The Society aims to take an active role in promoting freshwater sciences in New Zealand, also to students and teachers.
Why I chose a career in freshwater science?
As a youngster I recall having a real interest in nature with a not unusual apprenticeship of collecting shells, gem stones, dissecting possums, growing native trees from seed and poking around in rock pools. As a teenager, I moved on and found some old flippers, cut the sides out to fit my feet and with rocks in my jeans I proceeded to explore life under water. I soon bought a wet suit, weight belt and some scuba gear and life took on a whole new meaning. In 1971, during third year Botany at Auckland University, underwater plants in lakes became a passion and this led to a PhD on Lake Rotoma. Before long, I was working on national weed management issues around NZ, but the fascinating thing for me was I had the chance to further a passion for underwater plants. On the one hand freedom to advise on how to manage and destroy; on the other the chance to explore our unique underwater native flora. My career around underwater plants has encompassed all manner of lakes; ranging from braille dives in zero visibility finding the occasional dead beast, to 70 metre dives studying internationally rare deep water bryophytes. I’ve been known for my passion for native charophytes (Chara & Nitella spp.), which led to me naming my daughter Chara and as irony would have it a new charophyte, Nitella claytonii, was later named after me.
Growing up with New Zealand’s outdoors as my “playground” instilled a desire to enjoy and preserve our amazing resources. Weekends were spent sailing on Wellington harbour and holidays camping beside New Zealand’s pristine rivers and lakes. “Us kids” were always intrigued by the tiny critters clinging to the rocks and we dared each other to swim in the coldest water, despite the large lurking eels! Through university I followed my passions taking just about every biology course offered and I graduated with a degree in marine biology. At the outset of my PhD I stumbled upon the wonderful world of freshwater algae and was immediately captured by their diversity, intricate structures and their crucial role in freshwater systems. I was excited by the opportunity to understand the role of these tiny organisms in freshwater ecosystems and to identify how human actions could cause their proliferation. It’s very rewarding working in the New Zealand freshwater science community and being surrounded by so many brilliant researchers with a genuine passion and desire to maintain and restore New Zealand’s freshwater resources.
I’ve always been fascinated by water. The Tukituki River hooked me as a kid trying to catch its trout and generally mucking about. The river’s sounds, smells and secrets lured me, and I wanted to learn more to be able to help to look after rivers. Otago University gave me the grounding and encouragement to have a crack at turning this interest into a career. I wanted to do something that would be challenging and make a positive difference. After a few years working on water management, I did my doctorate at Massey University on attempts to solve Manawatu River’s problems with “sewage fungus” and associated oxygen depletion. This involved collaborating with industry and the local government in problem solving. I found this mix very satisfying, and my career at NIWA has allowed me to continue doing interesting science to help manage the ongoing challenges that watery places face from human pressures. Aquatic ecologists provide key parts of the puzzle of how to be effective kaitiaki. It’s a good way to spend your days.