Joanna Pawson

'I was inspired from my very first lecture to go places with Geology...'

  • Joanna Pawson

(Ngāti Kahungunu Ki Wairarapa)

Bachelor of Science in Geology

Master of Science in Geology

Graduate Engineering Geologist, Coffey Geotechnics

Before going back to UC for her postgraduate studies in Geology, Jo spent some time in Banda Aceh in Indonesia volunteering in the recovery effort after the 2004 tsunami.

‘Whilst living in Aceh I experienced the rebuild of a region rife with corruption but also full of passionate people willing to make bold choices for their country. This inspired me to gain internationally recognised skills transferable to the geothermal energy sector – an industry with huge potential for sustainable resource use worldwide,’ she says.

The experience translated well to her role during study with Southern Geophysical, being a part of projects with the rebuild of Christchurch.

‘Surveys such as MASW (multichannel analysis of surface waves), GPR (ground penetrating radar) and EM (electromagnetic) allow us to understand the substrate and make educated decisions regarding the strength of the ground,’ she says. ‘The best thing about this job was spending time outside in some of the most diverse and interesting areas of New Zealand, and being a part of the fundamental design of projects both large and small.’

Jo continued on with Christchurch rebuild support after graduating, at her current role with Coffey Geotechnics as a Graduate Engineering Geologist.

Originally choosing to study at UC was a straightforward choice for Jo.

‘I live for the outdoors, and so my choice of university had to reflect that. What drew me to the University of Canterbury was its reputation for quality science education, especially in the field of Geology. I was inspired from my very first lecture to go places with Geology and have held my unwavering fascination in the subject throughout my degree – mostly due to the endless possibility of application from a fascinating subject.’

Jo has made a point of sharing her passion by becoming a tutor and lab demonstrator for undergrad Geology courses at UC. She was also a Māori Student Mentor (Tuākana) helping new students begin their studies at university.

‘This is a great way to meet new people and promote all the awesome opportunities the campus has to offer,’ she says. ‘There is so much support at this university – all you have to do is ask and there will be a system in place or a resource available to you. I love that UC pushes for diversity in people. There are countless opportunities to join clubs or volunteer organisations which encourage not just academic success but individual diversity.’

Jo’s time at UC was also a success, with a number of scholarships and opportunities under her belt. During undergraduate study, Jo received a UC Summer Scholarship to study geothermal sampling methods at the Rotokawa geothermal field. For her academic results she received the Rose Hellaby Bursaries Scholarship and the NZ Federation of Graduate Women Trust Board Master’s Scholarship. Jo has also recently received a Ngāi Tahu Research Centre Postgraduate Scholarship.

Jo’s master’s research investigated methane flux from ultramafic rocks in New Zealand, leading to some exciting adventures out in the field.

‘I researched the interaction between the rock, surface water and atmosphere from an exposed ophiolite outcrop in the Nelson Lakes region. This involves manoeuvring steep 4WD roads and hiking in spectacular backcountry areas taking measurements and samples for lab analysis.

‘My field skills were developed through undergraduate field trips, which are an amazing opportunity to experience New Zealand’s diverse geological environment and to build lasting friendships at the same time,’ she says.

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