Te Kawa a Māui graduates push the frontiers of science

Three Te Kawa a Māui thesis graduates are collaborating with physicists, hydrologists and biologists to address key issues in freshwater and pest control.

Dr Amber Aranui (Ngāti Kahungunu) graduated with her PhD in 2018. As well as working for Te Papa Tongarewa, she is a Research Associate in collaboration with Drs Catherine Moore and Uwe Morgenstern of GNS Science / Te Pū Ao. In Te Whakaheke o te Wai, a research project funded by an MBIE Endeavour grant, she collates and analyses oral histories and mātauranga Māori from the Heretaunga plains, to help model the shape and size of underground freshwater sources.

Symon Palmer (Ngāi te Rangi) graduated with his Master's in 2019. He now works full-time as a Research Associate on a National Science Challenge BioHeritage project. Symon collaborates with entomologists and genetic scientists Professors Phil Lester and Peter Dearden (University of Otago), exploring Māori views on novel biotechnological controls of pest insects, such as wasps and varroa mite.

Dr Sara Belcher (Te Arawa) graduated with her PhD in 2021. On partial secondment from Greater Wellington Regional Council, she works alongside Symon as a Research Associate on the BioHeritage project. She applies He Kete Hauora Taiao - a mātauranga-based framework she developed in her PhD - to manage the impact of wasps on ecosystems.

Their supervisor Assoc. Prof. Ocean Mercier says "these tauira all put really innovative theses out, and they freshened up our ideas about what has traditionally been considered science. We loved working with them and wanted to keep them on, so we found external funding teaming up with prestigious scientists to support their further development as scholars."

A number of fully funded thesis scholarships are available for students interested in joining the teams and working on these projects. One PhD (Ngā Pae Te Tai Ao), up to two Master's scholarships on Te Whakaheke o te Wai and up to two Master's scholarships on BioHeritage are all available and seeking applicants now.