Commitment to freshwater and STEM representation honoured

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington researcher Dr Tara McAllister (Te Aitanga a Māhaki) has been honoured for her research and advocacy with the prestigious Zonta Science Award.

Dr Tara McAllister
Dr Tara McAllister

Dr McAllister is dedicated to improving representation and opportunities for Māori and women in academia. Her recent paper, ‘Seen but unheard: navigating turbulent waters as Māori and Pacific postgraduate students in STEM’, collected experiences for 43 postgraduate students and showed how universities can change the STEM learning environment to ensure Māori and Pacific researchers are included and valued.

Dr McAllister says she has been mentored by many women and Māori scientists during her career, and she hopes to use the wisdom she gained to support the next generation of women and Māori scientists.

Dr McAllister is a freshwater ecologist by training, and her research aims to develop new approaches to managing toxic bloom in rivers to improve access to fresh water—an issue that impacts people and places across the globe. She strives to incorporate mātauranga Māori into her research. Dr McAllister has worked with both international and local researchers and policymakers, including interning with Aotearoa’s Chief Science Adviser.

Dr McAllister plans to use the funds from her Zonta Science Award to continue this work.

“Receiving the Zonta Science Award is an immense privilege,” says Tara. “This award will provide me with the funds to visit Assistant Professor Kat Milligan-McClellan, an Indigenous scientist at the University of Connecticut, to learn more about how microscopic organisms and the toxins they produce affect ecosystems. I will learn new techniques to significantly advance our understanding of how blooms affect food webs and mahinga kai, the place and the resources gathered there.”

Dr McAllister is currently a Research Fellow in the Centre for Science in Society.

The Zonta Science Award was established to further the status of women in scientific fields. The award is granted to an emerging scientist who has shown dedication to science and her community and is designed to help and emerging researcher further their career. Award winners receive $25,000 as well as a pounamu medal designed by jeweller Neke Moa.

Dr McAllister was presented with her award at a ceremony at the University on 7 September 2022.