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Godfather of groundwater science elected to the Royal Society

16 March 2023

Groundwater science
Murray Close Water Environment Esr
Murray Close Water Environment Esr

Murray Close, principal scientist and leader of the Christchurch-based Groundwater team, has been at ESR for over 30 years. This year we recognise his achievement in being elected as a Fellow to the Academy of the Royal Society Te Apārangi.

Being made a Fellow is an honour that recognises distinction in research, scholarship or the advancement of knowledge at the highest international standards, and Murray’s election is no exception. Over the last 44 years he has led multi-agency, multi-disciplinary research teams to drive forward pioneering research into groundwater contamination.  His research has focused on the transport and fate of a comprehensive range of contaminants in New Zealand groundwater systems, including pesticides, heavy metals, microbes, and nitrate, as well as developing new methods for investigating the vadose zone.

Murray’s current research interests include the impacts of land use on groundwater quality, removal of nitrate from shallow groundwater using enhanced denitrification, and understanding groundwater ecosystems. He actively engages with regional and district councils throughout New Zealand who have the responsibility to manage groundwater resources. His research has advanced groundwater management practices for the regional councils by providing them with the necessary knowledge of groundwater systems and processes.

“The importance of groundwater hasn't changed, if anything it has increased, so I think it's a really critical area to work in. There's lots of really interesting problems to address and a great bunch of people in the regional councils, at ESR, and other research institutes to work with,” says Murray. 

Murray is one of 34 new Ngā Ahurei a Te Apārangi Fellows and Ngā Ahurei Honore a Te Apārangi Honorary Fellows to be elected this year for their distinction in research and advancement of science, technology or the humanities.

Professor Charlotte Macdonald FRSNZ, Chair of the Academy Executive Committee, said it was impressive to see the strength of Aotearoa New Zealand’s research communities in the cohort of New Fellows.

“The newly-elected Ngā Ahurei Fellows have made contributions to knowledge at the highest levels in their different fields and across disciplinary boundaries. Their election adds significantly to the breadth of knowledge held within the Academy and will support Te Apārangi to engage and inform New Zealanders on a diverse range of important topics.”

To find out more, read ESR’s interview with Murray to find out what’s kept him interested in groundwater for the past three decades.