Jaye Barclay

A passion for ecology and biodiversity with a flair for writing and communication have led Jaye to exciting postgraduate science study and research.

Jaye Barclay at graduation

I've always been passionate about science and the drive to better understand the world around us. I'd wanted to work in some sort of biology since I was tiny, growing up with BBC's "Walking with..." series and David Attenborough, so when it came time to embark on the journey into tertiary education I knew that I wanted to pursue a field that would allow me to work with the natural environment. I chose Ecology, Biodiversity and Marine Biology as science majors because they complemented each other and would allow me to grow my knowledge of a wide range of ecosystems. I chose an English Literature major for my BA degree because I love to read, write, and critically analyse ideas so this was the perfect vehicle to hone those skills.

My favourite thing about my science studies were how hands-on they were. I completed several courses that had field components and was excited by the opportunities they provided me to practically apply the theory that I was learning.  One such course even took me to Tahiti to study coral reef ecology first-hand. Those experiences gave me an in-depth understanding of what conducting field research would entail once I graduated and got me excited to move to higher levels of study. My English Literature major helped me grow my communication and academic writing skills that have been invaluable in my employment since, and in my current postgraduate studies.

I completed the Wellington Plus Programme Award in 2019. As part of this I'd started out as a Peer Assisted Study Support leader for te reo Māori, and in 2019 I started teaching te reo Māori professionally. I've been teaching since then in night classes and at the university, which in turn has led to other opportunities writing curricula for teaching te reo. I undertook my first research internship position in 2017 with the Cawthron Institute of Science in Nelson (thanks to a glowing letter of recommendation from one of my lecturers). I continued this role on a casual basis while studying, and the result of this work was a paper on social license to operate in the aquaculture industry in New Zealand, for which I am listed as the third author.

My degrees provided me with the skills to think critically and the frameworks to properly apply my desire to learn about the natural world in a structural and scientific fashion. Some of the most important skills I learned were around networking and utilising the resources that the university provided. Meeting with other academics and discussing potential employment or research opportunities was instrumental in gaining in the roles I've had the last few years. Thanks to my experience with Cawthron, I was awarded another summer research position with Te Ohu Kaimoana in 2018. My volunteering and teaching have also made me a fairly capable public speaker, which is a skill I use often in my Master’s degree and will be using as a researcher.

I recently started a Master of Marine Biology. It's a two-year combined coursework and thesis degree, so this year I'm taking various courses that involve a lot of research and public speaking. It's an interesting time with COVID-19 to be studying in a field that is so applied, especially since there are so many opportunities to study ecosystems outside of New Zealand at undergraduate and graduate level. Eventually I hope to be able to travel to do research for my thesis, the concept of which is still currently in the works, but these plans are uncertain for the moment.

My advice to students is to give things a go! I was super anxious at undergraduate level about networking, thinking that more experienced people wouldn't want to hear from a fresh-faced youngster who knew very little compared to them. However, most people like talking about what they do or study, and your lecturers and academic staff are no exception. If you're genuinely interested, people are always happy to talk about phytoplankton, coral reefs or competition in fish species, until the cows come home. Even if you don't feel you have much to contribute now, you will eventually and in the meantime, you've made some cool connections. Be confident; you've made it this far - whether it's a new role or path of study. Your experience and input are valuable.