During the late 1970s and the 1980s I was involved in energy research programmes at the Centre for Resource Management (Lincoln College (now Lincoln University) & the University of Canterbury) and the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering (University of Canterbury).
The former research centered on energy use in agriculture, energy resources and technologies, and domestic energy use. Significant outputs were contributions to Implications of Coal Recovery and Liquefaction in Otago and Southland (Liquid Fuels Trust Board (LFTB), 1981-82) and the construction of the first national database of specific energy requirements for products and services in the New Zealand economy (New Zealand Energy Research and Development Committee (NZERDC), 1986).
Research at the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering (University of Canterbury) focused on energy analysis techniques and included a conference paper (Second Coal Research Conference, 1987) and a series of publications for NZERDC.
My Masters thesis (1981) examined the system utilisation, energy efficiency and future potential of the New Zealand rail transport network.
While CAE/CAENZ * was not a research-based organisation per se, it produced an extensive range of publications on engineering and engineering-related topics. While some were written by outside individuals and organisations, most were produced in-house using both outside contractors and in-house staff. I was involved in all CAE/CAENZ publications from 1992 to 2009 (see the publications page for details), which required researching topics as diverse as energy efficiency in trucks to how best to communicate the concept of risk.
While primarily responsible for the final editing, layout/design, graphics and pre-press, the work also involved researching and writing sections for books, reports and newsletters. Initially, much of the research was library-based, but in latter years required extensive use of the internet (which also required the new skill of separating the useful and accurate from the useless and plain wrong).
* Founded in 1988, the Centre for Advanced Engineering (CAE) was renamed the New Zealand Centre for Advanced Engineering (CAENZ) in 2001; following a reorganisation, it reverted to the original name in 2012 and finally ceased operations in June 2015.
I have long been fascinated with two – quite different – periods of history; the medieval abbeys of the UK and Ireland (12th – 16th centuries) and the Prohibition era in the US (1920-1933). I have been researching both topics for more than 25 years, using original sources where possible, library resources and the internet. While primarily done for my own enjoyment, it has led to some unexpected consequences, such as appearing on Mastermind in 1988 answering questions on the life and times of Al Capone!
A more recent hobby, requiring significant research skills, has been genealogy. Until five years ago, the family history on my father's side was unknown before the 1890s. As a result of endless hours trawling through databases, newspapers and internet sites, I now have a history going back to the mid-18th century, including the discovery of living relatives in Germany, the US and South America. I also discovered a mildly-famous ancestor (unfortunately for the wrong reasons), a commercial artist who became one of the Nazi's most prolific producers of propaganda (I have put much of this information on a website, which can be seen here).
A current project is a book provisionally titled Embracing Decay: The Lure of Medieval Ruins in Britain & Ireland, an exploration of the continuing fascination of medieval ruins, and their contributions to literature, art, movies and music.