Vanessa Cocal-Smith

Vanessa Cocal-Smith

Master of Science student
Bachelor of Science in Geoscience and Geospatial Science

Science has always fascinated her, says Vanessa Cocal-Smith who completed a Bachelor of Science in Geoscience and Geospatial Science, and is now enrolled in a Master of Science in Geospatial Science.

“I’ve always been drawn to science as there are so many mysteries and problems to solve. The reason I decided to come to AUT was the study options offered here. After attending the AUT open day, I was quite interested in geospatial science, especially the work that was being conducted with the drones and 3D visualisations.

“For me, studying geoscience and geospatial science was the perfect combination because these majors blend the natural world with modern technology. Throughout my studies I’ve continued to incorporate drone imagery and 3D visualisations in my research, including creating 3D outcrop models of coastal cliffs and 3D virtual rock models from epithermal deposits.”

A passion for research
Vanessa says completing a research project in the final year of her Bachelor of Science inspired her to continue doing research.

“I’ve really enjoyed doing research throughout my studies at AUT. I wanted to develop further skills using geographical information systems and enrolled in the Master of Science in Geospatial Science because it has many great options to gain valuable industry skills, including programming, learning new software such as Reality Capture and ESRI applications for app development and ESRI enterprise.”

Geoheritage and geoconservation are areas she is particularly passionate about.

“Over the summer of 2020/2021 I had the opportunity to do a summer studentship research project in collaboration with the Thames School of Mines and Mineralogical Museum. For this project, I created 3D virtual rock models of specimens representing epithermal gold mineralisation in the Hauraki Goldfield.

“I was intrigued to find that there weren’t that many studies conducted on geoconservation and even fewer on geoheritage in New Zealand, where we have so much geodiversity. These are research areas I’m currently pursuing.”

The right university environment
She would highly recommend both geoscience and geospatial science at AUT, says Vanessa who is of Pakeha, Māori and Filipino descent.

“Both majors are hands-on and give you the skills to go into industry jobs straight out of university. The field trips in the geoscience papers enable you to see the variety of geological landscapes you get in New Zealand, exploring volcanoes, coastal cliffs, islands and gold mines. The geospatial papers give you experience in the variety of uses for GIS, working with aerial imagery and performing analysis.”

The atmosphere at AUT has been one of the things she has enjoyed most about her time at university.

“I like that the academic staff are approachable and always have your best interest at heart. I’ve also been given great opportunities to excel at AUT, including my summer studentship award and a teaching assistant role.”

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