Helen Ough Dealy

Helen Ough Dealy

Community Ranger, Bay of Islands/Pēwhairangi Office, Department of Conservation
Doctor of Philosophy candidate

Who will be the community conservationists in 2050 and is there a way of bolstering community conservation resilience? That’s the interesting topic Helen Ough Dealy is exploring through her PhD in applied conservation.

“I’m interested in whether hopeful people are more likely to be active community conservationists. I chose the topic as I work with community conservationists – individuals as well as formal and informal groups – through my role as a community ranger in the Bay of Islands.

“Many of them have been working successfully for 15 years or more, however their average age is 65ish. I want to know how their good work can be continued into the future when they’re no longer able to do it themselves.”

Balancing her PhD with her work for the Department of Conservation (DOC), Helen aims to complete her doctorate by the end of 2021. Once she finishes her studies she hopes to move from being a full-time DOC community ranger with the occasional secondment to carry out social sciences research to being a full-time social sciences researcher within the department.

Helen’s PhD research is supervised by Professor Michael Petterson and Dr Rebecca Jarvis from AUT’s School of Science.

A life-changing experience
In many ways a PhD is a life-changing experience, says Helen whose studies are supported by a three-year fees-free grant.

“I definitely recommend embarking on a PhD. It isn’t simply an academic challenge but hopefully also an indicator of resolving some of the issues facing, in my case, community-led conservation.

“I’m retraining my brain as well as developing related skills and practices to support me through to the end. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to develop my thoughts and ideas at my own speed, and I like knowing that I have a network of support that I can call upon as needed.”

For Helen, AUT offers the right environment for her doctoral studies.

“I particularly like AUT’s emphasis on cross-pollination of disciplines, and developing real-world solutions to real-world problems.”

Support for distance learning students
Based in the Bay of Islands, Helen appreciates the support available for distance learning students like herself.

“There is excellent and comprehensive support for distance students. The library and associated services have been very forgiving and understanding when books are a little past their due date. We only have three courier service days a week leaving Russell for Auckland, so sometimes it’s genuinely not my fault that books are late.

“The workshops and tutorials have also been a great help, and my supervisors have been flexible and accommodating. Face-to-face meetings, Skype calls, conference telephone calls, email correspondence and messaging – no form of communication seems to faze them.”

Her PhD journey hasn’t been without challenges, Helen admits.

“The biggest challenge has been Imposter Syndrome – I’m now three and a half years into the six-year part-time study and have only just found out that just about everyone else has similar feelings. Attending the writers’ retreat for doctoral students has helped by introducing me to others who feel similarly. Just knowing you’re not alone helps!”

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