Sophie Marsh

'I can really see a direct use for the things that we learn...'

  • Sophie Marsh

Bachelor of Science in Geology

Master of Hazard and Disaster Management

Intern, Environment Canterbury

When it comes to her future career path, Sophie has an important goal to contribute to our understanding of natural disasters.

‘I would like to work for an organisation that is doing important, meaningful work. Whether that is improving New Zealand's resilience to natural hazards, or improving our environmental sustainability,’ she says.

She has already contributed to her goal through an internship during study, with the Christchurch City Council Civil Defence Emergency Management, as a Community Resilience Student.

Now, Sophie is finishing up a journal paper through UC on her dissertation topic before she will start an internship with Environment Canterbury (ECan).

‘My dissertation topic was on pasture recovery on the West Coast of New Zealand following inundation by fluvially transported landslide sediment. My internship with ECan is to create an annotated bibliography of all of the relevant ECan, City Council and GNS reports on natural hazards in the Canterbury region – this will allow ECan to identify current knowledge gaps and direct future research.’

With a number of hobbies in the great outdoors, deciding on UC for university study was an easy choice. An extra bonus was being awarded with a UC Merit Scholarship for her NCEA results, and an Emerging Leaders’ Scholarship to develop leadership skills.

‘I chose to study at UC primarily because of its location so close to the Southern Alps (and the sea), I love tramping, trail running and orienteering! I also chose UC because of its strong Sciences reputation.’

The sciences were subjects she always did well in during high school, and studying Geology at UC was a great opportunity to learn practical skills in real scenarios.

‘The fieldtrips are intense, but it’s a great opportunity to learn a lot, practice field skills, see thing in real life instead of just a picture in a textbook and get to know your classmates so much better.’

Sophie had discovered Hazard and Disaster Management through undergraduate Geology courses, and developed a passion that she continued through to postgraduate study.

‘I enjoy learning about hazard management as it is not just about the science, it is about the interaction of science with people, and I can really see a direct use for the things that we learn, rather than just knowledge for knowledge's sake,’ she says.

Her master’s degree has been great preparation for her next step with ECan and beyond, and she advises other students to take on volunteering experiences to get the most out of what you learn – community engagement to build resilience is a large part of hazard management.

‘My study has set me up with really great research and report writing skills. It has also given me a lot of practice in communicating science in an easily digestible manner, and I have become much more confident in group discussions and at presentations.

‘I have really enjoyed the degree programme, with the field trips and natural disaster simulations being particularly enjoyable and useful,’ she says. ‘It is a really interesting programme where you develop skills that can be applied in a number of areas.’

With graduation just around the corner, Sophie looks back on the community and her time at UC fondly.

‘I enjoy the campus, with the gardens and green spaces to chill out, all of the events and being so close to the mountains. I have also enjoyed meeting like-minded people and having great lecturers that I feel I can talk to whenever I have questions.’

She plans to make her career impactful on New Zealand’s future disaster preparations, and the hazard management industry.

‘I would like to become a published author (hopefully) on a new topic that has not (to our knowledge) been researched before, and will hopefully contribute to planning and recovery from, for example, an Alpine Fault earthquake.

‘I would like to be constantly challenged and learning new skills, and be in the position where I am trusted to manage important projects, and have relationships with a number of stakeholders.’

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