In 2009, my family and I uprooted our lives in Auckland, New Zealand and settled in Arorangi.
Growing up on Rarotonga, I learnt that environmental problems around the world were affecting our little country and I saw the importance of protecting our rich biodiversity to safeguard our future. That, along with a passion for science, brought about by excellent science teachers in high school – Lenati Ramokosoi, Delaney Yaqona and Jackson Martin, and very supportive parents, led me to where I stand today.
I am now in my final year of a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Ecology and Biodiversity and minoring in Environmental Science at the University of Waikato (UoW) in Hamilton, New Zealand.
From a young age, I was interested in zoology, but it was through the strong impressions brought out by Lagoon Day and through moving to Rarotonga that I also became interested in the marine environment and its importance in our ecosystem.
It was whilst attending Papaaroa Seventh Day Adventist School that I became passionate about science and at Nukutere College I found that I was particularly interested in biology, which I continued to pursue at Tereora College for the remainder of my senior student years.
As a year 13 student in 2016, after much deliberation, I decided to pursue my interest of biology at university.
Since then, I have gained a wider understanding of botany, ecology, sustainable management, resource management, cellular and molecular biology, earth sciences, evolution, zoology and oceanography over the past two years that I have studied at UoW.
What I enjoy most at university is my laboratory classes but field trips around the Waikato region and throughout the North Island are great fun and educative too.
I may attend up to four different labs a week, and each could be up to three hours long. Though they can be quite draining, they’re essential to learning the practical skills and knowledge that we learn theoretically during lectures.
I’ve made a cleaning spray out of orange peels using lab equipment, tested water quality in lakes, identified dozens of minerals and rocks such as obsidian (volcanic glass), pyrite (fool’s gold) and quartz.
I’ve used a microscope to examine leaf tissue and small invertebrates, dissected a cow’s eye and a sheep’s lung, and experimented with food colouring and water to observe the effects of different impacts, such as temperature and wind, on the water column, to name a few.
It was during this time that I also learnt of “kaitiakitanga” – a New Zealand Maori concept which calls us to be stewards of the land and water, to be its caretakers, its voice and to acknowledge that all living things have mana. There are so many opportunities and career pathways in the world of science and there is still so much to be discovered and yet so much to be managed and protected from environmental issues that affect our nation and our world at present.
After completing my first year at university in 2017, I started an internship with the Ministry of Marine Resources over the university summer break. This provided invaluable work experience as I was supervised by brilliant marine scientists who allowed me to experience working in both marine and terrestrial environments around Rarotonga. I recommend the internship for anyone interested in marine science.
In 2018, I completed my second year of university and returned home to seek out another internship opportunity to further broaden my experience working in various scientific fields. Te Ipukarea Society (TIS) were able to provide that opportunity and have offered an internship until I depart for university to complete my final year. Working with TIS provides a perfect opportunity for me to put “kaitiakitanga” into practice through the Mana Tiaki Protect a Little Paradise programme they are implementing.
I look forward to the experiences that I will gain from working at TIS as they will allow me to be better equipped when I return to the island to work after graduation.
In the future, I hope to work to make a difference in our
scientific communities all over the Cook Islands so that I can contribute to the protection, preservation and management of our natural resources within our marine and terrestrial environments.
Until then, lets all do our part to help clean and protect our little paradise.