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Researchers share in $65 million funding

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/11/2016

Research into what makes malaria-infected mosquitoes more attracted to humans and why inbred birds fire blanks in the nest are among projects to share in $65.2 million of government grants.

Details of these and other fascinating projects emerged after Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce announced on Thursday the government had handed out its largest single round of Marsden Fund grants.

The team investigating malaria's parasitic behaviour secured $830,000 to research how it brainwashed its mosquito hosts to seek out humans to increase the chance of transmission.

They are similarly looking into how toxoplasma parasites make rats more likely to hang around cats to increase their chance of being eaten and how some forms of parasitic worm hijack their host's nervous system to force it to seek water for the worms to reproduce in.

The team researching links between inbreeding in birds and infertility secured $300,000, noting inbreeding could be detrimental to New Zealand's threatened species.

With Marsden Fund grants awarded to science, engineering, mathematics, social sciences and humanities projects, the government recently increased its annual funding amount by 49 per cent over four years, growing it to $79.8m in 2019/20.

"The Marsden is our pre-eminent investigator-led research fund and is a crucial contributor to building an innovation-led economy and society," Mr Joyce said.

"The fund helps focus our science system on achieving excellence and impact, and it is an important element in promoting New Zealand as a destination for top scientists and R&D investment."

Other projects to secure 2016 funding, included research into Maori cultural history and musical instruments, earthquake monitoring using fibre optic and creating more energy efficient microprocessors.

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