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BSc (Hons.), MSc, D.Phil.
Originally from the South-West of France, I always had a passion for the ocean and in particular cetaceans, despite growing up inland. When I was in middle school, I was told by a carrier advisor that there were limited employment opportunities in biology. Rather than deter me, it motivated me even more and to increase my chances I went overseas to complete both my undergraduate and postgraduate studies overseas. After gaining my BSc Hons (Zoology) at the University of Leicester in the UK, I took another big plunge and this time headed to the land of the long white could to obtain my Masters (Environmental Science) at the University of Otago and then my PhD (Marine Science) at Massey University, Albany.
My main interest lies in the mitigation and management of the effects caused by human activities on marine mammals and the marine environment. Although my postgraduate research has focused on the endemic and endangered Hector’s dolphins and the effects of tourism activities, I also the opportunity to travel and work (including fieldwork) in various capacities within the Pacific Region, from NGOs, government agencies, and educational institutions over the past two decades. Moral of the story, no matter what people say, if your heart is set on it and you are motivated, you can make it happen.
I now have the chance to share that passion, interests, and drive with the students enrolled in the Environmental Management programme at NorthTec.
You can find the list of my publications here:
“Doing this course is opening doors that were previously locked and bolted shut for me. I can now create a future...
“Doing this course is opening doors that were previously locked and bolted shut for me, and I’ve realised that it was me who was keeping them locked. I can now create a future career to help showcase this hidden gem of the Bay of Islands.”
“I was lucky enough to grow up here and enjoy this amazing environment, but I always struggled with paperwork at school because I was dyslexic. Uni wasn’t an option for me because of that, but I could see Eco Adventure was well suited to my skills and included food handling and bar management which I enjoy.”
“I’ve allowed myself to get the support here that I didn’t utilise at school because of fear and embarrassment. Here the tutor makes the way I need to learn ordinary and integrated so I’ve made huge progress.”
“The physical challenges of kayaking for 12 miles straight, flipping out in cold water, and being in rough seas scared me at first, but I’ve stepped up. I’m realised I can respond to the paperwork challenges in the same way. Things can be difficult but achievable. Sometimes you just have to take the plunge and dive in.”
“I want to go and do Camp America when I finish here because I want to work with children. I’ll then take a bit of time off before I come back to Bay of Islands and get a job in tourism.”
“I can now choose do anything I want to do. My dream is to work for myself in tourism and be paid to play.”
“One of the best things has been learning how to trap, gut and skin possums because I can now sell the furs and can...
“I should have done this years ago. I love going into the bush and learning how to hunt, trap, and shoot safely. It’s empowered me. I’ll be sad when the course finishes.”
“My Dad was a forester and a hunter and I’ve always loved the bush. I wanted to learn hunter gatherer skills to teach my kids, and on this course I’ve learned that - plus so much more. We can even get set up in the bush with our iPads!”
“One of the best things has been learning how to trap, gut and skin possums because I can now sell the furs and can make money and be financially independent. I’ll also be able to use those skills on my own land.”
“I especially loved learning how to safely handle and shoot a gun, plus we got our gun license and a first aid ticket. This means I can go into the bush a get kai for the family. Already the class has been up and hunted goats and pigs.”
“My goal is to be self-sufficient making money from possum fur. Thank you to our tutor – we all think you are awesome!”
My challenge now is that I’m so invested in my studies that I have to remember it’s important to maintain a life...
“I had been living overseas for a lot of the last 10 years and have always been a massive advocate for New Zealand and our environment. When I came home a year ago, I loved being back and was inspired by the great work happening in Northland. In the process of re-discovering our amazing walks, I came across a lady surveying skinks on the Bream Head track, a summer job she had gained through work experience during this course. She was incredibly enthusiastic about all aspects of the programme and NorthTec, which was the final push I needed to start the enrolment process.”
“This course has a good reputation and the degree (through Auckland Unitec) is internationally recognised so it opens the door to working or volunteering abroad. It has helped me gain a much greater understanding and appreciation for our incredibly diverse environment.”
“I grew up in the Bay of Islands and always had a passion for the natural environment but it was mostly from a recreational point of view. I didn’t have a deep understanding of the functionalities or of just how special and unique New Zealand is on a world scale. My challenge now is that I’m so invested in my studies that I have to remember it’s important to maintain a life outside of the course too!”
“I started this course at a transitional point in my life, and it has given me the confidence to speak up on issues with an educated voice – something I wouldn’t have been able to do before. Also within our class some students are from dairy farms, or the bush, or hunting backgrounds so we’re all learning to appreciate different points of view. The tutors create a relaxed classroom environment and encourage us to interact and ask questions.”
“My degree will give me a lot more fulltime work options in an area I’m already passionate about. There are so many facets of conservation and environmental management, and New Zealand is at a pivotal point right now. I’m hoping the course will help me navigate the direction I want to go.”
Already in our practicum we’ve been out monitoring lizards and geckos and helped with pest control, and we’ve even...
“Already in our practicum we’ve been out monitoring lizards and geckos and helped with pest control, and we’ve even seen kiwi and takehe on a field trip. It’s pretty amazing getting to see the end goal while we’re still working towards it. I love conversation and being out in the bush and this course is giving me so many opportunities to be in that world.”
“I originally started Environmental Science at Waikato but the university context and the geology emphasis weren’t quite what I wanted, so I looked for more of a conservation path. When I hit the ‘enquire now’ button about this course, I was connected directly with a tutor who introduced me to other tutors so it felt helpful right from the start. My family are up here too so it’s a great fit.”
“It’s refreshing to be around other like-minded students all working towards the same end goal even though we have different points of focus. My interest is more terrestrial and I’m into the bush, while some of the others are more into marine conservation. Having such a range of local field trips within Northland helps us find the topics we’re interested in and to work out where we want to end up working.”
“The satisfaction of this course is that it leads to a life where the impact and benefits of what we’re doing can be enjoyed by everyone. Our practicum work has shown us there are opportunities everywhere so I’ll look for work when I finish the course.”
“I’ve always wanted to work for DOC, but as long as the work is related to conservation, I’ll be happy. I’m really keen to raise environmental awareness especially with kids. And to anyone out there who wants to spend everyday outdoors, come and do this course.”
The tutors really get us immersed in the outdoors. I’m amazed at how many field trips we have – to places like the...
“As New Zealanders we love the beach, the forest, and natural environments, but not enough of us are talking about looking after them or what state they might be in. I wanted to learn more and be around like-minded people who also understand that without the environment, we have nothing. I knew from day one I had made the right choice.”
“The tutors really get us immersed in the outdoors. It’s very grounding - not just all statistics and reports inside a classroom. Northland is a great place for that, plus our small class sizes mean that we get out and see so much that huge classes at other universities might not get the chance to. There are also a ton of opportunities to get involved in the industry as our tutors have a lot of contacts and are a constant support.”
“I’m amazed at how many field trips we have – to places like the Poor Knights and Tiritiri Matangi. But I’m also surprised at how my whole mind-set has changed. Our tutors have taught us that modern-day conservationists understand that as humans we need resources, but we need to find the best way to go about utilising those resources. It’s not about fighting change, it’s about the best way forward.”
“My dream job would be in environmental advocacy. The term 'greenies' is so out-dated and is not a niche type of person. Environmental issues affect us all. There are better ways to do things, but we need more people on board to make this happen. It’s as much about getting people on board as it is about the science and I want to be part of that.”
I love the small class size and individual tutor support that is possible here compared with uni.
“Doing this new lab tech course has been the key to turning my life around. When I came to NorthTec I was on home detention and this has helped me change my mind-set, re-set my life’s ambitions, think bigger, and get back on track. Anyone can come temporarily off the rails, and anyone can self-correct with the right help.”
“I’m a qualified teeth whitener but I’m ready for more now. Both my parents were microbiologists and I have a strong passion for science. Applied Science in labs is a much needed skill here and this course responds to that need.”
“I love the small class size and individual tutor support that is possible here compared with uni. I’m finding the maths hard because the systems have changed since I last studied but I like to challenge myself and the support is right here. I’m older than a lot of the other students and I push the younger ones because I want to inspire them to continue.”
“I will go on and do level 5 then level 6 and ultimately I’d like to work in either the Fonterra of IPL (Independent Petroleum Laboratory) labs because they are local.”
“I want to thank NorthTec for their acceptance and for getting me through this. I was totally open to them and I was really ready to change. Being open about something helps take the power off it. Anything truly is possible if you are clear enough on what you want.”
I am dyslexic so I had convinced myself I’d never be able to study or get into uni, but there’s so much support here...
“If I’d known earlier how good this was, I would have done it sooner. I love being outside and I feel so happy when I'm in the bush knowing I am doing something positive for the environment.”
“I am dyslexic so I had convinced myself I’d never be able to study or get into uni, but there’s so much support here and with our small classes we get one-on-one time with the tutors. They put their personal support into our success and we all become a new family. I was very surprised at how well I did on my first year even with the computer assessments. ”
“This is such a change from my job at the check-out in the supermarket that I was doing before. I could see I would be packing groceries for the next 10 years unless I made a real choice. My cousin had done the tourism course here and felt really supported in her choice so that gave me the courage to sign up.”
“My initial thought was to do the diploma then leave and get a job but I love it so much that I’ll go on and do the degree. This has opened up heaps of doors for me that I wasn’t expecting. I thought I wanted to become a ranger but I’ve become fascinated by microscopic invertebrates after seeing them under the microscope. They’re so cute. I’d like to work in some way with them and their environments.”
“For those at high school not sure about what to do, NorthTec has some great options. You can get financial support plus heaps of personalized study support. ”
I’m keen to help the next generation spend more time outside and to serve as a role model for them in some way. We...
Lyndon was out of work as a dive instructor so saw the Hunting and Pest course as an opportunity to extend his outdoor skill set. “I love working outside and have always had an interest in conservation. This course will give me a land based qualification to add to my sea based background.”
“The tutors are hugely knowledgeable with years of experience and it’s great being with a range of students all interested in the outdoors. We’re covering the theory side of things at the moment, which I’m used to, but I’m really looking forward to being out into the bush and getting hands-on experience in that learning environment.”
“Conservation is my passion and I’ve always loved the idea of working with D.O.C. Hunting is simply a means of controlling pests.”
“The dream to me would be working in a place with both a bush and beach environment. I have a friend who works monitoring and looking after animal numbers at Mimiwhangata. Living and working somewhere like that would be the ultimate.”
“I’m keen to help the next generation spend more time outside and to serve as a role model for them in some way. We have this amazing natural resource in the north and I want to encourage youth to enjoy getting out amongst it.”
I love being amongst students who are keen to learn and tutors who are dedicated and enthusiastic about what they are...
“I’m fascinated with space and microbiology . I initially did business and administration here but science is far more my world and has unlimited potential for progress.”
“I started my science journey with foundation studies to get the basics, thinking I may go into nursing, but I realized it’s the science rather than the caring that interests me. One of the tutors then pointed me to lab work, and this applied science course gets me walk-in ready for that work.”
“I love being amongst students who are keen to learn and tutors who are dedicated and enthusiastic about what they are teaching. Our classmates come with backgrounds ranging from beauty therapy, to water treatment to the arts.”
“Running DNA gels and growing cultures are part of what fascinates me in this course. I love learning about microbes on the skin and the gut. Nature is amazing and we’re so limited in what we know about it yet. Discoveries are happening so fast that sometimes the tutors have to re-write the course content each semester.”
“I’d love to learn more about chemical properties and their correlating colours because this info relates to everything from marine biology to the stars. I’m clearly on my path now and it is a science path. I hope to go on do level 6 of this diploma when it is introduced.”
“And my dream is to aim for stars – literally. I want to be an astro-physicist.”
By doing this course I’m proving to myself that I can follow my heart and be successful. I can trust myself. Follow...
“Two mates and I have already started trapping possums but we decided we needed more knowledge so we’re all doing this course together. Before the possum trapping I was working in avocado and kiwifruit orchards but my heart wasn’t in it. I was keen to do something for myself.”
“One of the stand outs of the course is that we go on a nine day camp in the Uraweras hunting pigs and stags. We also go to the gun range and learn about other Health and Safety issues, plus we get our tickets for poisoning and touch on some business skills. This is all knowledge that will serve us well in our own business. It will give us confidence and make everything about it legitimate.”
“I’m no good at writing and note taking but the tutor really encourages us to just ask if we are struggling. He has so much knowledge plus he has a network of contacts that will be useful for us in the future.”
“I also want to show my kids that there is a different way to live. I want them to know that meat doesn’t just arrive in a plastic bag in the supermarket and I want them to learn survival skills. My son is only three and already he can’t get enough of learning about being outside.”
“After the course we’ll get back into working for ourselves but we’ll be doing it better and we might add other adventures to the business too.”
“When we started doing our own thing a few months ago, I questioned it. By doing this course I’m proving to myself that I can follow my heart and be successful. I can trust myself. Follow your heart because your head will follow that. It makes you feel so much better inside yourself.”
“I love the range of activity in this job and everything I did in my course is relevant.”
Brooke is one of six in the Biodiversity team working for the Northland Regional Council and her job is Biodiversity Advisor in Lakes. “We have programmes in place to remove excess nutrients and plants from Northland’s outstanding lakes including our dune lakes, and my job is to monitor water quality, raise awareness of the issues and the value of the lakes and their environments, and to help upskill Kaimahi amongst our youth and local iwi.”
Brooke finished her degree in the middle of this year. “I did my course practicum with the Puketi Forest Trust, then last summer got 15 weeks doing monitoring work with the State of the Environment Team at the Northland Regional Council. That ended in March, then this job was advertised in April so I applied and got it. I was able to start working just two days a week until I finished my degree in June.”
“At the moment I’m working in the office planning our summer field work which will be doing lake surveys and ecological monitoring. I’m finding that the tutors gave us all the experience I need for this. I use the biology, ecology and conservation from my courses daily, as well as things like the research skills, report writing and presentation skills. I use 100 per cent of what I learned at NorthTec.”
“I have gained so much confidence since starting work here. I work with some very experienced people, and I realise now that I do have the knowledge to keep up, understand and participate in the team. I know what they’re talking about and I can offer my input with confidence, and I’m really enjoying making a difference in the environment.”
“I know that conservation is my passion and I’ve just started my career, so I’m really interested to see where this job takes me.”
It has also given me the tools to think about how to use field data for useful applications. This is all directly...
“I get paid to spend my summer at the beach – and doing work I love. I always knew I wanted to work in conservation but I wasn’t sure about academic study, until I got addicted to it. I graduated with my Masters degree in Conservation Biology in 2016 and I’m now working a six month contract with DOC as seasonal Fairy Tern Ranger at Waipu Cove.”
“The work involves advocacy with beach visitors, schools, community groups and the surf club. I also monitor predator control by setting and checking 40 traps, and I monitor bird breeding and fence off areas where birds are nesting. My NorthTec training has been a real match for my work now.”
“I started at NorthTec with the Diploma in Environmental Conservation and loved the balance of practical and academic content so went on to do the degree. My degree research project was on the Bream Head skink which was a brand new species at that stage. This project gave me the experience to get an internship with an ecological consultancy in Wellington where I worked with lizard conservation for a summer after I graduated. While doing that I decided to do my Masters degree and the consultancy kept me on part-time time while I studied.”
“I came back up north when I was made redundant and landed my first contract as DOC Fairy Tern Ranger for five months. I loved it, did another contract as General Ranger for DOC Whangarei office working in the visitor asset and biodiversity departments, then in 2017 got my second contract as Fairy Tern Ranger.”
“Info gathering and process skills from my skink research project, and course field-based survey exercises, exposed me to a wide variety of species and habitats. It has also given me the tools to think about how to use field data for useful applications. This is all directly relevant to the work I do now. Our course work placement requirements also set up networks for both work opportunities and peer contact.”
“I’m realising that I like working with underdog species like the fairy terns and skinks rather than the high profile species, so I’d love for that work to continue. Meanwhile, back to work on the beach…”
“I love my job. I see parts of Northland that no-one else goes to, I meet and liaise with a lot of people connected...
“I love my job. I see parts of Northland that no-one else goes to, I meet and liaise with a lot of people connected to the land, and I get to work autonomously in the field.” Ashlee Lawrence works part time as a Biosecurity Officer for Northland Regional Council and fits the work around studying fulltime for the last year of her Bachelor of Science in Biodiversity Management at NorthTec.
Ashlee’s current work focus is on monitoring the re-generating acacia (wattle) seedlings that are highly invasive in the areas around the Kai Iwi Lakes north of Dargaville.
Ashlee - “A contract came up at the end of 2013 just as I finished my Diploma in Conservation and Environmental Management. It focused on identifying pest issues in the Kai Iwi Lakes water catchment and managing identified risks. Kai Iwi Lakes are a special type of lake called dune lakes. They are rare and these are some of the planet’s deepest dune lakes and they are really underappreciated. The chemical qualities of the lakes are changing because of increased levels of nitrogen, so steps need to be taken to improve those levels and raise awareness of the ecological value of these lakes. I surveyed properties around the lakes and investigated incidents of pest fish, invasive aquatic weed and pest plants. I am currently implementing programmes of removal and control for these incidents.”
Ashlee’s introduction to working in biosecurity came while she was still studying for her diploma. “In one of our papers we have ‘practicum’ where we volunteer for 80 hours at an environmental agency, so I rang the NRC and asked if they had any work. I was placed with the biosecurity team and allocated two pest plants to track down and eradicate. I was given a health and safety briefing then was sent out with another student with a truck and eradication gear. We had already completed a GrowSafe Certificate as part of our course so could use chemicals and spray equipment.
When the 80 hours was up, I asked if I could continue to work as a volunteer and the rest has developed from there.”
Ashlee points to some specifics from her NorthTec training that have given her confidence in her work skills. “Our course is the best training for conservationists in Northland. It is heavy on academic training with a focus on monitoring skills that are used by every environmental agency and are a benchmark for employers. That skill set sits against a backdrop of the study of New Zealand’s evolutionary history and why we are one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. We have so many special species here that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.”
Another key study subject that Ashley says was dovetails, with employment in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which was recently introduced into NorthTec’s environmental training. “Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a computer based mapping system and it is becoming essential to employment in environmental work.”
Ashlee strongly recommends that students who are looking for work allied to their training volunteer some time. “Approach an employer in your related field and offer your time so they get to see what you are capable of. Things unfold from there.”
Ashlee’s current project in monitoring acacia regeneration is part of her required third year degree project. “My contract for this finishes at the end of this year but it is a five year study project for the NRC so other NorthTec students will get to continue the work.”
“When I finish my degree I hope to stay on as a Biosecurity Officer with NRC for a while. My dream is to someday work as a Biodiversity Asset Ranger in the South Island amongst our richly diverse environments down there.”
Read more about NorthTec's conservation courses
Finding kiwi chicks, ferrying students to the island, building tracks, and measuring geckos are all part of a day’s...
Finding kiwi chicks, ferrying students to the island, building tracks, and measuring geckos are all part of a day’s work for Bernie Buhler. Bernie is the ranger on Limestone Island in Whangarei Harbour and the 93 acre island’s only resident. “This is a dream job for me. I had just graduated from NorthTec when I started here as the ranger in February 2013. I love the conservation work and I love the passion of the people I work with.”
But Bernie is relatively new to the world of conservation and wildlife. “I worked as a chef for twenty years, mostly in Whangarei, and was ready for a change. I have always liked the outdoors and looked into study options at NorthTec. Because I was out of the habit of study, I started with a year certificate course in Conservation Management. I surprised myself, did really well, got a scholarship for more study, and so went on to complete the Bachelor of Applied Science majoring in Biodiversity.”
Part of Bernie’s third year study project included field trips to Limestone Island so he got to know the then rangers, Ben and Jo Barr. Bernie - “After I finished my degree Ben contacted me because he required the services of a trapper. They later needed someone to island-sit while they went on summer holiday, and then they decided to leave and Ben became a tutor at NorthTec. I was appointed interim ranger and later was selected for the advertised ranger job from 93 applicants.”
The variety of Bernie’s island ranger work is a big part of his job’s appeal and he has plenty of physical and social support. “I can be introducing weta to kids, checking the predator traps, then weighing petrel, driving the barge, or helping volunteers build a track. We have a barge that holds 23 people and I bring school groups, retired people, or volunteers over here once or twice a week. We have a well attended volunteers’ day once a month and people are keen to help with making tracks, weeding, baiting traps, or building.”
Bernie attributes the NorthTec science degree tutors for turning him on to learning and onto conservation. “We had a week long camp when our course started and we were immersed in learning outdoors. The degree is a tough course but so worthwhile if you can hang in there. It gave me the skills and confidence to get this job.”
The Limestone Island Ranger position is now limited to a three year contract. Bernie – “I’m a year into it and loving it. When the time is up though, I’ll probably go on to something bigger and better, like Little Barrier Island, but I’m happy to go anywhere and I know I’ll enjoy whatever comes up.
Find out more about NorthTec's conservation courses
Public speaking is one of the most relevant course skills that I apply here. For a major assessment presentation we...
“The best part of the course was getting out and meeting people in the industry with initiatives like Project Island Song and Landcare groups. I had contact here at Kiwi North with my work placement for my practicum, and the natural fit of my passion and skills led to this part time work when I finished my degree in 2016.”
“Public speaking is one of the most relevant course skills that I apply here. For a major assessment presentation we had to put information across in an interesting and accurate way. The course also kept us up to date with current Northland conservation projects like the 1000 kiwi now living around Whangarei Heads due to a 30 year community and DOC initiative, and Golden Bay Cement’s environmental impact awareness monitoring project.”
“I love all aspects of my job here as part time Husbandry Officer. I take care of the tuatara, geckos and kiwi - including breeding insects for their food supply. The basic biology we learnt on our course is generic but each of our native species has their own adaptations. I also love the visitor host role here giving presentations on either New Zealand ecology in general, or kiwi in particular, depending on the group. I take visitors through the centre here, and get school groups involved out hunting for insects.”
“My confidence has grown hugely since working here so I now really enjoy talking to a whole range of different people. I like the environmental advocacy so much that my next step may be in teaching in either community, school or tertiary education contexts.”