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Source: University of Canterbury

24 February 2021

An 18-year-old with a passion for conservation is about to jump on board an ocean adventure to the subtropical Kermadec Islands.

  • University of Canterbury (UC) Engineering student Bethany Kaye-Blake is heading to the Kermadec Islands on a BLAKE Expedition.

Bethany Kaye-Blake, who is starting an Engineering degree at the University of Canterbury (UC), is one of 15 young New Zealanders taking part in a BLAKE Expedition (formerly Sir Peter Blake Trust) on HMNZS Canterbury.

Kaye-Blake (Ngāi Tahu), who grew up in Wellington, says taking part in the scientific research voyage to the Kermadecs is a once in a lifetime opportunity and she is excited and grateful to be going.

“I’ve travelled a bit but I’ve never spent much time on a boat or ship or been anywhere particularly remote so it’s a whole new experience. I’m really looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone.”

The two-week trip to New Zealand’s only subtropical marine system – one of only four pristine marine environments in the world – leaves from Auckland on 1 March.

The student crew, consisting of 15 high school and university students who have previously taken part in BLAKE Inspire programmes, will join a team of environmental leaders and scientists from Massey University, NIWA and Auckland Museum on the navy ship.

Kaye-Blake, who is not related to Sir Peter Blake, has been awarded the UC Horomata Scholarship this year as part of the University’s Emerging Leaders Development Programme. She attended the BLAKE Young Enviro Leaders Forum in 2018 and was a Wellington City Youth Councillor for four terms when she was a student at Queen Margaret College.

She hopes being a delegate on this expedition will help her understand some of the processes in place to protect the Kermadecs and how these can be applied to Aotearoa New Zealand’s environment and marine life.

“I’m also interested in the actual science and think this will be beneficial for the chemical aspects of my Engineering degree. The trip is also a leadership programme and so getting the opportunity to develop my skills and bring them back to my community will be really beneficial.”

Her long-term goal is to use her Engineering degree towards a career in environmental science.

“I’m not entirely sure what that will look like but I just know I love science and have a passion for protecting the environment.”

The Kermadec Islands | Rangitāhua are 1000km northeast of Aotearoa New Zealand and are a significant conservation area. They are the visible surface of a chain of about 80 volcanoes, stretching between Tonga and New Zealand. The current marine reserve, which is one of New Zealand’s largest and is abundant with marine life, was created in 1990 and covers 745,000 hectares.

Kaye-Blake has started a Givealittle Fundraising Campaign to cover the cost of the trip and pledges to spend an hour on a waterways clean-up project for every $200 donated: