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Student story

Hunter Harrill

20 July 2023

"I've just finished my PhD but I still have a lot to learn and that's pretty exciting..."


PhD in Forestry

Research Assistant, University of Canterbury

Hunter is in no doubt that his future career will make him happy and satisfied.

"I hope that one day I can look back and say that I worked internationally and helped people harvest their forests in a safe and sustainable manner, and that the management of the forests provided benefits to the wider community.

"I've just finished my PhD but I still have a lot to learn and that's pretty exciting," he adds.

Hunter is from Monterey, California, USA, and says an office career was never on the cards for him.

"I worked a few summers in the filing department at my mother's bank and decided I never wanted to work in a cubicle again! Some of the best days of my career so far have been when I would spend eight hours a day hiking around the bush with my dog, investigating sites, measuring trees and mapping streams."

Hunter completed degrees in forestry in California, which gave him a taste of operational research.

"For my bachelor's I studied the effects of salvage logging after wildfires and for my master's I compared different ways of harvesting wood waste for the production of renewable electricity."

Keen to follow this by investigating technological advances in the industry, and curious about what it would be like to live in another country, Hunter decided that New Zealand presented the ideal next move for him.

"I travelled a lot as a child, and had always wanted to go to New Zealand. I had a strong interest in rugby and found that the New Zealand forestry industry was enjoying a period of success compared to home, where we faced tough times following the global financial crisis."

Hunter was awarded the TW Adams scholarship for postgraduate Forestry students, and, later won a UC Doctoral scholarship.

"My research work at UC has provided me an opportunity to co-host a few logging industry workshops and study some of the newest and innovative equipment being developed here in New Zealand. I've been invited to speak at various national forestry conferences and in 2013 I travelled to Montana to speak at the annual Council on Forest Engineering meeting."

Hunter says that life in New Zealand has been a great experience.

"It's been easier than I thought it would be. There was lots of support from the first day I arrived. I got a bank account the first day, and a bike and house the first week. I thought it would be difficult to make friends but there were so many friendly people on and off campus and enough clubs and activities to support any interest."

There has also been as much rugby as he could wish for.

"I've been a Crusaders season ticket holder for five years now, and I got to go to the Rugby World Cup, something I never dreamed was possible when I was living in the States.

"In my spare time, top of my list of favourite things to do are tramping, fishing and exploring anything else outdoors with my partner and dog. Christchurch has good access to the outdoors, and all the other activities that come with living in a city make studying at UC a well-rounded experience."

Hunter now works as a research assistant at the School of Forestry, where he also provides outreach services to the School's industry partners, lectures and mentors undergraduates.

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