Women and Girls in Science: He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata

Department of Conservation —  14/02/2022

For our final blog post on women and girls in science, we explore the relationship between people and the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park/Ko te Pātaka kai o Tīkapa Moana.

The clue is in the word ‘park’, a natural place which we activate for our own enjoyment. We swim, fish, surf, snorkel, scuba, sail and more in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. But sadly, human interaction with the Park is also negative. As Tāmaki Makaurau/ Auckland grows increasing pressure is being put on the Park, as outlined in the triennial State of the Gulf report

The women featured below work in the space where people and the Park interconnect, using their skills to change attitudes, bring stories to life, develop unique community-based initiatives and more, so that we may live in synergy with our big, blue backyard.

Rangitoto and our big blue backyard.
📷: DOC

Why did you choose marine environment science?

Kathryn Ovenden has an MA in Biological Anthropology – Primate Conservation, and works in the Community Conservation and Engagement team at Auckland Council.

KO: I chose a career in social sciences focusing on human-environment interactions because our environmental challenges are people-problems (and people are fascinatingly diverse!). People have a history of trying to change their surroundings rather than change themselves to solve their problems.

Niki Harré has a Degree in Community Psychology, and studies and teaches psychology as a Professor at The University of Auckland.

NH: I study and teach psychology because I am fascinated by people. I became interested in people’s relationship to the natural environment about 15 years ago when I realised that we need to rethink how we live together on our planet. We need to inspire people to get involved in social and environmental movements, and psychology can help with that.

Meet Niki Harré.
📷: The University of Auckland

Fiapaipai Ruth Auapaau has a Bsc in Applied Conservation and Marine Biology and a PGDipSci, and currently works for the Ministry of Primary Industries in the Food Science and Risk Assessment Directorate.

FRA: It was my upbringing in my grandfather’s coastal village (Manono, Samoa) that brought me to the marine space. As a child I would notice changes visually in the appearance of the water and ecologically in the fauna observed. This made me curious about what I was seeing and why it was the case.

Fiapaipai Ruth Auapaau.
📷: Ministry of Primary Industries

Brooke Jamieson has a Masters in Anthropology and is a senior heritage advisor at Te Papa Atawhai / Department of Conservation

BJ: I chose to be an archaeologist as I have an interest in what people did and their stories that connect us to the past. Often those stories are situated near water, which for the Hauraki Gulf was the main way people travelled and connected us to the whenua.

Assisting on Jonathan Capetner’s PhD research excavation of the British Defence position at Ruapekapeka, a DOC Historic reserve just outside of Kawakawa.
📷: Brooke

Dr Rebecca Jarvis works in marine conservation and social science, and works at AUT as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow.

RJ: When I was growing up my school teacher used to tell me that we know more about outer space than we do our oceans. It made me want to explore hydrothermal vents in the DSV Alvin to understand how they might relate to the origins of life on Earth! After university I worked for several marine NGOs, including leading a marine conservation project in Madagascar. These experiences taught me how much of marine conservation is about people, what they value, and what they do, so I decided to come back to university in 2012 to study marine social science.

Rebecca exploring life underwater.
📷: Rebecca

What is the best thing about your job/ the work you do?

Richelle Kahui-McConnell has a Bachelor of Resource Management, and works as an independent environmental consultant and technical advisor specialising in restoration ecology and mātauranga Māori frameworks.

Richelle Kahui-McConnell
📷: Kaiwhakaora Whenua

RKM: The best thing about my life purpose is that I am able to live and breathe my passion and life journey of protecting and restoring the mauri (life force) of Papatuanuku (earth mother) and Tāngaroa and Hinemoana (Deities of the Sea), by empowering community social capital through connecting whanau and community to the wonders of the environment.

FRA: I hope to be a bridge of communication between scientific knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge to ensure that the costs of environmental initiatives are not inadequately placed on local communities or vice versa. I value both scientific frameworks and the lived experiences and I want to create spaces where both (or more perspectives) can be voiced and valued appropriately. 

BJ: Working with different groups and people to help them explore, learn about and share their heritage. Archaeology is a great way to investigate our assumptions about ourselves, our environment and our understanding of history and heritage. It can also provide information that wasn’t written down or has been forgotten.

What is your proudest moment/ greatest achievement?

NH: I like to think that I’ve contributed to our collective effort to look after the natural world and each other through facilitating sustainability networks in educational settings and the two books I’ve written – The Infinite Game and Psychology for a Better World.

BJ: Working with tangata whenua on their sites of significance. Archaeology is often described as evidence without the korero; tangata whenua have the korero and archaeology can often help provide the tangible evidence to support that. It’s a partnership where we can support each other so we can both understand, share and protect our heritage.

RKM: One of my proudest moments of my marine ecology career is working alongside Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei to develop and implement the first hapu-based shellfish restoration programme in Ōkahu Bay. The project was a weaving together of mātauranga and science, a resurgence of cultural practice and connection of the hapu with their traditional waters, and the transference of mātauranga between my mentor, Tamaiti Tamaariki and myself. This restoration methodology is now being implemented in multiple marine ecology projects throughout the major coastal infrastructure developments of downtown Auckland.

RJ: Completing the ‘Key research priorities for the future of marine science in New Zealand’ study co-facilitated with Dr Tim Young at AUT is a highlight.Many different people thanked us for facilitating the process and bringing together the New Zealand marine community to identify the key knowledge gaps that still need more research. Answering these questions will make great contributions to marine science, conservation, sustainable use, policy, and management.

Fiona McKenzie has a MSc Conservation Biology and works at Te Papa Atawhai / The Department of Conservation as a Senior Ranger in Statutory Land Management, and in her previous role worked as an Environmental Manager for Mana Whenua iwi.

The iwi I worked for in my previous role whakapapa to the northern Gulf, known to them as Te Moana Nui o Toi. Following their Treaty of Waitangi Settlement they assumed co-management of Hauturu-o-Toi/Little Barrier with DOC. It was based on their management of the motu that the iwi were able to develop a cultural induction for all visitors to the island (who require a permit). This, for the first time, provided the iwi with the opportunity to share their culture, history, whakapapa and korero directly with visitors to the island. Another highlight is inspiring my son (as a mature student) to go to University and complete an MSc Conservation Biology – we’re in it together 😊

Hauturu-o-Toi/Little Barrier.
📷: DOC

What would you say to girls and young women about working in marine science/ marine environment?

NH: When you are considering what to study and where to work, the most important question is if you will be able to make a contribution to something that matters. The oceans are precious – if you are drawn to them then they need you!

FRA: Be open to the fluid environment, remain curious and if nothing goes to planned, just remember it is still part of the plan if you take it as a learning opportunity 🙂

BJ: Why should the boys have all the fun? It’s an amazing environment to work in with lots of diversity which allows you to move around the industry. As science continues to expand and change there are endless opportunities to work in the field of archaeology. It’s rewarding as it challenges you both professionally and personally as you work with people, using science to learn about the past.

RKM: My advice for our next generation is to turn off Facebook and take time to ‘be’ in Te Taiao (nature). Smell the water, taste the salt on your tongue, listen to the waves rippling in the wind and experience the wonder of our marine environment. And then share that newfound passion with someone so they understand they are truly connected, and every decision they make has an everlasting effect on the mauri of te moana.

KO: People are a critical part of our environments. He aha te mea nui o te ao: He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.

Happy 20th Birthday Hauraki Gulf Marine Park/Hari huritau Tīkapa Moana. Thank you to the wahine toa who love you as we do.

Common dolphins.
📷: DOC

Full series here

One response to Women and Girls in Science: He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata

    brian habberfield 14/02/2020 at 11:50 pm

    Tāngata, got the macron right, well done.