Ani Kainamu-Murchie (Ngā Puhi) is a PhD Candidate in Environmental Science at the Ngāi Tahu Research Centre and the School of Biology, University of Canterbury.
What do you do on an average work day?
I’m focussed on estuarine shellfish systems – we have over 300 estuaries in New Zealand – they are integral to New Zealand’s culture. My research involves meeting with local community members who interact with estuarine habitats, and learning about local values, indicators, concerns, and management practices. It also involves collecting shellfish from the rocky shore and mudflats, and measuring their trace metals levels for food safety.
What did you study at school? And after high school?
I attended full immersion kōhanga and kura, and studied Te Reo Māori, English, Maths and Science at Te Kura Māori o Ngā Tapuwae. Following this, I studied a BA in Māori Studies and BSc in Zoology, followed by a Masters in Marine Science, at the University of Otago. I was also an executive member of Te Rito – Te Roopū Māori/Māori Students Association, tutored Te Reo Māori, paddled waka ama, and helped with high school science wānanga.
Was your study directly related to what you do now?
Yes, my experience in marine science, customary fisheries and as an aquaculture analyst at the Ministry for Primary Industries led to me to my current doctorate work. My work incorporates science, social science, and mātauranga to investigate multiple values and indicators to better manage our estuarine environments.
What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
There is a range of experiences and opportunities available to both young women and men. The best thing to grasp is how you best learn – whether it is in class, being outdoors, being hands-on, drawing and creating, group involvement or individual tasks.
Taking risks, finding peers and mentors, and accepting failures, has all added to my development. Unknown to me at the time – my academic experience, and more so experiences outside of study teaching waka ama, community volunteering, and fisheries experience - have been fundamental aspects to becoming an environmental researcher with local and Indigenous communities.
If there are any opportunities to volunteer, meetings to attend, environmental events, or sports groups that motivate you, then you should get involved. Alongside your academic work these should provide insight into what your interests are and the first steps to make towards it.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
- As a Fulbright Science Graduate and Ngāi Tahu Research Centre Student, I was able to research in O`ahu, Hawai`i. The best part was volunteering at the traditional fishpond of He`eia. The restoration of this Indigenous Hawaiian aquaculture system naturally enhances a brackish environment to raise fish and shellfish. It is also part of an integrated management system from mauka makai (inland to coast). You can read more about my Fulbright Science and Innovation Graduate Award here.
- As a Ngāi Tahu Research Centre Student, I have attended Tribal Conferences, seminars, and the First Nations Futures Programme. This provided a space of creative and invaluable growth. This also challenges us as Indigenous members to be actively involved and participate for iwi, hapū, and whānau.
Why do you believe engaging in STEM – whether it’s working in the field, studying it or just educating one’s self around the issues – is important to New Zealand?
Engaging in STEM is vital in understanding our current local and global environmental issues. I believe that STEM - alongside social science and mātauranga - provides a fundamental understanding of our local systems and how we can best adapt and respond to ecological changes. This type of education can provide for more holistic values and long term visions towards a more sustainable New Zealand.
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?
It is important to have women involved in all disciplines. Having both men and women can better represent and address the needs and concerns of our local communities and environment.
Ani Kainamu-Murchie from Ngā Puhi is a PhD Candidate in Environmental Science at the Ngāi Tahu Research Centre and the School of Biology, University of Canterbury.
This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.
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