An Interview with Simon Winship

Analytical Methodologies for the Determination of Various Properties in Honey from the Chatham Islands (Rēkohu/Wharekauri).

Te Aka Mātuatua School of Science

What got you interested in science initially?

I’ve been interested in science from a young age and I enjoy learning about how things work. I used to walk to kindy with my grandma and point stuff out. Things like the names of the clouds and how plants photosynthesise etc. I don’t think there was any particular thing that got me interested. I was just born with a love for science, I suppose.

Tell me about your masters research

For my masters research, I am investigating Chatham Islands (Wharekauri/Rēkohu) honey. This involves looking at the different chemical and biological properties of the honey. For example, what kinds of sugars you have in it, how much moisture, different kinds of enzymes present in the honey as well as phenolic compounds which are really good antioxidants, and also the bioactivity that may be present in these honeys. Why we chose Chatham Islands honey, in particular, is because no one’s ever looked at Chatham islands honey before, so this is very much a first in terms of our research. We’re trying to see if there are any beneficial properties in this honey that haven't been found yet. A lot of the plants, that the honey is derived from, are only found on the Chatham islands, so we may find bioactive compounds from these unique endemic plants. At this point, we’re trying to find out what makes this honey unique.

What got you interested in this topic? 

I needed a SCIEN303 project, Prof. Merilyn Manley-Harris had one available and here we are. I didn’t initially have a fascination with honey. It just sounded like an interesting project, and it's actually been a really beneficial project to do. I got to go to the Chatham Islands which I didn't think I'd ever have done otherwise. I got to meet a lot of interesting people and hopefully, we’ll find something interesting by the end of it.

You mentioned you have been over to the Chatham islands for a week. Why exactly did you go over there?

I went over to attend a Chatham Islands Festival of Science. This is organised by Massey University to have a whole week of different science topics on things like meteorology, geology, coastal science, and stuff like that. It’s science that’s relevant to people in the Chatham Islands. One of the days was dedicated to honey supported by Go Wild Apiary, an up-and-coming commercial apiary on Chatham Island, which has already made a name for themselves with freeze-dried honey. Also, a lot of the residents on the island are hobbyist beekeepers and so they have a couple of hives sitting on their farmland so it's good to be able to talk to the people and tell them about what makes their honey special. They also had speakers from MPI talking about the importance of biosecurity. The Chatham Islands, unlike basically the rest of the world, don't have the varroa mite, which is responsible for significant hive losses across lives across the world. They also don't have American foulbrood which is a bacterial infection that gets into bees and wipes out hives. As a result, it's quite a unique apiculture environment. Being able to tell people why they need to cherish their apiculture was really important. I went over to talk about my research, what I'm doing, where that all fits in and what that means for them. I also collected some honey samples and some leaf samples for work being done to match DNA to honey floral types. which will be interesting to see how that turns out.

What do you think you will do after you have your masters?

I've got a couple of options lined up. I've always been interested in pharmaceutical research and drug design so I might do a bit more study in that particular field so I can become more specialised in what I want to do for a career. If a PhD project becomes available, I might do that. I've also got a couple of job positions that may become available if I decide I want to work full-time. At this point, options are open, I’ve just got to finish my masters first. Then I’m having a well-deserved break.

What do you enjoy outside of science?

My main hobby is as a musician. I'm a brass player and play everything brass at this point plus piano and a bit of percussion. I play for Hamilton City Brass at various competitions and concerts. I work as a tutor at Berkley Middle School teaching brass. I also do escape rooms. Lots of escape rooms