Kerikeri's Steve McNally could not resist donning a gown, (a little larger perhaps than the one he wore in 1981 as a newly-graduated Bachelor of Agricultural Science) when his son Sam graduated from Waikato University last month as a Doctor of Philosophy.
Sam had previously completed Bachelor and Master's degrees in science, continuing his Master's thesis theme of soil science for his PhD, studying carbon inputs to soils under two pasture types, establishing whether increased root mass could increase soil carbon (which he found some scope for).
Professor Louis Schipper, BSc, MSc, PhD Waikato, whose research interests include long-term changes in soil organic matter in pastures and nitrogen saturation of organic matter, and factors controlling organic matter decomposition, including the role of temperature, described Sam's PhD submission as addressing the contribution of roots of different pasture swards to stable soil organic matter.
Sam, who received funding for his doctoral studies from the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, Dairy NZ and a University of Waikato Doctoral Scholarship, acknowledged the assistance of various academic mentors, the people who assisted him with field and laboratory work and the staff at Scott Farm, in the Waikato, where he completed the trial work.
"While I acknowledge his hard work, and the guidance and assistance of all the people he recognised, I will have to show him the photo I took of him with his up-close viewing of soil structure, soil type etc in a post hole I had dug and explained to him back in 1995, when he was still at primary school," Steve said.
"He may doubt that had anything to do with his academic career path, but who knows where his soil science journey really began?"
Sam is now working as post-doctoral scientist at the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research in Christchurch.
"The importance of research such as this is critical to multiple factors affecting farmers throughout New Zealand, and he is continuing with the primary production sector and soil science research," Steve said.
"He is now participating in a research project with the institute, centred around soils and farming practices, that he briefly explained to me, but it was over my head.
"Great to see the government investment into this type of research."
Meanwhile he had been acknowledged for an impressive personal achievement, and his family and "the old man" were "suitably chuffed."
"If you need an intelligent conversation and advice about your real estate needs, give me a call," he said.
"Anything related to the importance of soil science to New Zealand primary production, call Sam."
And the photo?
"Just thought some of my mates would need proof that the intelligence didn't completely skip a generation."