Rowan Emberson – PrepA, ColA 51-59

Monday 05 November 2018

Rowan joined the staff at Lincoln as a lecturer in the Entomology Department in 1968 and continued through various departmental structures until his retirement in 2002. Following this, he carried on with his entomological work as an Honorary Senior Lecturer though until his death.

Rowan graduated from Edinburgh University with a degree in forestry, writing his honours dissertation on mesostigmatid mites in soils in ancient pine forest. This led to further study of soil-inhabiting mites for a PhD at McGill University in Montreal, Canada with Professor Keith Kevan. During the last year of his PhD studies, Rowan taught an entomology course at Sir George Williams University in Montreal.

In his first years at Lincoln, Rowan’s research concentrated on mite and beetle taxonomy but he developed interests in agricultural entomology, biosecurity risk, and invertebrate diversity and conservation. Rowan developed and lectured courses in these areas and mentored postgraduate students in research on these topics. Rowan was involved in many ecological surveys, often in partnership with postgraduate students. One major project was documenting the Chatham Islands beetle fauna for conservation purposes, which later led to collaboration with geologists on a project to determine the age of the Chatham Islands.

Rowan was deeply involved in the establishment of the University’s Entomology Research Museum and was a major force in building it into one of the country’s foremost collections. The collection was built up initially through a series of annual summer field trips throughout the 1970s and 80s to different locations from North Cape to Stewart Island. Rowan also spent considerable time throughout his career, in weekends and holidays, contributing many thousands of specimens to the collection.

Rowan was a President of the New Zealand Entomological Society and, following his retirement, was awarded the Lincoln University Medal for Meritorious Service and made a Fellow New Zealand Entomological Society. Rowan’s contribution to invertebrate taxonomy was also recognised through six species of insects and mites being named in his honour.

Rowan lived with bowel cancer for the last four years, but continued with his very active lifestyle and entomological work. Fittingly, his description of a new species of tiger beetle was published just two weeks before his death. This new species was discovered during his recent ecological survey work in the Mackenzie Basin. Rowan’s illness caught up with him in late July, when the chemotherapy treatment ceased working. Despite this, he still managed a two-week camping trip to the United States in August/September and spent a weekend at Punakaiki just two weeks before he died.

Rowan’s parents named him for a tree native to their homeland, and Rowan trained initially as a forester. If you would like to do something to remember Rowan, please plant a tree, any tree, anywhere. Alternatively, a donation to the Maurice White Native Forest Trust for the management of Hinewai Reserve would be greatly appreciated (

Rowan Emberson died in Christchurch on 7 October 2018, aged 77.


Submitted by his partner of 35 years, Pol Syrett