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Lakes380 role an eye-opener for Blake Ambassador

Caption - Blake Ambassador Soltice Morrison with a sediment core.

Caption - Blake Ambassador Soltice Morrison with a sediment core.

For Blake Ambassador Soltice Morrison, being part of the Lakes380 team at GNS over summer has helped shape her thoughts on which direction to take her career. Soltice (Te Arawa, Tainui and originally from Rotorua) took leave from her job as a Contaminated Land Specialist with Aurecon in Wellington to undertake the Ambassador programme.

She returned to her ‘day job’ with Aurecon last week with fond memories of GNS Science, the large Lakes380 team, and the helicopter fieldwork she undertook when sampling alpine lakes in the Queenstown area.

As part of the Lakes380 team, Soltice also participated in fieldwork and community knowledge-sharing events in Wairarapa and Rotorua, as well as lab work at the National Isotope Centre. She feels very lucky to have received an ambassadorship with such a variety of work and with such a collaborative team.

“One of my motivations in applying for the Blake Ambassador role was that it was linked to the Lakes380 project. The experience has allowed me to gain valuable environmental skills which I hope to use to guide future lake restoration efforts.”

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I enjoyed the conversations I had with the many scientists I worked with. It’s given me a clearer idea of what avenue I’d like to pursue in my post-graduate aspirations.

Solstice Morrison

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At one of the NIC labs she helped prepare and analyse the lake sediment cores using a hyperspectral scanner. It produces high-resolution images of the cores to help in understanding the environmental history of the lakes. “Every centimetre of the cores is subjected to multiple analyses, so there were a lot of samples and results to keep track of. Seeing the tephra layers from the Tarawera eruption in the Rotorua cores was one of those special moments.

“The beauty of this project is that it starts with collecting sediment cores from the lakes, then we bring them back to the lab, do the analysis, and then share the findings with iwi and community groups. Every stage is carefully planned and executed to the highest level.“

Since completing her honours degree in geology and oceanography at Otago University, Soltice has been thinking about starting a PhD and the ambassadorship had helped to crystallise her thoughts on furthering her academic work. 

“I enjoyed the conversations I had with the many scientists I worked with. It’s given me a clearer idea of what avenue I’d like to pursue in my post-graduate aspirations.”

GNS participated in the Blake Ambassador programme for the first time this year. Nine people were selected to take part in this year’s programme to work with GNS Science, NIWA, and the Department of Conservation. The programme offers opportunities to contribute to important science and conservation projects while advancing the careers of the holders.

Even with her university and consulting experience, Soltice found it fresh and different to be part of a team doing ‘hard-core science’ week after week. “You can’t really compare university lab classes or consulting with six weeks of hard-core science.”

She was impressed by the many organisations that make up the Lakes380 project and the way they had worked together so well.

Her job at Aurecon is to undertake contaminated land and water investigations for clients around New Zealand. Typically this involves site investigations, environmental monitoring, and recommending remediation options. She enjoys her job, but misses research.

Soltice has a number of presentations planned, both internally and externally at Aurecon, where she will outline her experiences with GNS and the Lakes380 project.