Charlotte Austin

'Working hands-on with animals and learning new skills is definitely a highlight...'

  • Charlotte Austin

Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences with an endorsement in Ecology

Postgraduate Diploma in Science in Zoology

Master of Science in Zoology

Biosecurity Officer, Ministry for Primary Industries

After many years spent travelling and living around the world, Charlotte decided to return to New Zealand to start an academic career in her passions.

‘I have always been extremely fascinated with the marine environment and the animals that inhabit it; this fascination coupled with a lifelong passion for Antarctica led me to return to New Zealand after years travelling and living overseas to complete both Undergraduate and Postgraduate degrees in Biology and Zoology.’

Staying on at UC for postgrad study was ‘a complete no-brainer’ for Charlotte because of the chance to complete research in Antarctica.

‘The opportunity to complete a Master of Science investigating Antarctic fish physiology under the supervision of Professor Bill Davison, one of the top Antarctic fish scientists on the planet, was presented to me, therefore I remained at Canterbury.’

Charlotte’s research involved two separate trips to Antarctica working from Scott Base, investigating Emerald Rockcod fish and their ability to handle rising water temperatures from global climate change.

‘We would travel daily, often for several hours onto the sea ice until we found appropriate fishing sites. We would then drill holes through the ice and fish using hand lines to collect specimens. My research investigated the ability of these fish to make adjustments to increased temperature over several physiological challenges, e.g. the ability to withstand a low oxygen environment or process food.

‘This area of research is important as the Southern Ocean is warming quickly, in terms of evolutionary time (1°C in the last 50 years), and this increase is predicted to continue and accelerate, estimates suggest by as much as 2°C in the next century. Therefore climate change science and the effects on the animals found there is a pertinent and vital area of Antarctic based research.’

Needless to say, the experience was something she will never forget.

‘Working hands on with animals and learning new skills was definitely a highlight. Without exception spending two research seasons totalling over 14 weeks at Scott Base in Antarctica was not only a highlight of my degree, but my entire life.’

Back at UC, Charlotte also worked within the Biological Sciences Department helping with lab demonstrations for Physiology undergrad classes.

‘This involved helping to teach undergraduate students the basic principles underpinning the physiology of humans and animals alike and helping them build the skills necessary to go forward into a postgraduate degree or employment opportunities following their graduation.’

As for her own opportunities, Charlotte has landed a role as a Biosecurity Officer with the Ministry for Primary Industries, a role tasked with protecting New Zealand’s environment from incoming risks.

However, she plans to come back to UC eventually to complete more research.

‘My career goals are to complete a PhD focused on continuing to add to the body of scientific knowledge regarding the physiology of the fish found in the Southern Ocean surrounding the Antarctic continent.’

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