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Luitgard Schwendenmann

Luitgard Schwendenmann is a Senior Lecturer, School of Environment, at the University of Auckland.

Luitgard in the fieldWhat do you do on an average work day?
There is plenty of variety in my job and each day can be so different. During the semester the day is filled with lecture preparation, teaching, marking, and course administration. In my current role as Postgraduate and Masters Advisor for Environmental Science I spend time assessing postgrad student applications and meet with potential students to advise them on programme and course options.

As an ecosystem ecologist with a strong focus on carbon and water cycling I undertake fieldwork in forests, coastal ecosystems (mangroves) and urban ecosystems in New Zealand and overseas. I also spend time in the lab analysing plant and soil material. Other days I spend time analysing data and writing manuscripts. I supervise several postgraduate research students (Masters and PhD candidates) working on a wide range of topics. I help them develop their research topic, provide advice on sampling and data analysis and read their written work. A considerable amount of time is also spent on writing grant proposals for external funding. 

What did you study at school? And after high school?
I studied maths and biology at school. I became a certified biological technician after high school and worked at a forest research institute and environmental protection agency before getting a BSc degree in Environmental Science.  I did an MSc in Resources Engineering and a PhD in Landscape Ecology.

Was your study directly related to what you do now?
Both my BSc and MSc degree covered a wide range of subjects in science and engineering which are related to what I do now. However, the most valuable skills I gained through the research I did for my BSc, MSc and PhD degrees.  

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
Follow your interests. Get professional training or tertiary education in a subject you are passionate about. Be persistent. Determination is essential.

What are some of your career highlights so far?

  • Getting a Faculty position.
  • Doing field work in remote and beautiful places in Canada, Brazil, Costa Rica, Indonesia and New Zealand.
  • Being involved in international research collaborations - including at the La Selva Biological Research Station in Costa Rica.
  • Mentoring students and seeing them achieve their goals.

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?
New Zealand needs curious minds to tackle our challenging environmental problems. I think a solid background in science and engineering subjects is important to solve some of the current environmental issues.

Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?
To maximize innovation and creativity.

Luitgard Schwendenmann is a Senior Lecturer, School of Environment, at the University of AucklandYou can find some of her publications here.

This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM. 
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