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Kaitao Middle School - Deborah Mitchell

2015 | The wonders of Tane Mahuta

SchoolKaitao Middle School


RegionBay of Plenty

Deborah Mitchell is a primary trained teacher, with a post graduate diploma in education. She has taught at both full-primary and intermediate schools in Auckland, and recently moved with her family to take up new opportunities in Rotorua.

Deborah was hosted with SCION, a leading Crown Research Institute in forestry and related sciences. They work on the innovation and growth for New Zealand’s forestry, wood product and wood-derived materials industry, in order to promote economic value and contribute to beneficial environmental and social outcomes for New Zealand.

While at SCION, Deborah was involved in a flagship project, Healthy Trees Healthy Future. This involved opportunities to take part in various experiments and trials that investigated the behaviour of the phytophthora pathogen, in particular phytophthorapluvialis (PP) which is causing red needle cast in radiata pine forests. She assisted laboratory technicians in gathering needle samples, inoculating with PP and assisting with the setup of the trials with a water control, and phospite treatment (In Vitro Assays). These In Vitro Assays using detached needles or fascicles, allow the team to screen for susceptibility to phytophthorapluvialis.  

Deborah’s scientific experience was challenged and extended greatly as she engaged with the use and understanding of various equipment and technologies, that was new to her, such as a Cryostation, Mass Spectrometer and a Spectrophotometer. She accompanied scientists on field trials that were exploring new technologies that could expand the knowledge of spray deposition in the roughness of a canopy.

Deborah had many valuable opportunities to network with scientists that had a vested interest in assisting Maori landowners to realise their potential within the forestry sector. These experiences were very helpful for Deborah to begin making connections for herself and potentially her students, as offers of support and sharing of both human and science resources has been made available to her through these networks.

Deborah would like to thank her host SCION and their support staff Lisa Stanbra, Lisa Langer and Nari Williams for making her feel welcome, and for sharing their time and expertise with her. Thanks to her experiences while on the RSNZ Science Teacher Leadership Programme, Deborah is very much looking forward to returning to Kaitao Middle School, and supporting staff and students to participate in high quality science learning experiences.