Innovation. Peter has also held other senior roles across the New Zealand public service with the Ministry of Economic Development and Ministry of Justice.

Peter has a PhD in natural resources management.

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Hon David Parker

Labout List MP
Minister for Economic Development, Environment, and Trade and Export Growth
Associate Minister of Finance

Born in Roxburgh in 1960, David grew up in Dunedin and has a BCom (Acctg) and LLB from the University of Otago.

He was a litigation and managing partner in law firm Anderson Lloyd and was a co-founder of the Dunedin Community Law Centre.

David is an experienced CEO and company director in a range of industries and has experienced both success and failure. He was involved in a number of start-up businesses in the agri-biotechnology field including A2 Corporation, and BLIS Technologies which he managed from start-up to the main board of the NZX.

He held various Ministerial portfolios in the last Labour-led Government including Attorney-General, Energy, Climate Change, Transport, Land Information and State Services. In 2008 he was named by the Listener magazine as Environmentalist of the Year for his work as Minister of Energy and Climate Change. He pioneered New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme, then described by many as the most significant environmental reform in NZ for decades.

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Alexander Kaptein

Alexander Kaptein is the Head of Future SAR Programs, Intelligence at Airbus Defence and Space.

He has more than 20 years of experience in geo-information services business, and he has held various positions in research and development, marketing, project and programme management.

Alexander was involved in setting-up Airbus‘ radar earth observation business, and Europe‘s Copernicus services.

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Dr Niklas Reinke

Dr Niklas Reinke is the Director of the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) Tokyo Office.

Prior to this role, Niklas was the scientific officer for space strategy and program, and Head of Communications at DLR (German Aerospace Center) Space Agency, Bonn.

Niklas has a PhD in the history of the German space flight politics.

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Borre Pedersen

Borre is the International Sales Director - Ground Segment at Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT). He started with the company in 1998, working on the Svalbard Satellite Station (SvalSat) when the site had a single antenna. Over the next five years, the site developed extensively and KSAT installed numerous large aperture systems on the site.

As the International Sales Director - Ground Segment, Borre works with government agencies and private entities all over the world to provide the right technical solutions, utilising KSAT's growing global network of ground stations.

Borre graduated with a BSc in Automation from the University of Bergen, Norway in 1994. 

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Dr Astrid-Christina Koch

Astrid got her Ph.D. in Natural Sciences from Kiel University/Germany. She represented the European Union as the Science Diplomat at the EU Delegation in Washington  from 2007 – 2017 and is now working on the international dimension of Copernicus in the European Commission in Brussels.


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Grega Milcinski

Born in 1980 in Slovenia, he studied Physics and co-founded Cosylab inc. at age 21, a company developing control systems for particle accelerators and large experiments in physics. In 2008 Grega moved to become CEO and co-founder of Sinergise, specialising in software for advanced geospatial applications, helping Europe to efficiently manage and control agriculture policy and introducing land administration systems to developing countries in Africa.

With his colleagues they have recognised the potential of open Copernicus earth observation data early but soon hit a wall trying to use existing technologies to work with these large datasets. Deciding to do something about it, Sentinel Hub was born. A Copernicus Masters award winning service for processing and distribution of satellite data is exploiting AWS Open Public Datasets.

After working with governmental clients in Balkan, Western Europe, Asia and Africa, Grega is now engulfed in building a global Internet business.

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Dr Robert Woodcock

Dr Robert Woodcock is a Research Scientist and Consultant in Earth Data and  Analytics, at the CSIRO. He is responsible for a portfolio of activities involving national spatial data infrastructure and earth observation data analysis and integration platforms. His team’s portfolio has seen national application in Australian Industry and Government including the AuScope geoscience information infrastructure. Internationally, he was the co-chair of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) Future Data Access and Analysis Architectures ad-hoc team developing strategy for international earth observation information exchange and analysis platforms. Robert has worked for almost two decades in the field of visualisation, spatial information systems and analytics and its application to Earth Science with a focus on ensuring research innovation leads to business innovation.

Dr Woodcock’s current roles include:

  • Project Director, AuScope Grid national geoscience data infrastructure and National Virtual Core Library
  • Project Leader, Earth Data and Analysis, CSIRO Centre for Earth Observation
  • Project Leader, CSIRO Earth Analytics Industry Innovation Hub
  • Vice Chair CEOS Working Group on Information Systems and Services


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Rafael Kargren

Rafael is leading the commercial and technical operations of the newly established Centre for Space Science Technology (CSST), a Regional Research Institute based in Alexandra, New Zealand. He has over 25 years’ experience in multiple leadership roles in telecommunications and space satellite industries.

Before joining CSST, Rafael was the Executive Vice President and Head of Asia, Pacific Region for the SSC. In this role, he was responsible for the establishment, development and growth of earth observation and remote sensing business with commercial and government sectors in Asia and the Pacific.

He maintained close cooperation with space industry in the region, building relationships and partnerships with key players and new start-ups. Prior to SSC, he was leading product development unit and major global telecommunication projects at Ericsson.

Rafael holds a degree in Telecommunications and Satellite Operations. He is a member of NASA Satellite Operations Executive Committee, Asia Pacific Regional Satellite Forum and Asia Pacific Satellite Communication group.

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Dr Dragos Bratasanu

Dragos Bratasanu is LINZ's Technical Leader for Earth Observations. He received his Ph.D. Magna Cum Laude from the Center for Sensor Systems at the University of Siegen in Germany with the thesis "Interactive Models for Latent Information Discovery in Satellite Images." Dragos is a graduate of International Space University at NASA Kennedy Space Centre and of Singularity University at NASA AMES in Silicon Valley. He received several international awards for his discoveries and innovation in the field of satellite image intelligence and was nominated by M.I.T. Technology Review in Innovators Under 35 for "the brightest minds in Europe who are changing society with their projects." 

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Dr David Pairman

Dr David Pairman (DPhil, Atmospheric Physics, Oxford) is the remote sensing research leader at Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research. He began his career in 1980 at the Physics and Engineering Laboratory, DSIR, transferring to the Crown Research Institute in 1992. His current research specialities are:

  • Image analysis and remote sensing research, specialising in synthetic aperture radar imagery, image segmentation methods, geo-rectification models, and atmospheric calibration.
  • Land cover and land-use mapping, including temporal image analysis techniques.
  • GIS modelling
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Joshua Lamorie

Joshua Lamorie is the Software Engineering Manager at Rocket Lab, where he ensures the quality and reliability of all software deployed to Electron’s computers.

Originally from Nelson, New Zealand, Joshua studied Aerospace Systems Engineering at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. As an undergraduate student Joshua was the founding director of Virtual Ventures, a youth STEM program that is now in its 24th year of providing technology education to participants across Canada.

After graduating, Joshua worked as a spacecraft systems engineer in Montreal on a variety of projects for various space agencies and prime contractors. His efforts were primarily focussed on autonomy and remote control and included UAV control systems, satellite communications and lunar exploration robotics.

As Chief Engineer at Xiphos Technologies, Joshua oversaw the development of several generations of spacecraft processor. His team also developed and deployed many different applications using this hardware including; camera systems for Bigelow Aerospace’s Genesis I and Genesis II, control systems for NASA RESOLVE, and data collection and distribution for a commercial AIS constellation.

Joshua returned to New Zealand early 2015 to join Rocket Lab as a senior software engineer designing embedded firmware to work on FPGA based launch vehicle avionics, designing launch vehicle camera systems and working on the networking and communications for ground-air data. He took on his current role as Software Engineering Manager in August 2016.

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Graeme Blick

Graeme Blick obtained his Bachelor of Surveying from Otago University in 1980. He worked for the then New Zealand Geological Survey (now GNS Science) in their Earth Deformation Section using geodetic techniques to measure, monitor and study crustal deformation across New Zealand.  In 1992-1993 he received a visiting Scientist Award to work at the University NAVSTAR Consortium in Boulder Colorado utilising GPS to monitor crustal movements on several international projects.  In 1995 he moved to Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), New Zealand’s National Survey and Mapping agency.  He is the Group Manager of the Positioning and Resilience Group and Chief Geodesist where he continues to work on and manage the development and implementation of the geodetic system in New Zealand and develop a new resilience programme of work for LINZ. 

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Andrew Ferrel

Andrew Ferrel is the Manager Partnership Programmes within the Location Information Group at Land Information New Zealand. Andrew is part of the team working on National Imagery Coordination and Elevation Data Improvement Programme.  Andrew is passionate about ensuring high value public sector data is widely available.

Andrew has worked in customer relationship roles at LINZ for the past 12 years, particularly in the topographic and Landonline areas. Prior to this he worked in the key accounts area for Fonterra. 

Andrew has 3 children, so spends his weekends as a parental Uber driver, specialising in the most efficient route between Wellington sports fields.

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Bjorn Johns

Bjorn Johns is a senior technical leader for elevation and imagery at LINZ, where he is currently developing the national elevation data improvement programme. Previously at LINZ he established the Crown historic air photo digitisation project. Before coming to New Zealand he managed engineering and surveying support services for US National Science Foundation and NASA sponsored polar research throughout the Arctic and Antarctic. He has a Masters in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado, and enjoys kayaking, swimming, sailing, and boating in Wellington Harbour despite the wind.

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Dr John Dymond

Dr John Dymond gained an MSc in Remote Sensing from London University in 1987 and was awarded a D.Sc. in 2006. He is a researcher in the Soils and Landscapes team at Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research. He is the science leader of the current 5-year MBIE-funded remote sensing research programme. His research specialities are:

  • Ecosystems and environmental modelling
  • Catchment management, erosion and slope stability
  • GIS applications and modelling
  • Ecosystems services
  • Remote sensing and image processing
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Steve Cotter

Steve is CEO of the newly established Centre for Space Science Technology (CSST), a Regional Research Institute based in Alexandra, New Zealand.  He came to the role in 2017 with 25 years leadership experience, including more than 15 years in the information technology and research & education (R&E) sectors. 

Prior to CSST, Steve was the CEO of the GÉANT Association, overseeing both operating companies in Amsterdam and Cambridge.  GÉANT runs the pan-European high-performance R&E network serving more than 50 million users from 41 countries. Before joining GÉANT, he was the CEO of REANNZ, the New Zealand R&E network. He joined REANNZ from the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) in 2011. As the head of ESnet, he was responsible for providing high-performance networking to thousands of researchers and scientists at more than 40 national laboratories and research institutions. 

Prior to ESnet, he served as Google’s network deployment manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Before being hired by Google, Steve worked for Internet2, the R&E network in the U.S. as Deputy Operations Officer and was CEO & President of their wholly owned subsidiary, FiberCo. Steve got his start in telecommunications and networking at SBC Global Communications (now AT&T), serving as a Director in network engineering and construction departments, and also in optical networking as an engineer and program manager at Cisco Systems. He served eight years as an Officer and helicopter pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps.  Steve attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering. Steve also earned an MBA from Boston University.

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Stephen Canny

Stephen is the Business and Strategic Projects Group Manager for Venture Southland. He has been involved in a wide variety of initiatives ranging from large-scale strategic projects to community-led development initiatives including development of mineral and agricultural systems, region-wide soils and climatic data. Stephen has an extensive background, including managing the successful completion of major civil and mechanical engineering projects, to establishing satellite and terrestrial television, geodetic positioning systems and marine radio applications.

Stephen is a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, a member of the Institute of Directors of New Zealand and a Chairman of the National Broadband Forum, Chairman of Junior Worlds 2012 Ltd and past President of Cycling New Zealand. He is also a Trustee on the Troopers Memorial Trust, Port Craig Viaduct Trust and Film Otago Southland, and a Shareholder Trustee on the Southland Electricity Supply Consumer Trust. 

He represented New Zealand at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) events and has presented at numerous national and international conferences.