'I am fascinated by how all living things on earth are connected and interacting...'
Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences with an endorsement in Ecology
Studying towards a PhD in Biological Sciences
Growing up in Connecticut, USA, Morgan developed a passion and appreciation for nature that would lead to her degree studies raising awareness of conservation.
‘My parents always exposed me to animals and nature. We would go hiking, we always had pets, and we spent a lot of time outside,’ she says.
‘My mom even used to make me put a penny under a tree if I ever pulled a leaf off. While I’m quite sure she picked it up when I wasn’t looking, it taught me that I have a responsibility to the environment, and if I harm it, I need to do something to fix it or make up for it.’
Knowing she wanted to study abroad for university, Morgan eventually settled on New Zealand and then UC after being inspired by its focus on conservation and the environment.
Being able to complete hands-on laboratory and field projects from the very first year of the degree gave her exactly the kind of skillset and experiences she hoped for.
‘I have taken part in several field trips to Cass, Governors Bay, Kaikōura, and now my own research takes place in Tekapo. It’s amazing, and I’d recommend going on as many field courses as possible. They are so much fun, and you learn way more being in the environment you’re studying than you would from a textbook.
‘I also loved the undergraduate programme structure, which allowed for a huge focus on your major and didn’t require taking unnecessary courses.’
Morgan’s first year in her new environment was made easier with a ‘lifesaving’ Student Mentor helping her set up things such as a New Zealand bank and phone account. She became a Mentor herself from her second year to support other new international students living away from home.
During her third year Morgan also became the Vice-President of the BioSoc club, and President in the following year, which gave her other means to support students at UC.
‘We ran both academic and social events throughout the year,’ she says. ‘It gave me incredible leadership experience, as well as event planning. I made several lifelong friends through the club and I loved being a part of the UC Club community.’
Now doing master’s studies, Morgan has been able to focus her studies on pollination ecology, and is researching what impact more impressive and showy flowers have on attracting or dissuading pollinators towards other flower species in the Mackenzie Basin area.
‘I am fascinated by how all living things on earth are connected and interacting. The world is smaller than we think, and everything is interconnected. I am particularly interested in pollination systems, because people rely on pollination for ecosystem stability and agricultural production, and yet we are actively degrading our environment and breaking down those linkages. Basically, humanity is stabbing itself in the foot,’ she says.
She is also both a Research Assistant and Lab Demonstrator for undergraduate courses, to help share her enthusiasm with fellow students and give back to the programme.
‘I love how inclusive and tight knit the Biology Department is. I always felt comfortable going to talk to lecturers in their office, and now as a postgrad, I enjoy department gatherings. It’s always fun catching up with other people and hearing about all the cool research going on.’
As such, Morgan is hopeful to go onto a career in academia to keep contributing to the Biological Sciences community.
‘I found I had a passion for teaching and sharing ideas. I want to be able to continue my own research, as well as pass on knowledge, and academia will be perfect balance of that for me.’
For other budding biologists, Morgan emphasises that motivation and passion are the strongest tools to be successful in the degree.
‘Field and lab work can be isolating, strenuous, frustrating, and in less than favourable conditions. I am grateful that my passion for my work is still as strong (if not stronger) than when I started research. Be stubborn about your goals, but flexible with your methods.’