Occupation Related Questions
What does your work at the Cawthron Institute involve?
"I mostly assess how different developments affect the marine environment. For example, if an energy company is planning to set up wave energy-generating turbines in the ocean, or if someone is planning to set up a farm on the coastline, they consult us to find out how it will affect marine animals.
"We then do aerial or boat surveys to assess the number of sharks, dolphins, etc in that area, and report on what threats these developments could pose – for example, water pollution. Once the new development is functioning, we do another survey to see if anything needs to be adapted.
"We also do research for regional councils, the Department of Conservation and so on. For example, Gisborne Regional Council recently asked us to find out what marine animal species they have in their region – information specific to various regions is still missing."
Do you spend a lot of time on or by the water?
"Not as much as most people imagine! I spend about 75% of my time behind the computer.
"With technology becoming a big part of my work, I spend a lot of time building virtual models of marine populations using special software, and running scenarios of how a development can impact on marine life."
What are the main challenges of your job?
"The main challenge is that often when you do some research, it throws up a lot of unanswered questions. You’d think we’d know all the answers in the 20th Century, but we still don’t.
"The other challenge can be the weather. You need calm days to see well and do your research, but on many occasions, we’re 20 nautical miles from shore and the wind comes up – I’ve had a couple of hairy experiences."
What do you like best about your job?
"I enjoy doing stuff in the water – kayaking, diving, rafting. So I love the practical side of my job.
"When I’m doing my aerial surveys, I look out of the plane window and see the schools of hammerhead sharks and huge pods of dolphins in the blue sea beneath me, and I can’t help thinking how lucky I am."