Year 1 Environmental Management student Kyla Moengaroa Sherbanowski won the Best Overall Poster award at the recent New Zealand Coastal Society (NZCS) Conference held in Invercargill for the first time.
A nationally recognised professional body, the theme for this year’s conference was “Life on the Edge – Mataora kei runga i te Tapàtai”.
Environmental Management Programme Manager Dr Christine Liang said she thought the theme was quite fitting with the magnificent coasts, fiords, and islands to be found in this province.
The conference provides a chance for New Zealand coastal professionals, academics and students, community groups, policy makers, and iwi to share their knowledge as well as latest projects and research.
During the conference, three awards are given out to presenters, as selected by a panel of expert judges. These awards include: Best Student Oral Presentation, Best Overall Oral Presentation, and Best Overall Poster, said Christine.
“Whereas the oral presentation awards are split into Student and Overall, there is only one poster award and entrants can be students as well as professionals.
“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 so impressed by the calibre of Kyla’s work as an undergraduate researcher.
Beating out industry professionals and seasoned academics, Kyla’s research is a collaboration with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and is supervised by Christine and Dr Catherine Peters, Senior Ranger Biodiversity at DOC.
Kyla also won the NZCS Undergraduate Excellence Award scholarship.
In 2017 and throughout 2018, Kyla started volunteering her weekends with Project Island Song in the Bay of Islands.
She loved it so much, that during her last year in high school she completed a work placement there.
“This placement helped me understand more about conservation and the work that was happening in the Bay of Islands, specifically Urupukapuka Island.
She was then given the opportunity to work on Urupukapuka Island as a Department of Conservation Summer Ranger, and this was when she realised her passion for the conservation and preservation of New Zealand’s environment.
Now Kyla has almost completed her first year studying Environmental Management at SIT.
She loves the course and says it is the best decision she has made.
“All the opportunities that are given to us as students are amazing and I urge anyone and everyone to jump onto this course.”
“The papers are so relevant and interesting (in my opinion the Environmental law papers were my favourite) but also challenging which is a good sign.”
Initially when asked to put forward an entry for the NZCS Conference competition, Kyla thought she was simply putting together a proposal for her third year research project.
“It was only on the day of the presentation, was I told that I had won a scholarship!
“The Head of Department of Environmental Management (Christine) and I were discussing volunteering opportunities for the first year students and she mentioned that the New Zealand Coastal Society were holding a conference that we could help out at.
“She then told me I should do a poster presentation, so I went online, found a topic that aligned with my idea and started to write.”
Her poster investigates current legislative action to mitigate vessel-dolphin interaction, in particular the effect it is having on the coastal Bottlenose dolphin populations in the Bay of Islands.
“Findings will provide information on a localised and scientific level, on whether legislative action and authority presence on marine tourism, influences the Terehu populations in the Bay of Islands,” Kyla said.
She was shocked when she found out she had won the scholarship as she didn’t realise her Head of Department (Christine) had nominated her.
“I nominated Kyla for a NZCS scholarship, and she got it,” said Christine.
“The scholarship is called the NZCS Undergraduate Excellence Award and is for students that have demonstrated academic excellence as well as a passion for coastal science and management.
“This is so well-deserved and I am very proud of her.”
Kyla was also surprised to win the Best Overall Poster award as she didn’t realise it was even a category.
“First I didn’t know there was even a ‘best visual presentation’ and second I was up ‘against’ people that had their masters and PhD.”
Christine said it was the first time SIT students had attended the NZCS conference, but as it was being held in Invercargill, they decided to take up the opportunity.
“It was a really great learning experience and a chance for them to communicate their research to the public – we had four students present their research posters at the conference.”
She thought Kyla had done a great job with her poster but was aware that it was up against seasoned academics and council scientists, with entries from lecturers at large universities and organisations like Auckland City Council.
“Kyla is also doing quality research that she is so passionate about and I think that passion really came across in her research poster and helped her stand out from the rest.
“She is a keen, hard-working student and I was really happy that her efforts had paid off, and that she was being recognised for all her hard work.”
Here is a photo and you can also read her poster abstract. Her award and scholarship are also in this week’s NZCS digest: https://engineeringnewzealand.cmail20.com/t/ViewEmail/t/9278B956EA5E9B6C2540EF23F30FEDED/1F771F21AD55BFDFD08BC3D516CA522B