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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Source: Auckland Museum

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

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

Dr James Fawcett was a life-long member of the Auckland Museum Institute and was a founding member of the World Congress of Herpetology in 1982, representing New Zealand. He was committed to assisting student research throughout his career. The research fund has been enabled by a bequest from James (with thanks to Georgene Fawcett).

Rebecca Bray, Senior Collection Manager of Auckland Museum’s Natural Sciences collections, says, “We are thrilled to be able to share this gift from the Fawcett family with both 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, the two research projects will align to the Museum’s research strategy including fields such as biodiversity, evolutionary biology, collections research, taxonomy, ecology, mātauranga Māori, social sciences and archaeology.

Read more about the 2021 Awardees here:


Dr James Fawcett was born in New Plymouth in 1933. He undertook his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Auckland with his master’s research under the supervision of Joan Robb focusing on the life history and ecology ofOligosoma ornatum (then known as Sphenomorphus pseudornatus), a skink commonly known as the ornate skink. His master’s thesis was examined by Hobart Smith who asked him to relocate to the US in 1965 to start a PhD and in 1972 James accepted a position as Instructor of Biology at the University of Nebraska.

In 1975 he was awarded his PhD on the “Effects of season, ovariectomy and hormone replacement therapy on the oviduct of Anolis carolinensis (the green anole)”, continuing his work on herpetology and reproductive biology. He then went on to become Associate Professor at the University. In 1978 while in Nebraska he co-founded the Nebraska Herpetological Society and was awarded lifetime membership in 2003.

During his career Fawcett published 28 scientific papers including 10 on New Zealand species. Fawcett mentored 53 Masters students from 1974–2017 and was a highly popular teacher at the University of Nebraska.