GIS Analyst, New Zealand Carbon Farming
Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours) in Geospatial Information Systems
As part of the Steve Irwin generation, he has always been extremely aware of conservation issues, says Ellis Nimick who studied a Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours) in Geospatial Information Systems.
“I vividly remember a moment in 2015 when, during an influx of news stories regarding habitat loss and climate change, I felt really agitated that there seemed to be so few people actively contributing to the mitigation of these issues. Then I realised I didn’t really have the right to feel like that if I wasn’t actively contributing myself. The next month I visited AUT during its open day, AUT LIVE.
“At AUT LIVE, I quickly realised that the science lecturers and professors included some visibly passionate and impactful environmental scientists, ecologists and conservationists. They all had great stories to tell from the many organisations and projects they had been a part of, both here in New Zealand and overseas. As they discussed the fieldtrips, projects and research I would likely participate in while studying environmental sciences at AUT, it became clear that AUT’s science programme was the perfect starting point for my own environmental stories.”
Finding his passion
Choosing to major in geospatial information systems turned out to be a bit of eye-opener for Ellis.
“When I selected geospatial information systems as a major I had no idea what GIS was, but Dr Brad Case showed me how useful GIS can be for addressing many of the environmental issues we face here in New Zealand. He supervised me through both my undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations, each focused on using GIS to spatially-assess agro-ecosystems to utilise both agriculture and conservation practices within a farm landscape to the benefit of both. I’m extremely grateful to him for helping me realise my passion for this subject.”
He had plenty of highlights throughout his time at AUT.
“While at AUT I met my wonderful partner, my closest mates, my own little tramping team, and even my lecturers and mentors gradually became good friends. The School of Science is a community of so many passionate people, and it’s the best place to be if you want to share in those passions and interests.
“In my final year I also got to travel to a private pest-free island to help identify the native trees growing there, and a wild, confused Kiwi pecked my toe before running headfirst into a fence. Another highpoint for me was being awarded a summer scholarship, which involved working on a New Zealand-specific hyperspectral plant database for AUT. It was a really brilliant project, and not something I thought I’d ever get the opportunity to work on.”
Mitigating climate change
Since graduating at the end of 2019, Ellis now works as a GIS analyst at New Zealand Carbon Farming, using his understanding of geospatial information systems to help mitigate climate change by creating carbon regenerating forests.
“At New Zealand Carbon Farming, which is the largest New Zealand owner of planted forests, I support the team through the provision of mapping and associated GIS datasets. For the permanent carbon forest estate this includes assessing land to determine its capability for permanent carbon afforestation, and providing field maps and interactive webmaps for the team as it manages the long-term regeneration of the exotic nurse crop into a native forest.”
He loves applying the skills he developed during his time at AUT for the things he’s most passionate about.
“It’s incredibly fulfilling to know that I’m actively contributing to offsetting New Zealand’s CO2 emissions through my work. The work I do at New Zealand Carbon Farming is almost a perfect continuation to my final-year dissertation at AUT and the courses I did at AUT have all been relevant to my work to some extent, which feels like good luck.”