Master of Science (Research) student
Bachelor of Science in Applied Conservation and Marine Biology
She has always had a passion for the ocean, says Ashleigh McNie who completed a Bachelor of Science in Applied Conservation and Marine Biology in 2019, and is currently enrolled in a Master of Science (Research).
“I chose to study marine biology at university as I was working as a dive instructor at the time and have long been passionate about the ocean. During my undergraduate degree, I found out about marine biogeochemistry through a couple of my oceanography courses. This opened up a whole new area in understanding the ocean and marine life which I loved learning about.”
While she has had plenty of highlights throughout her time at AUT, one experience stands out: being able to go to the Solomon Islands for a research project.
“During the summer of 2019/ 2020, I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to do research in the Solomon Islands. That was an amazing opportunity in learning how to plan and complete a research project from start to finish. I was also able to learn about other disciplines like GIS, and managed to get some good one-on-one teachings while we were over in the Solomons.”
Inspiring research opportunities
For her master’s degree research, Ashleigh is focusing on the effects of seawater carbonation on the coral-seawater proton exchange and the quantum yield of fluorescence.
“The effect of seawater carbonation on corals is a well-researched area, however there are many missing areas in the research. With improvements in technology and research techniques we’re learning more about how coral may respond to ocean acidification. For my research, I’ll be using microelectrodes to assess the coral-seawater proton exchange in different alkalinity and carbonation treatments in the tanks.
“Testing the effects of carbonation on the quantum yield of fluorescence will provide insights into the same effects on photosynthesis of the symbionts in corals. We’re using the pulse amplitude modulated fluorometry (PAM) meter to observe changes in the coral/symbiont photosynthesis under these environments. This is a great opportunity at this stage of my career as the methods and data evaluation with this machine can be used in many different fields of research. AUT has one of the only monitoring PAMs in the country so I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity.”
Ashleigh’s research is being supervised by Dr Kay Vopel from AUT’s School of Science.
The right university environment
The learning environment has been a highlight of Ashleigh’s studies at AUT.
“Throughout my studies at AUT I’ve felt like there’s a great sense of community with staff and other students. I had always heard stories about universities being very competitive and there being a great divide between different levels of academia. However, I’ve always felt very supported by students and staff.”
She has no hesitation to recommend AUT’s science programmes to other students.
“I’d definitely recommend the science programmes to others. I had never thought I would even go to university, but I’ve enjoyed my time at AUT so much that I plan on continuing in academia after I finish my master’s degree.”