Shaye Va

Shaye Va

Sustainability Advisor, Watercare Services Limited
Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences and Marine Biology

Her love of the ocean is what encouraged her to study science at university, says Shaye Va who completed a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences and Marine Biology.

“I always had a connection to the ocean, which is why I chose to study a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology. I added the Environmental Science major after I saw the impacts of climate change on the Pacific Islands. I chose to study at AUT after I did the UniPrep programme because I liked AUT’s inclusive environment and the number of field work projects where science students and staff work alongside the Department of Conservation.

“I loved being surrounded by likeminded people who are willing to help others, and the field trips and hands-on experience were so enjoyable. I realised that studying at AUT was more of a marathon and not a race, which is why it was never a competition because we all had a common goal of sustaining the future resources for our communities.”

Listening to her lecturers was eye-opening, says Shaye whose achievements at AUT include receiving a Fulton Hogan Family Scholarship and an AUT Edge Special SEEK Volunteering prize, and completing the AUT Edge Award.

“Hearing about the experiences of my lecturers and my tutor really opened my eyes to how many opportunities and avenues there are in the environment and marine space, not only in New Zealand but also overseas. Their teachings were straightforward and direct, which motivated me to do my best. They really nurtured and cared about our education, and encouraged me to showcase my identity in every journey.”

A rewarding career
After graduating from AUT in 2020, Shaye joined Watercare Services Limited as an environmental graduate, before moving into the role of sustainability advisor. She enjoys being involved in one of the largest projects in New Zealand; the Central Interceptor Project.

“No two days are the same in this role – I could be in the office providing support through consenting and planning in the environmental team, be on site where construction is happening or work on community and ecological enhancement projects. Having that balance between office work and hands-on experience has expanded my curiosity and shown me there are no limitations to what I can do.”

In her role she constantly draws on the skills she developed throughout her time at university.

“The critical thinking and analytical skills developed through AUT are what I use in every piece of work; no matter the task. This has enabled me to ask questions, provide suggestions and think of new ideas. Reading and writing concisely has also taken me a long way. Although it's something people may not think is important now, it really is a powerful skill. Articulating ourselves to others makes a big difference, especially while working on projects or liaising with stakeholders and the community.”

A need for more Māori and Pacific scientists
Shaye – who is of Samoan and Tongan heritage – wants to encourage other Māori and Pacific students to study science.

“Throughout my years at AUT there weren’t many Māori and Pacific people within the science space. However, with the severe impact climate change has on our country and on the islands back home, I definitely recommend this pathway for Māori and Pacific students to connect with our whenua and moana, and help sustain our natural resources for future generations.

“I know science can be a scary subject, especially for many Māori and Pacific people, but together we can break those barriers and unite to create change.”