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EIT | Te Pūkenga student lands birdwatching job

February 5, 2024

EIT | Te Pūkenga ākonga Shae Hill (right) with colleague and Massey University PhD candidate Fabio Leonardo Meza.

A new degree at EIT | Te Pūkenga has unlocked Shae Hill’s passion for birdlife, and kickstarted her career in the industry.

The 40-year-old has just completed her first year of a Bachelor of Applied Science (Biodiversity Management) and has already secured a role assisting Boffa Miskell ecologists with bird monitoring at Meridian Energy’s Harapaki Wind Farm site.

Shae is among the first cohort of ākonga (students) to study the degree, introduced at the beginning of last year.

Prior to studying, she worked in administration, and also supported herself as an artist, painting. She had previously studied te reo Māori at Te Ūranga Waka at EIT | Te Pūkenga.  In 2021 Shae enrolled again, this time for nursing.

“I was two years through nursing, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. We didn’t have the applied science degree at that time, so I did nursing because it had that science element.

“When I found out that this degree had begun this year, I knew it was much more what I wanted to do. So, it was a little bit of an impromptu decision, but I’m really glad that I did it.”

Shae says she has learnt so much already.

“It really resonates with me. I’m really interested in the environment, and I’m interested in sustainability. I have an enthusiast level of knowledge about these kinds of things, but I did want to get more in-depth knowledge. I’ve learnt so much already.”

Although, she hadn’t originally intended on Ornithology – the study of birds.

“There’s just so many different areas that you can go into. It’s quite amazing.”  

A learning experience carrying out predator control at Mohi Bush with EIT | Te Pūkenga, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and Department of Conservation inspired her to apply for the job at the wind farm.

“Just that little bit of experience, enthusiasm, and endorsement from my tutors, was enough for them to be confident that I’d be able to go ahead and learn on the job.

A highlight for Shae is working with local tangata whenua who guide the researchers up on the range.

“It’s been really healing to learn about the area from Māori who have that knowledge and connection with the area.”

It resonates with her own deep reverence and respect for nature and Mātauranga Māori.

While she  plans to complete all three years of the degree, Shae says the way the degree is structured means she is able to take hold of opportunities that come her way.

Shae speaks highly of EIT | Te Pūkenga and her tutors.

“The tutors for this degree are really awesome and they are really helpful. And we have really good content as well available for the different papers.”

Programme Coordinator Lisa Turnbull says they are delighted for Shae.

“Shae is a conscientious and enthusiastic member of our level 5 cohort, we are proud of her. This is an important role and a great opportunity for Shae to utilise some of the learning from her studies.”

 “Environmental roles are a growing employment area, there are many employment opportunities in Hawke’s Bay and there’s a shortage of expertise in the environmental field.”

“We are forging links with local organisations who are keen to use our students in internships, so opportunities for our ākonga to get involved in important environmental projects and roles are growing.”

Last year, EIT | Te Pūkenga introduced the Bachelor of Applied Science (Biodiversity Management), the programme is structured so learners can exit each year with a diploma in Environmental Management or go on to do the whole degree.