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Tara McAllister

Tara McAllister (Te Aitanga a Mahaki) is a PhD candidate in Freshwater Ecology at the University of Canterbury.

Anei ngā whakautu nā Tara i tuhi i te reo Māori. Tirohia ki raro mō ngā whakautu ki roto i te reo Pākehā (Here are Tara’s answers in te reo Māori. See below for English translations).

Tara McAllisterHe aha tō mahi ia rā, ia rā?

Mēnā ko te raumati, ka haere ahau ki ngā awa titiro ai ki ngā āhuatanga me ngā uri a Tangaroa. I whakaaro nui ahau e pā ana ki ngā take kāore ngā awa i te ora pai. I te hōtoke ka tuhi ahau i te tuhinga roa mō taku tohu kairangi.
 
I ako koe i te aha i te kura? I aha koe whai muri i te kura tuarua?

Nōku e tamariki ana kāore au i haere ki te kura i te nuinga o te wā. He tauira hautūtū ahau. I ētahi wā i haere kē ahau ki te whare o taku tane. Engari ka ngana ahau kia pakeke ake ōku whakaaro, ā, kei te mōhio ahau mēnā ka pukumahi ahau ka taea e au te eke tētahi atu taumata.

Ko te pūtaiao tāku tino kaupapa ako ki te kura tuarua nā te mea e ngākaunuitia ana te taiao e au. Nā Tangaroa i whakatō te kakano pūtaiao ki roto i a au. I a au i te Whare Wānanga o Wikitoria, i whaia e au te tohu pūtaiao, waihoki i oti i a au ētahi pepa reo Māori ki reira.

He ōrite tāu mahi i taua wā ki tāu mahi o ināianei?

Āe. I haere tonu ahau ki te ara whai mātauranga pūtaiao.

He aha āu kupu hei āwhina i ngā rangatahi wahine e whakaaro ana ki tā rātou mahi mō te wā kei mua i te aroaro? 

Me whai koe i te ara tika māu, te ara e whakahikaka ana i a koe. Ahakoa ngā piki me ngā heke haere tonu. Mahia te mahi.
 
He aha ngā painga o te umanga e whāia ana e koe? 

Tōku waimārie hoki nā te mea i ngā raumati e mahi ana ahau ki te taha o ngā awa, rā atu, rā mai. He hononga tēnei ki a Papatūānuku. Kātahi anō au ka hoki mai ki Aotearoa, mai i tāwahi. I haere au ki Ūropi mō tētahi hui mō ngā awa me ngā roto te take. I tērā tau i haere hoki ahau ki Amerika mō tētahi atu kaupapa hei whakaatu i tāku mahi rangahau.
 
He aha a STEM (pūtaiao, hangarau, pūkaha, pāngarau) e whai take ana ki Aotearoa?
 
Mā te pūtaiao me te kaitiakitanga e whakaora ai a Papatūānuku. Ānei tētahi whakataukī hei whakatinana i ōku whakaaro e pā ana ki tēnei take. Toitū te marae a Tāne, Toitū te marae a Tangaroa, Toitū te iwi. Mēnā kei raro te wai e puta ana, kei raro hoki tātou e putu ana.

He aha te take me whai wāhi ngā wāhine ki STEM?

Ko te iwi Māori ngā kaipūtaiao tuatahi o Aotearoa. Engari, ruarua noa iho ngā kaipūtaiao Māori ināianei, ā, ki ōku nei whakaaro, ehara i te mea me haere ko ngā wāhine anake ki STEM. Me whai wāhi ngā wāhine Māori ki STEM ka tika, hei tauira mō te whakatipuranga kei te heke mai nei.

Tara doing sea research

 

What do you do on an average work day?

If its summer, I will be hanging out in rivers, doing experiments. I am usually pondering the reasons why our rivers are not healthy. In winter I work on writing my PhD thesis.
 
What did you study at school? And after high school?

When I was a child, I didn’t always go to school. I was a mischievous student. But when I actually tried my ideas changed and I realised that I had the ability to achieve well if I applied myself.

Science was my favourite subject at school because I loved the environment. The ocean initiated my love of science, as a child I was fascinated by Tangaroa and everything within him. When I went to Victoria University of Wellington I did a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology, as well as some te reo Māori papers.

Was your study directly related to what you do now?

Yes, I have continued to pursue and gain scientific knowledge. But rather than working in the marine environment I am working in freshwater. 

Tara dissecting a fish

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?

Pursue the path that is right for you, the one that excites you. Even though there will be bumps along the road, keep going and do the work.
 
What are some of your career highlights so far?

I am super lucky to be able to work outside in rivers each summers day, it is my connection to Papatūānuku.  I have just returned home from Europe, where I went to a conference about rivers and lakes. Last year I also got to go to America for another conference, where I presented my research.

Why do you believe engaging in STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) is important to New Zealand?

Science and kaitiakitanga has the potential to heal Papatūānuku. Here is a whakataukī (proverb) that represents my thoughts on this issue: Toitū te marae a Tāne, Toitū te marae a Tangaroa, Toitū te iwi (If the marae of Tāne and Tangaroa are sustained then the people will be healthy). But if water is unhealthy, we will also be unhealthy.
 
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?

Māori were the first scientists in Aotearoa, but now there are not many Māori scientists.

In my opinion, we don’t just need to encourage women into STEM, it is only right that Māori women should be a part of STEM as an example for the next generation.

Tara doing mahi with colleague

Tara McAllister (Te Aitanga a Mahaki) is a PhD candidate in Freshwater Ecology at the University of Canterbury. You can follow her on Twitter at @taramcallister4. Read more about her research on her University of Canterbury profile.

This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.

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