Biological Sciences

Our Students

This is a small collection of some of the current and biological sciences students. Find out how they are getting on in their studies, or what they are getting up to upon completion of their qualifications.

Kathleen Martinez

Kathleen Martinez

BSc in Environmental Sciences

Exchange student from University of California Davis

“I wanted a more personalised, hands-on experience at university, and Waikato provided that." 

University of California Davis student Kathleen Martinez chose an exchange in New Zealand because of the unique ecosystems, beautiful landscapes and rich Maori heritage.

Just half way through a 10 month exchange at the University of Waikato, Kathleen credits her exchange as the highlight of her university experience thus far and says she has already grown in so many ways.

“I wanted a more personalised, hands-on experience at university, and Waikato provided that. Waikato puts an emphasis on small class sizes, and the science papers typically have a lab and field work component. I’m in a lab the same amount of time, if not more than I’m in lectures each week, which really helps me retain the information I’m learning,” says Kathleen.

As an environmental sciences student, Kathleen found that the excellent variety of resource and ecology papers at Waikato made it easy to choose classes that would count towards her degree.

“I’m studying a variety of papers in soil science, atmospheric science, hydrology, ecology, geography and resource planning while at Waikato. I’m also taking one cultural paper in Maori weaving, which has been ideal for expressing my creative side while learning about Maori culture.”

She describes Hamilton’s location within the North Island of New Zealand as ideal for travelling. With its proximity to the ocean, the Coromandel region and more, Kathleen has been able to explore the area easily and has taken lots of small road trips during the semester.

“New Zealand’s people and Hamilton’s location have made my time here so enjoyable. I have made so many close friendships with New Zealand students and their families during my stay that it will be difficult to leave in a couple months.”

After graduation, Kathleen hopes to become an environmental scientist, natural resource scientist, or environmental consultant; and because of her time in New Zealand, she says she is now inspired to live and work abroad in the future.

Stewart Robertson

Stewart Robertson

BSc in Biological Sciences

Director and Skipper
Owner/Operator of Golden Future Environmental Ltd

“Five percent of my proceeds...are going to the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust, a community based conservation group."

Waikato biological sciences graduate Stewart Robertson has used his scientific knowledge and entrepreneurial vision to create an idyllic lifestyle for himself as an owner/operator conservation tour guide in the Abel Tasman National Park.

“A typical day for me involves greeting each of my tour groups with a presentation on ecology and conservation themes. We then board my boat ‘Zeehaen’ and embark on a voyage of discovery around the iconic Abel Tasman National Park. We explore intertidal areas, soft and rocky shores, open sea, island bird sanctuaries, tidal inlets and seal colonies. The day is broken up with lunch at Anchorage beach and a two hour guided walk around Pitt Head mainland ecological island.”

This venture did not come out of the blue. Stewart spent last summer working as a senior water taxi skipper for Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi, which included sustainability consulting. He continues to act as a sustainability manager and skipper for Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi alongside his own company.

Stewart says he not only has high hopes for the success of his business, Golden Future Environmental Ltd, but also for the level that he can contribute to the environment and wider community.

“Five percent of my proceeds from the tours are going to the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust, a community based conservation group. I hope to achieve significant results for them as well as expanding my activities to deliver conservation messages to school and community groups.”

While eco-tourism is his core business, Stewart also provides scientific research services to organisations such as Waikato University. In the past he has worked as a scientific diver for the University and specialist dive contractors Dive NZ on the Rena response, plus he has worked as a scientific diver for Waikato University and the Department of Conservation at Kapiti Island.

Stewart finished his studies at the University of Waikato’s Tauranga campus just last year. He began his studies with a two-year Diploma of Marine Studies through the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and continued on to a third year of study with Waikato University; crediting his diploma towards a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Biological Sciences. 

Kiriana Isgrove

Kiriana Isgrove

BSc; MSc(Research) in Biological Sciences

Current Student

"I love all the practical experience we are given in science papers."

At high school Kiriana Isgrove considered herself an 'average' student. But since beginning her studies at the University of Waikato last year, she has found her niche in the areas of biological and environmental sciences.

"I find university so different, and I excel in most of my papers. I've achieved far better grades here and have been given opportunities I never thought I could have had."

Kiriana attended Hauraki Plains College and is currently in her second year of a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences. She chose Waikato because class numbers are small and the campus is close to home, while providing an excellent balance between rural and urban life.

"I have won several scholarships while attending Waikato University which I am extremely grateful for. I was also lucky enough to complete a studentship at AgResearch last summer, which was an incredibly valuable experience."

Other highlights for her have been the labs and field trips.

"I love all the practical experience we are given in science papers. I found it particularly helpful during my summer studentship, when I found I already had a lot of the necessary practical skills that students at other universities did not."

After completing her studies, Kiriana plans to pursue a career in environmental advising for either soil science or hydrology.

"I would recommend Waikato as an excellent university choice because the lecturers and tutors are so friendly and approachable, which makes adjusting to the student lifestyle so much easier."

Catherine Kirby

Catherine Kirby

BSc; MSc in Biological Sciences

Research Support Officer
Environmental Research Institute, University of Waikato

"Waikato is one of the top universities to study ecology and is surrounded by so many incredible ecosystems."

A six-month exchange to Canada, a handful of scholarships and excellent support from lecturers were just a few of the things that made study at Waikato an experience of a lifetime for graduate Catherine Kirby.

"My role as a research assistant is very diverse and exciting and I don't really have a 'typical day'. Sometimes I arrive at work, jump in a van and head into the field to investigate vegetation patterns in areas such as the Erua, Taranaki and Waipoua forests. Other days I am busy assisting with the Institute's research programmes, helping MSc students with their thesis research, writing reports and articles, and sharing our research findings through presentations."

The Environmental Research Institute combines environmental expertise from different areas in the University to work out how we can improve and sustain the quality of New Zealanders' natural and physical environment.

Catherine began her studies with a Bachelor of Science, specialising in Resource and Environmental Planning, and focusing mainly on Earth Sciences. Following this she undertook a Master of Science, where she decided to alter her focus to Biological Sciences.

"For my masters I concentrated primarily on plant ecology, as I felt that this is an area where I could make more of a difference in terms of environmental conservation and restoration."

Ashley Webby

Ashley Webby

BSc(Tech); MSc(Research) in Biological Sciences

Placement Co-ordinator
University of Waikato

"The work placements allowed me to gain valuable experience and lead me to pursue a master’s degree."

Former Hillcrest High School student Ashley Webby chose Waikato because it was close to home and had an excellent range of papers, taught by enthusiastic lecturers.

Ashley began her study with a Bachelor of Science (Technology) majoring in physiology and ecology.

She describes the highlight of her undergraduate study as her work placements, which included working two summers at Waikato University as a research assistant and work experience at Otorohanga Kiwi House.

"I absolutely loved my placement at the Otorohanga Kiwi House, where I was a keeper and raised eight baby kiwi chicks. At the university I worked on two research projects in freshwater ecology and I learnt so much. I thoroughly enjoyed working as well as studying. The work placements allowed me to gain valuable experience and lead me to pursue a master’s degree."

Following her BSc(Tech), Ashley completed her Master of Science (Research).

"My masters project looked into the toxicity of Rena pollutants to New Zealand fish and shellfish, under the supervision of Associate Professor Nicholas Ling and Professor Chris Battershill."

"It is estimated that 350 tonnes of oil leaked into the environment from the Rena and as most New Zealanders know, the oil spillage had a huge impact on the wildlife and environment in the Bay of Plenty region."

"I assessed the acute sublethal toxicity of varying contaminants from the Rena oil spill including Rena heavy fuel oil and corexit 9500 (the dispersant used to disperse the oil) contaminants to a range of culturally, ecologically and commercially important species. The results were surprising in that the acute effects of exposure to heavy fuel oil with or without Corexit are relatively small.  Now working with Co-Operative education at Waikato University I am part of a team that assists science and engineering students find work placements that are compulsory parts of their degree. Although a degree is not needed in this role a lot of the skills I have learnt previously are transferable. When talking to employers I am able to understand what their research is about and easily convey this to the students. I have learnt a lot of organisational, writing, and communication skills which also allow me to teach others, I am also able to easily relate to the students. A career in science research is not off the cards quite yet – in the future I will pursue this. Science education however is a great way to gain industry exposure, this role also allows me to give back to the programme than I can through, and being a mentor to other students is highly rewarding."

Ashleigh Weatherall

Ashleigh Weatherall

BSc(Tech) in Animal Behaviour

Current Student

"Now my goal is to improve the welfare of captive animals and conserve endangered species."

Passionate to make a difference after seeing inadequate animal living conditions in Japanese zoos, Ashleigh Weatherall chose to pursue a Bachelor of Science (BSc(Tech)) at the University of Waikato.

“In high school I received a scholarship to live in Japan for three weeks. This was a real eye opener, as I saw the poor conditions in which animals live at Japanese zoos. Now my goal is to improve the welfare of captive animals and conserve endangered species.”

Following secondary school at Mahurangi College in Warkworth, Ashleigh chose Waikato for its proximity to her home, and because she could complete a major in Animal Behaviour with supporting papers in physiology.

“Highlights from my study so far would be shaping hens’ behaviour in the Ruakura animal lab and observing capuchin monkeys’ behaviour at the Hamilton Zoo during a class field trip.”

In the future she plans to travel overseas to work in animal sanctuaries or zoos, and perform research in the field of animal welfare.

“Study something you love, because you will never get bored. There will always be something new and interesting for you to learn.”

Anthony Coventry

Anthony Coventry

BSc(Tech) in Earth Sciences and Biological Sciences

Zoo Keeper
Hamilton Zoo

“I really enjoy building relationships and trust with the animals and exciting people about animals."

Hanging out with Rhino’s is just a standard day in the office for Bachelor of Science (Technology) graduate Anthony Coventry. Anthony, a previous Otorohanga College Student, completed his BSc(Tech) in Biology and Earth Sciences at Waikato and now works as a Zoo Keeper at Hamilton Zoo.

“I work in the Undergulates Team, working mostly with Rhinos but also with other animals such as Giraffes, Chimps and Siamangs among others”

“I really enjoy building relationships and trust with the animals and exciting people about animals - inspiring them to look into what they can do to help both local and international conservation groups” says Anthony.

Anthony’s study enabled him to meet a number of people in a range of different industries through his work placements – which ultimately lead him to getting his dream job at Hamilton Zoo.

“I really liked how the BSc(Tech) degree allowed me to have real work experience and connected me with people in the working world from a variety of industries”.

Coco Hseuh

Coco Hseuh

BSc(Tech) in Biochemistry

Laboratory Technician

“I wanted a degree that offered me the opportunity to gain both theory knowledge about science and as well as practical work experience, and the BSc(Tech) did that”.

Coco Hseuh, a previous Hamilton High School student, studied a Bachelor of Science(Tech) majoring in biochemistry.

Coco now works as a laboratory technician in the microbiology department of CAIQTEST Pacific (a testing laboratory focussing on goods, mainly dairy products) who export to China.

Coco said one of main reasons she chose to study at Waikato was because of the practical work experience she gained. “I wanted a degree that offered me the opportunity to gain both theory knowledge about science and as well as practical work experience, and the BSc(Tech) did that”.

Laura Hines

Laura Hines

BSc; MSc(Research) in Earth Sciences and Biological Sciences

Chemistry and Microbiology Laboratory Technician
Tatua Cooperative Dairy Company

“It’s not just about the learning.”

Although Laura Hines says that University is not just about the learning, she did a lot of it while she was at the University of Waikato!  Laura completed her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science (Research) qualifications doing double majors in both and gaining first class honours in her Masters.

The connections Laura made with both students and lecturers were the highlight of her time at the University of Waikato.  She is now working alongside some of the people she studied with and is sure that her networking during her study helped her to secure her current role.

Laura is working at Tatua Cooperative Dairy Company as a Chemistry and Microbiology Laboratory Technician.  She enjoys the variety her role offers – one day she will be elbow deep in chemistry and the next in microbiology.  Laura has an important role where she tests milk powders and food products to make sure they are within specification and are the highest quality before being released to the customer.  Tatua have given Laura the opportunity to carry out a work based project to determine if improvements can be made on current processes and procedures for thermophile and aerobic plate count tests.

Laura believes that “life is all about your attitude”.  To succeed, she believes that students need to work hard, study hard, have goals and never be afraid to ask questions.

Kirsty Kraakman

Kirsty Kraakman

BSc; MSc(Research) in Chemistry & Biological Sciences

Current Student

"The knowledge that the lecturers at Waikato possess is amazing."

Making new discoveries in science is the ultimate goal for student Kirsty Kraakman.

Kirsty completed a BSc majoring in chemistry and biological sciences last year and has just started a Master of Science(Research) focusing on molecular biology.

She says study at the University of Waikato is full of opportunities. "The knowledge that the lecturers at Waikato possess is amazing. Everyone is so willing to share their experiences and encourage students to get into research and make the most of their degree."

She has especially enjoyed learning about genetic modification of bacteria, and found working on the genetic sequencing of her own genome to be a highlight.

The former Sacred Heart Girls' College, Hamilton student aims to move on to research following undergraduate study and hopes that, in time, she can make a real difference in society.

Ashleigh Weatherall

Ashleigh Weatherall

BSc(Tech) in Animal Behaviour

Plant and Food Research

Ashleigh has been working with Plant and Food Research's pollination and apiculture team to study the use of bumblebees as pollinators in orchards.