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BSc (Hons.), MSc, D.Phil.
Dr Manue Martinez always knew what she wanted to do with her life.
“I knew from a very early age that I wanted to study and work with cetaceans – whales, dolphins and porpoises.”
Manue grew up in Mazamet and Castres, South West of France, and went abroad to England to complete a Bachelor of Zoology (Hons) at Leicester University. After finishing her honours dissertation on the potential effects of human activities on populations of dolphins, she knew what her passion was. Manue followed her heart halfway across the world to study at the University of Otago in New Zealand – where the Hector dolphins live. She completed a Master of Environmental Science, with her thesis focusing conducting a pre-disturbance study of Hector’s dolphins prior to a dolphin-watching operation in North Canterbury.
Manue furthered her studies and earned a PhD in Marine Science at Massey University in 2011, under the supervision of Professor Mark Orams, looking at how the Hector’s dolphins responded to vessel activity in Akaroa, Canterbury. From the findings from her thesis, the government decided to reduce the number of permits to increase the protection of dolphins in this area.
“I love the Pacific Ocean – that is where my heart is. New Zealand is such a beautiful country, it is an important place for me - it allowed me to achieve my childhood dreams.”
After travelling and working as a Senior Scientist for the Pacific Whale Foundation from 2012-2015, Manue returned to New Zealand and started to teach as a tutor for the Environmental Management programme at NorthTec in 2016.
“The best thing about being a tutor at NorthTec is that we have small classes to teach, so we get to know my students really well. We also get the chance to learn every student’s dreams and passions and, whenever possible, give them opportunities to pursue those – like volunteering or work experience in a field in their field of interest.”
In the field
“My passion has always been marine mammals,” says Manue. “By co-supervising PhD and Masters Students from Massey University and AUT, I have been able to stay involved in my passion. I love passing on my knowledge to students, teaching them new skills, and helping them grow as scientists.”
Manue says she is grateful she is able to get the opportunity to pursue her own research at NorthTec.
“When I travel in around the world, I see is plastic everywhere in our environment. It is so heartbreaking. I know what this does to the wildlife – you see the plastic ending up in turtles, fish, birds, and of course whales and dolphins – even in smaller organisms such as plankton.
“We know this is also an issue in New Zealand– but we don’t know the extent of it. There is a lot of environmental groups doing different things to measure the extent of rubbish and plastics not being disposed of properly, and I thought it would be a good idea to track and centralise some of that data – starting in Northland.”
With the help of the Northland Regional Council in the form of a NorthTec graduate – Nick Bamford – they created the Te Tai Tokerau Debris Monitoring Project or TTTDMP. The TTTDMP uses an app designed in the United States and adapted to the project to track how much rubbish, and what type of rubbish gets picked up.
“The best thing about it is that members of the public can be part of the TTTDMP by becoming citizen scientists and helping protect our environment.
“Anyone can use this app. The average person at the beach who picks up rubbish can use it to let us know what they have found and where exactly they found it. If someone wants to pick up 1 piece of rubbish or 1,000 pieces of rubbish, this app will store the data.”
“The more data we have, the more accurate the results that we can then pass on to the Whangārei District Council, the Northland Regional Council, and to the New Zealand Government."
“Research empowers people to do something. We can help bring awareness to this issue to change people’s behaviour, to be more careful about how we dispose of plastics and other rubbish. . Jane Goodall rightly said: “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.” Therefore, the more people that know about the plastic issue, the more people that will care and do something about it.”
What inspires Manue’s research is her passion to make a difference.
“I believe that no matter how small you think your actions are, every step we take can make a difference and inspire others to do the same, which is amazing.
“It’s about giving a voice to the voiceless. We are impacting all wildlife’s and their habitat but they can’t say anything about it. By researching and collecting data, we are able to prove what is going on to hopefully empower people to be more aware of the consequences of their actions and change their attitude, which ultimately also makes a difference for our wildlife.”
If you hadn’t figured it out yet, Manue is very passionate about the ocean.
“I love being under, above and on the ocean. My favourite experience is diving in Hawaii and hearing humpback whales singing. I also enjoy Waka Ama (being one with the team and the ocean) or going Stand up Paddle Boarding with manta rays under me; just observing how the animals in the ocean have perfectly adapted to their environment. I could also watch David Attenborough on repeat forever!
“Passing on knowledge is really important to me. People behave a certain way because they do not know the consequences of their actions. My duty as a tutor and as researcher is to educate and inspire people to make the right choices on a daily basis.”
Find the list of Manue's publications here:
The step from year 12 to here (level 2 to level 5) is a challenge in self-discipline, but I’m so much more motivated...
“I went overseas with my family, and by seeing the extent of what needs to be done, I renewed and deepened my interest in conservation. I realised this was what I want to do and I was keen to start on that journey as soon as possible. By doing the certificate here straight from year 12, I kick-start my career a year earlier, it’s cheaper and more practical than uni, and I’ll have my degree by the time I’m 19.”
“The step from year 12 to here (level 2 to level 5) is a challenge in self-discipline, but I’m so much more motivated to learn. I also love that we have a small class with direct access to the tutors.”
“I’m from Waipu, so it also means we’re learning about our own region. Already I have a new-found appreciation for the inter-connectedness of the environment.”
“I know I want to be part of the change on the planet and I’m keen to travel more with my knowledge. I don’t have long term plan yet, but I know I’m in the right field, that this is what I want to learn, and that opportunities will present themselves as I go on.”