Massey out on the oceans on Seaweek

Massey University PhD student Lizzy Myers and Gisborne Girls High School student Lucy Coulston prepare bait [credit]:Brendon O'Hagan.

Massey staff and students returned last week from New Zealand's Rangitahua-Kermadec Islands where they were working to uncover more about the remote paradise, while helping mentor the next generation of marine scientists.

The HMNZS Canterbury departed on February 26 with Dr Libby Liggins, Dr David Aguirre, technical officer Emma Betty and PhD student Lizzy Myers of Massey’s Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences. The 2018 Young Blake Expedition, led by the Sir Peter Blake Trust, and made possible with the support of the Royal New Zealand Navy, involved 20 student voyagers from high schools across the country and 23 crew members, including other scientists from Auckland Museum, University of Auckland, and NIWA.

Science leader Dr Liggins says it was a unique opportunity to combine the interests of several organisations interested in the future of New Zealand’s marine environment.

“Every time we visit Rangitahua we make new discoveries and gain scientific understanding that will help us protect this valuable marine reserve. This visit was made particularly special because we could share these experiences with the next generation of environmental stewards.”

Young Blake student voyagers and Massey University staff members and the Royal New Zealand Navy crew en route to deploy larval and small juvenile fish collectors [credit]: Brendon O'Hagan.

Chance of a lifetime

The experience gave students the chance to apply hands-on knowledge and work alongside scientists, including examining samples and learning how data is collected and put to use to create new knowledge. 

Young voyager Paice Vaughn blogged, “The more I talk with the marine science team on the expedition, the more apparent it becomes that there is still so much to learn about the surprisingly mysterious Kermadec Islands.

“Many of my questions are simply answered with, ‘We actually don't know yet, but we'd love to find out.’ It still amazes me to think that, right here, in New Zealand's backyard, in an era where we believe we know so much, there is still so much more to learn.” 

Among the highlights of the expedition were the identification of several species of fish that have been spotted at the Kermadec Islands for the first time. Ms Myers featured on a Newshub story about the new fish discoveries in the Kermadec region last night, which include typically warmer water species such as the sergeant major damselfish, black trevally and rainbow runner. 

Dr Libby Liggins prepares to deploy larval fish collectors at Boat cove, Raoul Island [Credit: William Pike].

The next generation

 The Trust endeavours to continue the legacy of New Zealand sailor, leader and environmentalist Sir Blake by inspiring and mobilising the next generation of Kiwi leaders, adventurers and environmentalists.

This is the fourth Expedition to take place and the second to involve Massey staff and students. Several Massey staff and students have ongoing research programmes in the Rangitahua-Kermadec Islands that will contribute to our understanding of this pristine marine environment, its importance to New Zealand mainland coastal environments and the future challenges our marine environments face.

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