Bachelor of Science (Earth Sciences)
Faculty of Science and Engineering
Since the age of 10, University of Waikato student Annette Carshalton has dreamed of visiting Antarctica.
So when she walked into her Environmental Monitoring lecture last year, Annette couldn’t believe her ears. Her lecturer announced that she was looking for a student to undertake a Masters research project which would include a trip to Antarctica, with support from Landcare Research. Annette didn’t rate her chances but applied anyway.
Five months later Annette flew to Scott Base to begin her research in her version of paradise, thanks to a Science and Engineering Masters Fees Award with support from the Broad Memorial Fund. She spent a week in Antarctica, flying by helicopter to nine different sites to collect soil climate data.
“It was the trip of a lifetime. People ask me what it’s like and I just say, ‘It’s amazing’. Words run out at that point; it’s indescribable,” she says.
Annette enjoyed putting the theory she had learned in class into practice.
“It was great to see the actual purpose of earth science,” she says. Her results so far show little overall change in the soil temperature over the past 17 years, although there is significant variability between years. The data from Annette’s project is contributing to a global environmental monitoring programme that helps build a picture of what is happening across the planet.
Annette saw in the New Year while camping on the ice, making for a New Year’s celebration that will be difficult to beat. She made the most of her trip, experiencing all elements of life in Antarctica, from helping the cooks prepare food to assisting science technicians at the base.
“It was awesome to see how people do things in a completely different environment,” she says.
Originally from Zimbabwe, Annette has always had a keen interest in science. Her family made a living farming coffee, tobacco and dairy, so dinner-table conversation usually consisted of farming and science discussion.
When she was nine, Annette’s family moved to Christchurch, where she found her passion for biology and physics at Unlimited High School. After dairy farming for a few years, she wanted to try something different and decided to study for a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Earth Sciences.
“I love earth science because it’s really practical and you get a mix of everything: biology, chemistry and physics.”
She’s passionate about environmental sustainability, so the University of Waikato was the obvious choice for her.
“It was an easy decision. I chose the University of Waikato because it is small and environmentally conscious. Plus, Hamilton’s a nice place to live, it’s not expensive, and I can easily walk to campus. Waikato’s degree structure is ideal because you get a really good grounding – you learn about all elements of science in your first year so you have a really good base of knowledge to feed into the rest of your studies.”
Annette has immersed herself in every aspect of university life, getting involved with the Science Club, Psychology Club, Garden Club and WaiCath. She also works as a demonstrator in two papers and gardens in the University’s greenhouse.
When she finishes her Masters in 2019, Annette is looking forward to the vast range of opportunities her qualification and experience will give her. She is deciding whether she wants to pursue academia and work for a Crown Research Institute, or go into consulting in soil or water management.
Whatever she ends up doing, one thing is certain: “If I ever get the chance to go back to Antarctica, I will grab it with both hands,” she says.