Megan Balks – Waikato University

Dr Megan Balks is a Senior Lecturer in Earth Sciences at the University of Waikato where she teaches soil and environmental sciences. Born in Eketahuna, Megan was brought up on a Wairarapa hill country sheep farm. Megan developed her passion for soil science at Massey University where she completed a BSc(Hons). She then worked, for DSIR Soil Bureau in Dunedin as a soil scientist, undertaking soil mapping for irrigation developments in Central Otago. Megan completed her PhD on the effects of meat works effluent irrigation on soil physical properties while working as an assistant lecturer at the University of Waikato in the 1990s. Megan has had a long involvement in Antarctic Soil Research, having had 18 field trips to “the ice” since 1990. First undertaking her Antarctic “apprenticeship” with Graeme Claridge and Iain Campbell, Megan has since had a long Antarctic Research collaboration with Landcare Research and the USDA.

Megan teaches in two large (150 student) first year courses (ERTH104 and ENVS101) where she works to share her enthusiasm for soils with a wide range of students. Megan also contributes to courses at second and third year level and leads a graduate course related to the Resource Consent Process under the RMA. She has supervised over 40 successfully completed graduate theses, on a wide range of soil-related topics, many in collaboration with CRIs and Regional Councils.

Megan has served two terms as Chairperson of the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Waikato, two terms on the Waikato Conservation Board (including one as Chair), and she is currently a Director of the QEII National Trust. She is an Honorary life member of the Hamilton Junior Naturalists Club. Megan is married to Errol Balks, a land surveyor, and has one adult son. Megan and Errol own a small hill country sheep farm on the lower slopes of Mt Pirongia which includes over 20 ha of QEII covenanted lowland forest, thus Megan spends much of her weekends killing gorse and possums! Other interests include wool crafts, landscape art and photography, gardening, and NZ flora, fauna, and geology.

Megan is a Fellow of the New Zealand Society of Soil Science, and was honoured as the NZSSS Norm Taylor Memorial lecturer in 2008 (the first women to achieve either of those awards). Megan returns to the NZSSS Council after a break of 15 years (having formerly served on Council from 1991-7). Megan hopes to contribute her skills and energy to helping the NZSSS ensure the strength of New Zealand soil science and to promote the widest possible understanding and appreciation of the importance, and intrinsic interest and beauty, of our soil resource.