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Student Profiles


Catherine Kirby

Catherine Kirby

BSc; MSc in Biological Sciences

Research Support Officer
Environmental Research Institute, University of Waikato

"Waikato is one of the top universities to study ecology and is surrounded by so many incredible ecosystems."

A six-month exchange to Canada, a handful of scholarships and excellent support from lecturers were just a few of the things that made study at Waikato an experience of a lifetime for graduate Catherine Kirby.

"My role as a research assistant is very diverse and exciting and I don't really have a 'typical day'. Sometimes I arrive at work, jump in a van and head into the field to investigate vegetation patterns in areas such as the Erua, Taranaki and Waipoua forests. Other days I am busy assisting with the Institute's research programmes, helping MSc students with their thesis research, writing reports and articles, and sharing our research findings through presentations."


The Environmental Research Institute combines environmental expertise from different areas in the University to work out how we can improve and sustain the quality of New Zealanders' natural and physical environment.

Catherine began her studies with a Bachelor of Science, specialising in Resource and Environmental Planning, and focusing mainly on Earth Sciences. Following this she undertook a Master of Science, where she decided to alter her focus to Biological Sciences.

"For my masters I concentrated primarily on plant ecology, as I felt that this is an area where I could make more of a difference in terms of environmental conservation and restoration."


Kathleen Martinez

Kathleen Martinez

BSc in Environmental Sciences

Exchange student from University of California Davis

“I wanted a more personalised, hands-on experience at university, and Waikato provided that." 

University of California Davis student Kathleen Martinez chose an exchange in New Zealand because of the unique ecosystems, beautiful landscapes and rich Maori heritage.

Just half way through a 10 month exchange at the University of Waikato, Kathleen credits her exchange as the highlight of her university experience thus far and says she has already grown in so many ways.

“I wanted a more personalised, hands-on experience at university, and Waikato provided that. Waikato puts an emphasis on small class sizes, and the science papers typically have a lab and field work component. I’m in a lab the same amount of time, if not more than I’m in lectures each week, which really helps me retain the information I’m learning,” says Kathleen.

As an environmental sciences student, Kathleen found that the excellent variety of resource and ecology papers at Waikato made it easy to choose classes that would count towards her degree.

“I’m studying a variety of papers in soil science, atmospheric science, hydrology, ecology, geography and resource planning while at Waikato. I’m also taking one cultural paper in Maori weaving, which has been ideal for expressing my creative side while learning about Maori culture.”

She describes Hamilton’s location within the North Island of New Zealand as ideal for travelling. With its proximity to the ocean, the Coromandel region and more, Kathleen has been able to explore the area easily and has taken lots of small road trips during the semester.

“New Zealand’s people and Hamilton’s location have made my time here so enjoyable. I have made so many close friendships with New Zealand students and their families during my stay that it will be difficult to leave in a couple months.”

After graduation, Kathleen hopes to become an environmental scientist, natural resource scientist, or environmental consultant; and because of her time in New Zealand, she says she is now inspired to live and work abroad in the future.


Kiriana Isgrove

Kiriana Isgrove

BSc; MSc(Research) in Biological Sciences

Current Student

"I love all the practical experience we are given in science papers."

At high school Kiriana Isgrove considered herself an 'average' student. But since beginning her studies at the University of Waikato last year, she has found her niche in the areas of biological and environmental sciences.

"I find university so different, and I excel in most of my papers. I've achieved far better grades here and have been given opportunities I never thought I could have had."

Kiriana attended Hauraki Plains College and is currently in her second year of a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences. She chose Waikato because class numbers are small and the campus is close to home, while providing an excellent balance between rural and urban life.

"I have won several scholarships while attending Waikato University which I am extremely grateful for. I was also lucky enough to complete a studentship at AgResearch last summer, which was an incredibly valuable experience."

Other highlights for her have been the labs and field trips.

"I love all the practical experience we are given in science papers. I found it particularly helpful during my summer studentship, when I found I already had a lot of the necessary practical skills that students at other universities did not."

After completing her studies, Kiriana plans to pursue a career in environmental advising for either soil science or hydrology.

"I would recommend Waikato as an excellent university choice because the lecturers and tutors are so friendly and approachable, which makes adjusting to the student lifestyle so much easier."