Dr Christine Liang is the Programme Manager for the School of Environmental Management. An established researcher in her own right, in 2019 she supervised a number of student projects which went on to be recognised in a variety of forums.
Christine was a part of the organising committee for the New Zealand Coastal Society conference which was held in Invercargill in November. This is a national conference that brings together coastal professionals, academics and students, community groups, policy makers, and iwi. Christine was a co-author on three papers submitted by students on the Bachelor of Environmental Management degree at SIT.
Third year student Rhiannon Warren’s project provided a baseline study of Ulva Island’s intertidal macro-algae and macro-invertebrate species. ‘Rhiannon spent days counting over 3000 algae and small sea creatures on the shores of Ulva Island.’
Another third-year student, Niamh Edginton was co-supervised by two other SIT School of Environmental Management tutors, Anna Palliser and Claudia Gonnelli. Niamh’s project examined microplastic concentrations in Invercargill City Waterways. This study focused on two inner city streams with the analysis finding that 11 out of the 16 samples taken had the presence of microplastics. Christine is currently developing this project as a citizen science initiative that uses crowd- sourced data to quantify microplastics in waterways. ‘The goal is to present a simple and standardised approach that can be easily applied by other high school or tertiary students, empowering communities through environmental education and addressing the paucity of nationwide data through citizen science.’
Christine was very proud of all the students who were accepted to present at the conference, but she was especially delighted with the success of Kyla Sherbanowski. Kyla won the award for Best Overall Poster at the conference. This is particularly significant when you consider that she was participating alongside industry professionals and seasoned academics. ‘I believe it was a first for the society to award the prize to a first-year undergraduate student, as the award usually goes to a PhD researcher or council scientist or someone like that, but the selection committee was extremely impressed by the calibre of Kyla’s work as an undergraduate researcher,’ says Christine. Kyla’s research is being carried out in collaboration with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and is supervised by Christine and Dr Catherine Peters who is a Senior Ranger Biodiversity at DOC. Kyla also went on to win the Undergraduate Excellence Award scholarship offered by the New Zealand Coastal Society.
Kyla’s research is in its initial stages but is focused on the effects of legislation to mitigate human interactions with dolphins, namely bottlenose dolphin populations, or terehu, in the Bay of Islands. ‘While the population of terehu in the Bay of Islands is monitored by DOC, population fluctuations in response to the legislation, which came into effect in July 2019 and bans both private and commercial swimming with dolphins, has not yet been explored,’ explains Christine. ‘Kyla will gather data and compare this with previous population data analyses to see what the effect has been.’ Christine believes that the findings will be able to provide useful information on whether legislative action and authority presence in the area of marine ecotourism can make a difference for our endangered species.
‘Supervising student research is one of the most rewarding aspects of my teaching at SIT,’ says Christine. ‘The recognition shown at a national level shows the very high calibre of these projects.’