The Nelson Science Society

Welcome to the webpage of the Nelson Science Society (NSS) and its constituent, the Astronomy Section. The NSS is a branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand and exists to promote science within the Nelson/Tasman region - we do this by holding regular scientific talks from a variety of experts throughout the year and by promoting science education in schools and colleges.

The Astronomy section is run as an independent constituent of the NSS and maintains its own program of events (see Astronomy Section pages for full details and newsletter). Please bookmark this website to see details of all upcoming events sponsored by the NSS and its Astronomy section (and other events of interest), and to see details of past activities etc. 

As of July 2016 we have over 150 paid up members and a mailing contact list of over 500. If you have any interest in science either give us your e-mail address so we can send you details of our events or join our growing society. Science is alive and well in Nelson!

Tuesday August 2nd 7.30pm. 2016 Hochstetter Lecture.Professor Colin Wilson (Victoria University of Wellington) will deliver the 2016 Hochstetter Lecture, The forensics of volcanic catastrophe - how to study large explosive eruptions. Room A211 of NMIT, off Alton Street, gold coin donation for non-NSS members (
Erupting volcanoes are one of the great natural sights on the planet. There are, however, volcanoes on Earth which produce eruptions of such enormous size and violence (supereruptions at one extreme) such that if you can see the volcano erupting you will die. Apart from being somewhat career-limiting, the chances of making useful observations are almost nil. Thus, what we understand about such eruptions and their parent volcanoes has to be gained from studying the products of past events, in a form of geological forensic science. In this talk, I outline the ways in which insights into large explosive eruptions can be gained from studying rocks in the field, then applying a variety of analytical techniques down to the microscopic scale. The information that is gained provides unprecedented details into eruptive processes, but suggests that we are still a long way from having a clear, simple picture of how big eruptions operate.

Prof Wilson's research centres around understanding the processes involved in explosive volcanic activity. This work covers a large range of topics concerned with the generation and storage of magmas (molten rock), together with the ways in which volcanoes erupt explosively, with particular emphasis on the large-scale examples labeled as ‘Supereruptions’.

Thursday 4th August, 7.30pm. Astro section monthly meeting. Peter Knowles will talk on 'Astro Photography'. Milton room located at the Cawthron Institute, at the corner of Milton Street and Halifax Street East. There will be time at the end of the presentation for questions and open audience discussion. Non-NSS members $2 donation entry please.

Peter Knowles, amateur astronomer and operator of NSS's science bus, will speak on Astro-Photography and how to get involved as a group.Peter will show a range of photos he has taken and enhanced of planetary objects such as Saturn and explain how to take great pictures from a basic camera and telescope in your backyard. He will describe what you can see and then how you will be able to enhance your photos through camera picture stacking and using picture software.

Peter would like to form a group of local Astro Photographers to work together and exchange information and ideas on the subject.

Thursday 11th August, 7.30pm. Royal Society Hamilton Memorial Prize recipient Dr. Valerie Soo, State College, Pennsylvania will talk on  Possible origins of antibiotic resistance: a biochemistry perspective.
NEW VENUE: Elim Church Nelson - 625 Main Road Stoke, Nelson, 7011. You MUST obtain a ticket by registering at:

Enzymes are the protein molecules that accelerate chemical reactions in all types of cells. Most enzymes are designed for specific functions, for example certain enzymes will break down antibiotics resulting in antibiotic resistance. This specialisation suggests a lack of flexibility but we know that enzymes do develop novel functions,so how does this happen? If enzymes are designed for one role, how do they develop novel functions?
Whilst doing her PhD, Valerie Soo discovered that many enzymes in the laboratory bacterium, Escherichia coli, have weak secondary functions.When placed in environments where toxins or antibiotics were present, these secondary functions enabled the bacteria to grow in almost one third of these environments. The unexpected development of antibiotic resistance shows the possible role of weak secondary functions and how they help to evolve new functions in proteins.

Saturday 27th August, 7pm. New Breakthroughs in Cancer Treatment - Professor Chris Jackson from Dunedin, who is an oncologist and chief medical officer for the NZ Cancer Society, and Professor Rod Dunbar from Auckland who is a scientist researching new cancer therapies and who is Director of the Maurice Wilkins Center. Part of the Queenstown Research Week. Venue: Rutherford Hotel. You must register for a ticket at:

Sunday 28th August, 6.30pm. The wonderful world of stem cells, a talk by Nobel Laureate, Sir John Gurdon. Part of the Queenstown Research Week. Venue: Nelson College. You must  register for a ticket at:

Tuesday 30th August, 6.30pm.The Science of Sugar & Fat - Prof. Peter Shepherd from the University of Auckland will discuss the science of sugar and Prof. Dave Grattan from the University of Otago will cover the science behind obesity.Part of the Queenstown Research Week. Venue: Nelson Girls College. You must register for a ticket: