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Jessie Prebble wins 2018 Zonta Science Award

An interest in the natural world and a love of learning pays off for a young woman scientist.

Photo credit: Landcare Research

Dr Jessica (Jessie) Prebble (aged 33) has been announced as the 15th Biennial Zonta Science Award winner by the Governor General, the Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, at a ceremony at Government House on Thursday 7 June 2018.  The Award was established in 1990 by the Zonta Club of Wellington to further the status of New Zealand women in science.

Jessie was selected as this year’s recipient because she was able to demonstrate that through her work she contributes to her community, is an outstanding role model for other young women choosing a career in science, and for whom this Award would be a means to further her career.

Jessie has been a high achiever throughout her school years and into University.  She was Dux of Queen Margaret College and studied for a Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Botany and Ecology at Otago University.  She then returned to study at Victoria University of Wellington where she gained a First Class Honours (2008) then a Master of Science (MSc) with Distinction (2010), both in Ecology and Biodiversity.  In 2016 Jessie gained her PhD from Massey University in Palmerston North and landed her dream job at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research as a Plant Systematist.

Along with the accolade of being this year’s Zonta Science Award winner, Jessie will receive $18,000 to fund activities to further her career and research. Jessie has chosen to use the Award to visit three laboratories in the USA and to work with leading plant scientists at the University of Florida.  There, she will learn a new technique of DNA sequencing which improves scientist’s ability to discover and describe species and will share this new knowledge with other scientists in New Zealand.

“I love the variety, I get to work outside, in the mountains, in the lab, in the herbarium, with people, as well as by myself.  I get to think about ideas, come up with plans and follow them through, it’s very satisfying,” Jessie says.