Auckland Museum Announces 2021 Dr James Fawcett Fund Recipients


In September 2021, the Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum announced the first round of funding for the Dr James Fawcett Postgraduate Herpetological Awards, which has now been granted to two recipients.

The 2021 winners are Sarah Lamar (PhD student at Victoria University of Wellington – Te Herenga Waka) whose research will explore variation in sperm characteristics and their implications for tuatara conservation, and Dr Richelle Butcher (Masters in Veterinary Studies on Zoo Animal and Wildlife Health at Massey University and Wildbase Hospital) which will examine the prevalence and diversity of pathogens that can cause disease in native New Zealand lizards.

Dr James Fawcett was a life member of the Auckland Museum Institute and was a founding member of the World Herpetological Congress in 1982, representing New Zealand. He is committed to helping student research throughout his career. The research fund was activated by a bequest from James (with thanks to Georgene Fawcett).

Rebecca Bray, Senior Director of Natural Science Collections at Auckland Museum, said: “We are delighted to be able to share this gift from the Fawcett family with Sarah and Richelle. Their areas of research will expand our scientific knowledge of New Zealand’s native species.

Supported and mentored by Auckland Museum staff, both research projects will align with the museum’s research strategy, including areas such as biodiversity, evolutionary biology, collections research, taxonomy, ecology, mātauranga Māori, social sciences and archaeology.

Read more about the 2021 winners here:

Dr James Fawcett was born in New Plymouth in 1933. He undertook his undergraduate and masters studies at the University of Auckland with his masters research under Joan Robb focusing on life history and ecology of
Ornate oligosome (then known as Sphenomorphus pseudornatus), a skink commonly known as the ornate skink. His master’s thesis was reviewed by Hobart Smith who asked him to move to the United States in 1965 to begin a doctorate and in 1972 James accepted a position as a biology instructor at the University of Nebraska.

In 1975, he obtained his doctorate on the “Effects of the season, of ovariectomy and of hormone replacement therapy on the oviduct of Anolis carolinensis (the green anole)”, continuing his work on herpetology and reproductive biology. He then became an associate professor at the University. In 1978, while in Nebraska, he co-founded the Nebraska Herpetological Society and was made a Life Member in 2003.

During his career, Fawcett published 28 scientific articles including 10 on New Zealand species. Fawcett mentored 53 master’s students from 1974 to 2017 and was a very popular teacher at the University of Nebraska.

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