Dr Megan Balks
Immediate Past President
Otorohanga District, Waikato
Dr Megan Balks was brought up on a Wairarapa hill country sheep farm. She developed a passion for soil science at Massey University where she completed a BSc(Hons). Megan 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 in the 1990s while working as an assistant lecturer at the University of Waikato.
Megan taught soil and environmental sciences at the University of Waikato for 30 years, particularly focussing on large first year classes. She has supervised over 50 successfully completed graduate theses, on a wide range of soil-related topics, many in collaboration with CRIs and Regional Councils. She now holds an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow position at the University of Waikato and is self-employed, working on writing, and various business interests. She is also currently serving as the South West Pacific Representative on the “Intergovernmental Technical Panel for Soils” (ITPS) which is run under the Global Soil Partnership by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. Megan is also Vice-chair of IUSS Commission 1.3, Soil Genesis.
Megan has had a long involvement in Antarctic Soil Research, having had 19 field trips to “the ice” since 1990. First undertaking her Antarctic “apprenticeship” with Graeme Claridge and Iain Campbell, she has since had a long Antarctic research collaboration with Landcare Research and the USDA.
Megan 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 two terms as 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. Other interests include wool crafts, landscape art and photography, gardening, 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 returned to the NZSSS Council after a break of 15 years (having formerly served on Council from 1991-1997). 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.