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Micro-Organisms to Mountains: Environmental Study at SIT

With our world becoming increasingly concerned about how to protect and conserve our environment, there has never been a better time to become an expert in this area.

Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) student Raphael Karnuth has always had a passion for the environment, its biology and especially New Zealand’s native species. 

Living and studying in Southland has opened up many opportunities for Raphael and he has no regrets about enrolling in the Bachelor of Environmental Management at SIT. Prior to his study he had done some volunteer work with the Department of Conservation (D.O.C.) and found it to be something he was interested in pursuing.

The volunteer work included going to the bird island sanctuary on Tiritiri Matangi Island which lies in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand. There, he and other D.O.C. workers helped to maintain walking tracks, build bird aviaries and generally assist with keeping the birds happy.

This experience has come in handy since Raphael was chosen to be a student assistant working with the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust. This involved taking a helicopter to Codfish Island (Whenua Hou), which is located near Stewart Island. The tiny island is the centre for kakapo recovery in New Zealand and also a breeding ground for the yellow-eyed penguin.

Raphael describes it as an adventurous experience, which also gave him the opportunity to put into practice a lot that had been learned throughout his course. Being able to get out in the field is what it is all about and Raphael was involved in checking nests, mapping nest locations, inspecting penguins’ feather assemblage, beak and head size, as well as microchipping. 

All of this work is valuable research done to try and help increase the population of the native yellow-eyed penguin. As these penguins are notoriously shy and shouldn’t be approached by the public, being able to get in close proximity was a special experience for Raphael and the fact that there were 28 new chicks on the island was an added bonus.

Raphael made the decision to study at SIT due to the fact that the Bachelor of Environmental Management offers a focus on management but also a great deal of variety. He has covered a lot of information within this course and enjoys being able to get outdoors with field trips, such as one his class took to Mount Luxmore, near Te Anau.

“Field trips help to bring in the geology and earth science side of things so that it makes more sense outside of the classroom.”

Since starting his study at SIT, Raphael appreciates the environment and its intricacies a lot more. From micro-organisms to mountains, he enjoys understanding the interconnecting characteristics and how things operate and interact. Raphael appreciates the personal attention you are able to get from the tutors when in a small class and although he has found the course to be quite challenging, he concedes that if you put in the work, you get the right rewards.

Raphael has made numerous contacts within the industry. Class trips help with meeting people and he has also had the opportunity to work with other departments at SIT, including the music department. Music is a side interest for Raphael and he has been able to have a recording session with music students which has enabled him to explore his musical side as well as the environmental study.

SIT is a great place to explore your passions within a personal and inclusive environment and Raphael is making the most of every opportunity that comes his way.

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