Master of Philosophy student
Postgraduate Diploma in Science
What exactly is in kauri soil and could it be a factor in causing kauri dieback? That’s the question Trupti Mohini is trying to answer through her Master of Philosophy research.
“Since moving to Aotearoa, I’ve noticed many parallels between Māori and Indian culture, notably the importance placed on nature and the elements. I also came to learn about the significance of the kauri tree; not only as a treasure to Māori culture but also as a keystone species in New Zealand’s economy and ecosystem. However, kauri populations are under threat from ‘kauri dieback’, a disease caused by the oomycete Phytophthora agathidicida.
“The reasons for the occurrence of kauri dieback, despite the natural defences of kauri trees, remain unknown. Contributing factors may include the physical and chemical properties of the soil, which drive the soil microbial community structure surrounding kauri trees. This in turn may affect tree health, which has repercussions on the wider ecosystem. My master’s degree research aims to correlate the physicochemical properties of the soil with the presence or absence of kauri dieback symptoms in kauri forests.”
Supported by a New Zealand Forest Research Institute Ltd Scholarship and supervised by Associate Professor Donnabella Lacap-Bugler, Trupti’s research has also given her the opportunity to connect with others trying to save New Zealand’s iconic trees.
“Through my research, I’ve also become involved with Ngā Rākau Taketake, a government-funded programme led by the BioHeritage Challenge, which aims to save our iconic trees. The Ngā Rākau Taketake programme has given me the opportunity to meet fellow researchers and professors from other universities as well as experts and leaders in the field.”
For Trupti, enrolling in AUT’s postgraduate science programmes marks an important step towards a long-held goal.
“I gained a master’s degree in microbiology in India back in 1994. Ever since then, I’ve had a passion for research and teaching, and wanted to study further for a PhD degree and pursue a career in academics. However, after migrating to New Zealand with two young kids the circumstances were not quite right for me to achieve this goal. In 2020, after 26 long years, I finally embarked on the journey to accomplish my dream.”
She quickly realised that AUT offered the right university environment to work towards her goal of completing a PhD, says Trupti who started her AUT journey with a Postgraduate Diploma in Science before starting her Master of Philosophy.
“I attended the AUT open day, AUT LIVE, and was immediately drawn to the friendly and supportive environment. More importantly, I could tell that the lecturers and professors had the breadth and depth of knowledge to help me, no matter what my field of research turned out to be.”
Advice for other students
Trupti’s advice for other students is to stay determined, especially if you’re returning to study after a bit of a gap.
“Having jumped into research after such a long time away from university, I came across a lot of new technology, faced a large age difference with many of my peers, and of course had to deal with the challenges presented by COVID-19. My advice to other students is to stay determined – anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”
Despite these challenges, she wouldn’t hesitate to recommend AUT’s science programmes to other students.
“I’d definitely recommend postgraduate study in science. There’s always lots of research going on and there are plenty of opportunities to study a wide variety of subjects. I’ve really enjoyed meeting other postgraduate students who are researching a range of interesting topics. Best of all, the professors and technical staff are all amazing and extremely helpful.”