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Indigenous perspective infuses passion for the environment

31 March 2023

A UC Science graduate is confident her studies have equipped her to be a future environmental leader and changemaker.


Lucy Coulston will soon graduate from the University of Canterbury with a Bachelor of Science.

Passionate about finding ways to support her local community and environment, Lucy Coulston (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungungu) was drawn to study at UC because of the broad range of practical courses available in Environmental Science and Geography.

Having recently finished her Bachelor of Science degree, Lucy is now studying towards an Honours in Environmental Science with the option to continue into a Master of Science next year. Alongside her science papers, Mātauranga Māori and Māori indigenous studies have been a pivotal focus.

“As a young Māori woman, I have really valued being able to keep tikanga Māori values and Mātauranga Māori at the heart of my studies,” she says.

“I really want to encourage other young Māori to come into this space, too, and feel like they belong, and to realise they have the ability and potential to be an academic, scientist, engineer or whatever else they want to be.”

Lucy is proud to be the first UC graduate in her whānau and wants to make the most of all she has learned. Born and raised in Gisborne, she is acutely aware of how vulnerable Aotearoa’s coastal communities are to climate change; a topic that has come up repeatedly in her studies.

“A big focus for me has been studying river and coast interactions to help understand the impacts of climate change. I want to know what the effects are going to be on my own community, my people, and my home. Cyclone Gabrielle has really made me realise how important it is to be a leader on the environment. We need to be doing more to protect smaller, more isolated communities.”

Over summer, Lucy worked as a hydrology and biomonitoring intern with the Gisborne District Council. With support from Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science Dr Matiu Prebble, Lucy is planning a research project on the management of fisheries around Te Pātaka-o-Rākaihautū  Banks Peninsula.

Alongside her academic studies, Lucy has made a big contribution to campus clubs including Lads Without Labels, the UC Social Golf Society and Opsoc.

“Last year, I was also lucky enough to be nominated for the Aspiring Leaders Forum and was then invited to the Australian National leadership Forum as a facilitator. For me, wanting to be a leader is all about wanting to inspire and empower others too.”

Human Geography expert, Professor Simon Kingham, who got to know Lucy in her third year, was impressed by her commitment, passion and potential.

“She is a great example of a student taking advantage of all that university can offer and this has really helped her to thrive, achieve and prepare for a future leadership role in the environmental space linking to Mātauranga Māori,” he says.

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