Driven by a strong connection with nature, Oliver Bone is now an ecology consultant in Northland. Read his story...
My journey into science was driven by a strong connection I feel with nature. I grew up in a remote coastal area of Northland, where I spent many days exploring the coastline, both above and below the waterline. The beauty I experienced there inspired me to study biology at high school. I then went on to study ecology and subsequently marine biology at university. While I didn’t know the exact field of science I would eventually end up in, I did know that it needed to enable my primary goal – to improve the relationship between human society and nature, through building a clean and sustainable world in which all life thrives. My journey through academic study, and now the early stages of my career, has been a process of discovering the best path for me to fully realise this aspiration.
At high school I had some great role models, including Samara Nicholas, the founding director of Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR); Sir Peter Blake Emerging Leader 2005 and NZAEE Seaweek “Ocean Champion” 2018. Samara inspired me to take action on environmental issues and provided me with opportunities to get involved in hands-on marine conservation. For example, attending the Department of Conservation’s annual biodiversity conference and volunteering as a snorkel guide for EMR community guided snorkel days. I have maintained my relationship with EMR to this day and currently work part time as an EMR coordinator, guiding snorkelling experiences at some of the most remote and beautiful locations in New Zealand.
In my undergraduate years at university I studied a range of subjects alongside my major in ecology and biodiversity. These included chemistry, psychology, statistics and biomedical science. All of these subjects provided important insights and enabled the development of a wide range of transferable skills.
In my final year of undergraduate study, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in marine science; however, I also had a strong interest in biochemistry. This led to my application for a BayerBoost environmental scholarship in conjunction with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). My relationship with the Royal Society Te Apārangi developed as a direct result of this project.
My BayerBoost project involved studying marine microbial processes in the Wellington harbour and along Wellington’s southern coastline. These microbial processes are pivotal in the regulation of large scale biogeochemical cycles. Hence, understanding microbial processes is key to determining any impact environmental stressors, such as pollution, might have on the functioning of these biogeochemical processes.
Exposure to the forefront of scientific research I gained through my project was an eye-opening and empowering experience. Following on from my BayerBoost project, I had the opportunity to sit on the BayerBoost scholarship selection panel. This was a great opportunity to interact with top scholars from around the country and gain further insight into the important world of scientific research funding.
The year following my BayerBoost project I completed a Masters degree in marine biology. This was generously supported through a number of scholarships including a Victoria University of Wellington Masters by Thesis scholarship, a Freemasons University Scholarship, a J L Stewart Postgraduate Scholarship, an Alison Morton Scholarship in Ecology & Marine Biology and a Victoria Graduate Award. My Masters thesis explored metabolic functioning in the cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis and how the relationship responds to environmental stressors, e.g. temperature. Understanding metabolic processes in this system is important for improving our understanding of how coral reefs may respond to increased sea surface temperatures associated with predicted climate change scenarios.
Throughout my studies I maintained an interest in social change psychology and other environmental sciences. As such, some close friends and I founded a social enterprise aimed at bringing healthy and sustainably produced food to more New Zealanders. This organisation was subsequently selected to participate in the ‘Live the Dream' social enterprise incubator. This enabled us to further explore the opportunities for our organisation and receive advice from experts in the fields of law, finance, politics, psychology, business and more. I put my Masters on hold for three months to pursue this opportunity. The experiences we had and the inspiring people we met along the way have proven immensely valuable.
I currently work as an ecology consultant with a New Zealand-based environmental and planning consultancy. I’m situated in an idyllic location on the Tutukaka Coast, the coastline along which I originally explored the wonders of the marine world. Consulting is intellectually stimulating, challenging and rewarding work. My day to day activities include undertaking scientific surveys in a range of environments (e.g forests, rivers, intertidal areas and on the open ocean), analysing data and preparing reports. All of this work is undertaken with a range of social, economic, political and environmental factors in mind, and importantly, an understanding of their interconnectedness.
It's been a great journey so far and I look forward to many more adventures to come as I continue with my personal contribution towards a more thriving and sustainable world for all.