MEGAN RANAPIA

Megan Ranapia has a career that reads as a dream career for many people, having the chance to dive around the beautiful New Zealand coastline and beyond.  A dream career like this didn’t simply fall into place, Megan worked hard to set herself up to work towards her dream from an early age, before beginning a 3 year degree in Environmental studies, majoring in Marine Science at BOP Polytechnic and AUT University when she left Trident High School.  The desire to learn about and protect our underwater world began with family diving holidays and Megan credits her father for introducing her to the idea that she could pursue a career in that field.  “I’m forever learning about the marine world, I feel like the more you study something, the more you realise that there’s so much you don’t know, which makes me want to keep pursuing new ideas and concepts” Megan says.

Megan had a great experience at Trident High School, where she played a lot of sports, namely volleyball, but she also tried out rowing, rugby, soccer and touch which Trident provided opportunities for.  Participating in these extramural activities helped Megan build self confidence (and kept her out of trouble). Trident also provided Megan the academic foundation that she needed to pursue her tertiary studies, she says she “wasn’t the smartest student or had the best grades, but what I do recall is my grades improving throughout the years, and gaining confidence in my ability to study marine science”.  Megan experienced great peers and teachers who she credits to this academic foundation. “I remember my art teacher Miss Scott, who gave me free reign to express my creative side, which is a nice release from doing more serious subjects. I’ll always remember how Mrs Scott-Jones improved my English 10-fold, I couldn’t stand English before I joined her class, probably because I was never good at spelling or grammar, but she knew how to push me (although I do still use spell check), and of course Ms Botha, she is so passionate about biology it resonated in her teaching which rubbed off on us students”.

Since graduating, Megan has had two jobs, first as an Aquarist at Kelly Tarltons Sea Life Aquarium, where she did a lot of aquarium design and set-ups, husbandry work and educating public.  The highlight for that job was interacting with the animals and developing the first commercial jellyfish breeding programme. Then an opportunity arose to go back to BOP Polytechnic to work with her tutors (now peers), as a Dive Technician and Tutorial Assistant for the Marine studies course. There are many highlights with the job - but the field trips are a stand out. The course is ‘very hands on’ which makes it different to all the other Marine Science courses delivered by more traditional Universities.  Megan supervises a 10 day field trip to remote islands off New Zealand, where students carry out underwater surveys, and she also takes second year students to Papua New Guinea as part of their Coral reef ecology paper, as well as a few smaller field trips to local regions. Megan says “the beauty of these field trips is getting to explore other parts of your country and the world, and that they allow you to interact with students in a non-classroom environment, which makes it a better learning and tutoring experience”.  


The course that allows Megan such wonderful opportunities as a technician and tutor gives students the opportunity to shine, who may not be able to do so in a classroom environment as easily. Students are assessed on not only how they perform academically, but also their work ethic, how they perform in a team environment, and how they handle sometimes strenuous activities.  “For me personally, being a female and Maori, I’d like to see more of us pursuing a career in science, there is an ever growing demand and greater collaboration with Western science and Maori knowledge to restore or better manage important marine environments and resources.

I think a big misconception about doing a diploma or degree in Marine science is that there is no work at the end of it, that’s not to say that everyone comes out straight away with a job, but there is plenty of opportunity out there and it is only getting bigger. Our marine environment is one of New Zealand’s most precious resources, and with increasing biosecurity threats, pressure on our fisheries, interests in aquaculture, coastal development, a booming tourism industry, and greater investment in scientific research, more and more of our graduates are getting careers in the Marine field.   Everyone knows everyone in the marine industry, so just treat your degree like one long job interview, because essentially, your tutors will be the ones writing a reference for you. Oh and never stop learning! If you are willing to show that you are keen and put in hard work, people will notice.

Having become more aware of the degradation our marine environment has faced and is still facing, I would like to pursue a career in ecological restoration. So I decided to do a MSc in Biological Sciences where my Masters thesis topic is looking at ‘Improving restoration success for the translocation of Mussels in Ohiwa Harbour”.  

We wish Megan all the best in her studies and look forward to an ongoing relationship with her as our students learn more about the fascinating and diverse area of Marine Sciences.  
 



 

Do you remember any influential or inspiring teachers from your time at Trident?

I had great teachers, I remember my art teacher miss Scott who gave me free reign to express my creative side, which is a nice release from doing more serious subjects. I’ll always remember how Miss Scott-Jones improved my English 10-fold, I couldn’t stand English before I joined her class, probably because I was never good at spelling or grammar, but she knew how to push me (although I do still use spell check), and of course Miss Botha, she was so passionate about biology it resonated in her teaching which rubbed off on us students.  

 

Can you tell us what type of student you were at school?

I played a lot of volleyball in my lunches and after school, so I guess that’s what I was known for. I was a bit shy as well, especially in my junior year, but like I said, I had great peers and teachers which made me come out of my shell more.

 

How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?

Since intermediate I knew I wanted to be a marine biologist or have something to do with the marine environment. My dad was probably a big influence, he is a keen diver and so our holidays were usually spent being in or near the ocean. My mum always supported me in whatever I decided to do, so having them encourage my passion, I believe is what drove me.

 

As a director of your firm, what have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?

N/A

 

Did you go straight from Trident to study marine biology ?

When I left high school I went straight into a 3 year degree in Environmental studies, majoring in Marine Science at BOP Polytechnic and AUT University. I knew since I was 12 that Marine Biology is what I wanted to pursue and since then, every decision I made, with regards to what papers I would do, to completing an Openwater SCUBA dive course at the age of 16, was all working towards that dream.

 

What led you/ inspired you to pursue a career in marine biology ?

I knew I wanted to work with animals or out in the environment, at first I wanted to be a vet or zoo keeper, until my dad proposed the idea of becoming a marine biologist when I was 12, I didn’t even know what that was then. Having been brought up near the ocean and spending time with my dad and uncles diving, I loved learning about it, and eventually that made me want to protect it. I’m still forever learning about the marine world, I feel like the more you study something, the more you realise that there’s so much you don’t know, which makes me want to keep persuing new ideas and concepts. Having become more aware of the degradation our marine environment has faced and is still facing, I would like to pursue a career in ecological restoration. So I decided to do a MSc in Biological Sciences where my Masters thesis topic is looking at improving restoration success for the translocation of Mussels in Ohiwa Harbour.

 

What are your career highlights?

Since graduating, I have had two jobs, first I was an aquarist at Kelly Tarltons Sea Life Aquarium, we did a lot of aquarium design and set-ups, husbandry work and educating public, the highlight for that job was interacting with the animals and developing the first commercial jellyfish breeding programme. Then an opportunity arose to go back to BOP Polytechnic to work with my tutors (now peers), as a Dive technician and Tutorial assistant for the Marine studies course. There are many highlights with the job, I guess the field trips are a stand out for me. It’s a very hands on course which makes it different to all the other Marine Science courses delivered by more traditional Universities. I supervise a 10 day field trip to a remote Islands off New Zealand, where students carry out underwater surveys, we also get to take second year students to Papua New Guinea as part of their Coral reef ecology paper, and there are a few smaller field trips we do to local regions. The beauty of these field trips is one, you get to explore other parts of your country and the world, and two, that they allow you to interact with students in a non-classroom environment, which makes it a better learning and tutoring experience.


What advice would you give to young women (and men) who wish to pursue a career in marine biology as you have done?

The beauty of our marine studies course, is that it gives students the opportunity to shine, who may not be able to do so in a classroom environment. With our students, we don’t just look at how they perform academically, we also look at their work ethic, how they perform in a team environment, and how they handle sometimes strenuous activities. For me personally, being a female and Maori, I’d like to see more of us pursuing a career in science, there is an ever growing demand and  greater collaboration with western science and Maori knowledge to restore or better manage important marine environments and resources. I guess to sum up, if you are willing to show that you are keen and put in hard work, people will notice. Everyone knows everyone in the marine industry, so just treat your degree like one long job interview, because essentially, your tutors will be the ones writing a reference for you. Oh and never stop learning!

 

Any further comments you would like to add would be wonderful!

I think a big misconception about doing a diploma or degree in Marine science is that there is no work at the end of it, that’s not to say that everyone comes out straight away with a job, but there is plenty of opportunity out there and it is only getting bigger. Our marine environment is one of New Zealand’s most precious resources, and with increasing biosecurity threats, pressure on our fisheries, interests in aquaculture, coastal development, a booming tourism industry, and greater investment in scientific research, more and more of our graduates are getting careers in the Marine field.

 

Thank you!

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MEGAN RANAPIA