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Hokimate Harwood

Hokimate Pamela Harwood (Ngāpuhi) is a Bicultural Science Researcher at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Hokimate Harwood

What do you do on an average work day?
I conduct archival and records research on taonga Māori collection items. As part of my PhD studies I also do research which is based on the history and language of Māori feather cloaks. I use light microscopy to identify the origins of feathers and hair in artifacts. 

What did you study at school? And after high school?
At high school I studied Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, and Biology, and they were all my favourite subjects particularly Chemistry and Mathematics. This is on top of other compulsory subjects like English, Social Studies and Physical Education, which I also liked because I was good at sports. At university I initially studied Chemistry, Mathematics, Zoology, Anthropology, and later Ecology, Conservation Biology and Environmental Science.

Was your study directly related to what you do now?
Very much so. The Zoology and Ecology papers in particular provided the sets of tools to undertake scientific research, as well as a good knowledge base in studying bird biology and microscopy which is now my core role.

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
Don’t be afraid of doing what you love to do. It is okay to not know exactly what you want to do in your career right now. It can be difficult to follow a career when there are certain expectations of what you should do. Listening to what other people tell you to do and not following what you want, will only mean you get half way down a career path and end up regretting it. If you select classes and courses that you are interested in, make sure you work hard and enjoy what you do, this will inevitably open doors for you later on. And finally, don’t give up even when (not if) things get difficult.

What are some of your career highlights so far?

  • Identifying the feathers in Te Papa’s Māori cloaks in 2007, it meant I got to use scientific tools to answer questions regarding Māori knowledge that has in turn opened up an opportunity for me to continue this research with my doctoral studies.
  • Giving a presentation at the Ethnobiology Conference in France in 2012, it was inspirational being around like-minded scientists and bridged the gaps between New Zealand and other countries around the world in terms of Māori bird knowledge.
  • Giving a talk to 120 five-six year olds on birds and bird conservation at a Wellington school in 2012, I asked them to dress up and behave like certain birds so that my talk was fun and educational for them, and most importantly they were able to participate.


Why do you believe engaging in STEM – whether it’s working in the field, studying it or just educating one’s self around the issues – is important to New Zealand?
Even though New Zealand is relatively small, we have a reputation for being innovative and courageous in terms of our research and outlook. It is important to create and maintain a supportive environment for nurturing undiscovered talent to ensure that we continue groundbreaking discoveries in these fields.

Why is is important to have more women working in STEM?
Women bring a different perspective to a problem, we provide a balance and use our intuition and logic in understanding how things work to provide solutions. Just like any work area, it is important to have various backgrounds, ethnicities and ages in a field.

Hokimate Pamela Harwood (Ngāpuhi) is a Bicultural Science Researcher at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

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