Alanna Smith with fellow student researchers surveying seagrass density and area cover in an area that was impacted by a recent landslide in Hawke's Bay, New Zealand. 19111522
Back with Te Ipukarea Society as conservation programme manager, Alanna Smith tells of her year away studying her Masters degree in New Zealand.
I never really intended on following through with a Master’s degree after completing my undergraduate degree in environmental management.
But after having worked four years with Te Ipukarea Society, the work I was exposed to, the opportunities I encountered and the people I met actually made me reconsider the idea of studying more.
I was introduced to the Masters of Conservation Biology programme at Victoria University of Wellington by a Department of Conservation colleague based in New Zealand, who visited Rarotonga to conduct a population survey on the Kakarori in the Takitumu Conservation Area and in Atiu.
After further research online, the next thing I knew I was based in Wellington at the start of this year embarking on a journey which seemed very last minute, but nevertheless, very exciting to be getting back into studying again.
For the Conservation Biology programme, I was able to choose between papers that were related to both the terrestrial and marine environment, which provided a good range of ridge to reef skills.
The programme also provided courses that were field-based, which enabled students to conduct research of their own and produce reports that were of value to local communities.
One paper in particular involved visiting various forested reserves and sanctuaries in the Hawke’s Bay and the top of the South Island.
Here, we were able to learn about the different styles of conservation management approaches used within New Zealand – fenced ecosanctuaries, open reserves and off-shore island reserves – as well as issues around invasive species, endangered species and land issues.
Another neat paper I took part in involved a trip to the Great Barrier Reef where our small team of students were able to stay at Queensland University’s research centre on Herons Island (about the size of Palmerston island).
This tropical marine course covered three marine ecosystems; seagrasses, mangroves and corals. It also touched on investigations around those environmental stressors affecting these ecosystems from pollution, climate change, tourism and in particular the impacts of Queensland’s coal mining industry.
It wasn’t all field based courses however: there was plenty of reading, writing and more reading back at the classroom. I guess because postgrad studies are more specific to your area of interest it really makes a difference in an individual’s learning experience.
Having just recently returned home, I am already back into Te Ipukarea Society niche, in our little corner of the world, and bringing some new ideas to the team and kickstarting some exciting conservation initiatives for 2020 and beyond.