Student uses Sir Peter Blake Trust award to wade South Island rivers

Massey University student Courtney Davies won the NIWA Freshwater Ambassador award in 2016.
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Massey University student Courtney Davies won the NIWA Freshwater Ambassador award in 2016.

A Sir Peter Blake Trust award has enabled a natural science university student to investigate the health of New Zealand's rivers.

Every year, a number of Blake Ambassador Awards are awarded to young people to gain practical experience in environmental projects.

Courtney Davies, 20, from Dairy Flat, won the 2016 NIWA Freshwater Ambassador award.

Davies takes a break by the van, having just finished wading in Lake Ellesmere.
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Davies takes a break by the van, having just finished wading in Lake Ellesmere.

As a current master's student at Massey University, Davies saw the award as a chance to put her schoolwork into practice.

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"It is more of an experience than an award," she says. 

Davies searching for invertebrates to better understand stream health.
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Davies searching for invertebrates to better understand stream health.

"It's good to see the data from the information and I learned how I can apply my degree skills in the real world."

For two weeks in December 2016, Davies worked alongside the NIWA science teams in their day-to-day environmental monitoring in South Island rivers.

NIWA is the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, which enabled Davies to combine her academic interest in the environment with her practical experience from living on a dairy farm.

Davies gauging a river in the Molesworth Station.
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Davies gauging a river in the Molesworth Station.

Working with NIWA, enhanced my understanding of how to enhance economic value in a sustainable management of New Zealand resources, she says.

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"As a rapidly developing nation for agriculture, it is important to be able to identify and mitigate environmental threats so that both the environment and economy can thrive."

The Sir Peter Blake Trust has provided opportunities for young Kiwis to work alongside scientists, conservationists and engineers since 2007, as a way to educate and address some of the environmental challenges facing society.

Another award recipient, Takapuna resident Jemma Welch, 25, is heading to the Great Barrier Island to monitor black petrels during nesting season for her Blake DOC Ambassador Award.

Sir Peter Blake Trust chief executive Shelley Campbell says the programme is designed to be a life-changing experience made possible through the quality of its partnerships.

"It provides unique hands-on experience in the field, with an element of adventure," Campbell says.

To be eligible for Blake Ambassador Award, applicants must be between 18 and 25 years old and have a demonstrated a passion for the environment. 

In 2017, there are 12 placements available in partnership with Antarctica New Zealand, the Antarctic Heritage Trust, NIWA, the Department of Conservation and Tara Expeditions. Applications open in April 2017. Visit sirpeterblaketrust.org/blake-ambassadors.

 - Stuff

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