Community conservation for ākonga

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Level 4 Conservation ākonga Katelyn McNamara can put her learning into practice thanks to a new community agreement with the Department of Conservation. The agreement allows WITT Te Pūkenga conservation students to do practical assessments at Rātāpihipihi Scenic Reserve in New Plymouth.

As part of Katelyn’s 30-week Level 4 Certificate in Conservation (Operations), she has mapped the reserve, used GPS coordinates to place monitoring tunnels and subsequent traps. She has then gone on to clear traps, record the results and create a management plan for the area that she will present to stakeholders before finishing her studies in March this year.

“Thanks to the agreement I can gain really relevant experience, which was a huge attraction of the course for me,” says Katelyn.

The 22ha reserve has not been monitored before and it is conveniently located off Cowling Road, about 25 minutes from the classroom.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better real-life conservation spot for ākonga to get the hands-on learning that is an essential part of this course,” says WITT Te Pūkenga Conservation Tutor Georgina Ngametua.

Katelyn feels like she has discovered the field for her after initially working and training in horticulture.

“Nursery work sparked curiosity about plants and their relationship to ecology and through working with, and in the bush, I’ve discovered it is the right place to be for me,” says Katelyn.

She enjoys studying the way things are naturally and recommends the course to anyone interested in conservation. 

“It helps if you have an interest in life, enjoy looking around, look at what’s growing where and feel curious and passionate about the big picture.”

Upon graduation, Katelyn hopes to be a biodiversity ranger and would love to stay in Taranaki.

Being on the course and volunteering in the field has opened up opportunities and connections for Katelyn and tutor Georgina predicts she will get ‘snapped up’ in the growing field of conservation. 

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