Alexandra Barclay

'It is just generally awesome to be in the mountains doing science in such wild places...'

  • Alexandra Barclay

Certificate in University Preparation

Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences with an endorsement in Ecology

Master of Science in Ecology

Alex had found her calling as both an adventurer and researcher of the Aotearoa New Zealand landscape with her UC studies.

Work as an outdoor education instructor and guide inspired her to learn more and give back to the environment that she was helping others to explore and fall equally in love with.

Starting her Biological Sciences degree with ‘only a vague idea’ of what she could go on to accomplish, Alex has since completed a number of field research excursions, been a research assistant with the Freshwater Ecology Research Group in projects such as the Canterbury Waterway Rehabilitation Experiment (CAREX), and completed her own master’s research.

During her undergraduate years, Alex developed a specific interest in freshwater ecology, and particularly enjoyed the support from lecturers in finding her niche.

‘I took a lot of courses with a field trip component (eg, marine ecology, freshwater ecology) because I really like to get hands on. I would recommend these courses as a way to gain deeper understanding of theoretical concepts and simply to get to know your classmates and lecturers better.’

She went on to earn a Summer Research Scholarship and more external funding for her degree studies. Alex encourages other students get involved in any opportunities that come their way to help narrow down their focus in Ecology, and to realise their potential.

Moving into postgraduate studies was something she had never anticipated when first studying at university, and ended up being a hugely rewarding experience.

‘I was an adult student, coming to university already having studied and worked for a number of years, but I was made to feel comfortable and met many other people in the same boat. University isn’t just for teens!

‘I also had a baby during my postgrad, and have been supported wholeheartedly by my supervisors. The University has day-care options on campus, and I was able to continue my research knowing my little one was happily playing just across campus.’

Alex’s master’s research investigated the alpine tarn communities in the Canterbury and West Coast regions. This included collecting samples from each tarn, such as plants, frogs, aquatic insects, and chemical data to analyse their ecosystems.

‘I was working in an area of freshwater ecology that, to my knowledge, has not been studied in New Zealand before. It is extremely exciting to know that my research could fill a knowledge gap and perhaps help to protect these environments that I love. It is also just generally awesome to be in the mountains doing science in such wild places.’

Naturally, Alex’s spare time from research was also spent in the great outdoors. Alex has been spearfishing for over 20 years and travels as part of the New Zealand spearfishing team to competitions, and is also a volunteer instructor for the New Zealand Alpine Club teaching climbing classes. She is particularly enjoying introducing her son to outdoor activities.

Looking onwards, Alex hopes to continue to share her passions for the environment throughout her career.

‘I would like to communicate science to the general public and make all the definitions and numbers understandable so that science isn’t scary, so that people understand what scientists are doing to help,’ she says.

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