Summer study in Hawke’s Bay has multiple benefits

15 March 2019

A summer spent conducting research along the banks of the Ngaruroro River in Hawke’s Bay has prompted a local woman to pursue further study in environmental science at the University of Waikato. Her research has already contributed to protecting ecologically significant sites in the region.

Gaining a Summer Research Scholarship from the University of Waikato has enabled Moari West, who has family connections in Napier and Central Hawke’s Bay as well as Hamilton, to experience doing a research project with real-life impact. She has just completed a survey of seven remnant forest sites along the lower Ngaruroro River to identify the plant species present and determine what could be done to protect and enhance each site. The project, championed by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Dr Keiko Hashiba, was also supported by the university’s Professor Bruce Clarkson and local forest restoration expert Dr Adam Forbes of Forbes Ecology.

Having completed a Bachelor of Science at Waikato in 2017, Moari took a gap year before deciding to find out about postgraduate study options. The opportunity to do a university-based project during the summer while staying at her parents' home in Ongaonga was a great bonus. The project enabled her to use, and extend, her knowledge of ecology, biodiversity and environmental science.

Moari’s research has already had impact. For one thing, HBRC will prioritise some of the sites for enhancement. “Moari’s research has shown that some of these sites contain ecosystems that are rare in Hawke’s Bay, such as titoki-dominant forest,” says Dr Hashiba. “We want to protect these ecosystems by removing weeds and browsing animals, and determine how the sites could become self-sustaining over time.”

And for Moari personally, the project has convinced her to begin a Master of Science degree. “Now that we know what plant species are present, there’s plenty more research required to determine how to best protect these sites,” she says, adding that she hopes to make this the topic of the research component of her masters degree.

The University of Waikato’s Summer Research Scholarship programme enables undergraduate students, or those just finishing undergraduate study, to experience doing a research project. This helps them decide whether research-based postgraduate study is the right next step for them. As part of its presence in Hawke’s Bay, the University of Waikato co-funds a range of scholarship projects each summer in collaboration with local organisations such as councils and the Cape to City project. These are advertised on the university’s Hawke’s Bay website in July-August, with projects starting in late November.

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