Fulbright scholarship takes scientist to the US

Hanareia Ehau-Taumaunu, of Ngati Uepohatu, Ngati Porou and Te Atiawa descent, will study plant pathology at Pennsylvania University

Hanareia Ehau-Taumaunu, of Ngati Uepohatu, Ngati Porou and Te Atiawa descent, will study plant pathology at Pennsylvania University

PRESTIGIOUS SCHOLARSHIP: Hanareia Ehau-Taumaunu received a Fulbright Science and Innovation Graduate Award this week at a ceremony in Wellington. The award will assist her five-year science PhD at Penn State University in the US. She is pictured with US Charge d’Affaires Candy Green and Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith. Picture supplied

A YOUNG scientist raised in Ruatoria has been awarded one of the country’s top academic awards and hopes to inspire more Tairawhiti students to get into science.

Hanareia Ehau-Taumaunu, of Ngati Uepohatu, Ngati Porou and Te Atiawa descent, was awarded the Fulbright Science and Innovation Graduate Award this week at a ceremony in Wellington.

The award includes funding and a support network to assist the 25-year-old with a five-year PhD, specialising in plant pathology, at Penn State University in the United States.

The prestigious Pennsylvania University, one of the top universities in the US, especially in science and research, is funding her programme.

Ms Ehau-Taumaunu is one of six PhD candidates, and 54 other graduate students, academics, artists and professionals, to receive this year’s Fulbright awards.

“The Fulbright is an amazing opportunity to go overseas, learn among the world’s best, then bring everything home to help New Zealand and my iwi,” said the former Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Waiu o Ngati Porou student.

Her whanau, who live in Gisborne and up the Coast, are “really proud”.

“They can’t stop talking about it, even though I am the one who is going.”

Ms Ehau-Taumaunu has had an interest in science and plants right from the early days.

“At school I enjoyed biology and chemistry, but at home we were weaving, practising rongoa Maori (medicine), gardening, planting kumara — we were always around plants and the environment.”

Ms Ehau-Taumaunu did her final two years of secondary education at Lytton High School, where she was head girl in 2009, before completing a BSc and BA majoring in Maori studies and creative writing, at the University of Auckland.

This year she finished her science master’s thesis, studying natural alternatives to synthetic chemicals to control the endemic porina moth population, regarded as a pest to farmers due to its appetite for grass.

She is still deciding what her PhD will be at Penn State but believes it will have a similar focus, although this time on plants.

“Potentially I will be trying to find natural ways of killing organisms that cause disease in plants, rather than introducing synthetic chemicals that don’t break down and pollute our waterways.”

Research widely applicable

She sees this research being applicable to many things, including protecting native plants - taonga - and horticulture.

An example was myrtle rust, which posed a threat to taonga species including manuka and kanuka, which are also becoming economically important up the Coast.

She had also worked with the kiwifruit industry in countering PSA.

“There are a lot of areas I can go into.”

Her Maori upbringing, combined with Pakeha science, had given her a unique perspective of the world.

“Science often takes all of the little bits to make a full picture, but in isolation.

“Maori have a more holistic view of everything. We are the kaitiaki of our whenua, everything is a taonga to us.

“I have been brought up in those two worlds, so I see things people might not be able to see if they are only from one world.”

In becoming a scientist she hoped to be able to build bridges between matauranga Maori and western science.

A whakatauki from Sir Apirana Ngata, “E tipu e rea”, had been her motto since she left the region.

“The message is to be taking something from te ao Pakeha, but also remembering in your other hand you are still Maori. Bring both of them together.”

Engagement with indigenous and minority groups

In addition to its strong science credentials, another drawcard for studying at Penn State was their encouragement for her to engage with indigenous and minority groups, including Native American and Hispanic communities.

“It is important to me to be involved in the community, and indigenous peoples are a huge part of that.

“I hope to meet other indigenous scientists also.”

Ever since she started studying she has been trying to get more Maori into science, through speaking at schools and to university groups.

“There are so many opportunities. You can work at the molecular scale through to native forests and up to going into space.

“I don’t know why there aren’t more of us Maori getting into science. We have the capability to do it, with the right support.”

She dreams of one day setting up a science “hub” on the Coast, and being a supervisor to students who want to study science while incorporate a matauranga Maori element.

She says there are huge opportunities for scientists with a Maori world view.

“We are from two worlds, and can put those two worlds together very easily.

“If I can encourage any more of us - Maori and non-Maori - it's huge.

“Whether in the traditional route, such as university, or community projects such as Uawanui Project, where all the kids are involved in taking water samples and planting trees.

“They are simple things, but everything is scientific in its own way.”

A YOUNG scientist raised in Ruatoria has been awarded one of the country’s top academic awards and hopes to inspire more Tairawhiti students to get into science.

Hanareia Ehau-Taumaunu, of Ngati Uepohatu, Ngati Porou and Te Atiawa descent, was awarded the Fulbright Science and Innovation Graduate Award this week at a ceremony in Wellington.

The award includes funding and a support network to assist the 25-year-old with a five-year PhD, specialising in plant pathology, at Penn State University in the United States.

The prestigious Pennsylvania University, one of the top universities in the US, especially in science and research, is funding her programme.

Ms Ehau-Taumaunu is one of six PhD candidates, and 54 other graduate students, academics, artists and professionals, to receive this year’s Fulbright awards.

“The Fulbright is an amazing opportunity to go overseas, learn among the world’s best, then bring everything home to help New Zealand and my iwi,” said the former Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Waiu o Ngati Porou student.

Her whanau, who live in Gisborne and up the Coast, are “really proud”.

“They can’t stop talking about it, even though I am the one who is going.”

Ms Ehau-Taumaunu has had an interest in science and plants right from the early days.

“At school I enjoyed biology and chemistry, but at home we were weaving, practising rongoa Maori (medicine), gardening, planting kumara — we were always around plants and the environment.”

Ms Ehau-Taumaunu did her final two years of secondary education at Lytton High School, where she was head girl in 2009, before completing a BSc and BA majoring in Maori studies and creative writing, at the University of Auckland.

This year she finished her science master’s thesis, studying natural alternatives to synthetic chemicals to control the endemic porina moth population, regarded as a pest to farmers due to its appetite for grass.

She is still deciding what her PhD will be at Penn State but believes it will have a similar focus, although this time on plants.

“Potentially I will be trying to find natural ways of killing organisms that cause disease in plants, rather than introducing synthetic chemicals that don’t break down and pollute our waterways.”

Research widely applicable

She sees this research being applicable to many things, including protecting native plants - taonga - and horticulture.

An example was myrtle rust, which posed a threat to taonga species including manuka and kanuka, which are also becoming economically important up the Coast.

She had also worked with the kiwifruit industry in countering PSA.

“There are a lot of areas I can go into.”

Her Maori upbringing, combined with Pakeha science, had given her a unique perspective of the world.

“Science often takes all of the little bits to make a full picture, but in isolation.

“Maori have a more holistic view of everything. We are the kaitiaki of our whenua, everything is a taonga to us.

“I have been brought up in those two worlds, so I see things people might not be able to see if they are only from one world.”

In becoming a scientist she hoped to be able to build bridges between matauranga Maori and western science.

A whakatauki from Sir Apirana Ngata, “E tipu e rea”, had been her motto since she left the region.

“The message is to be taking something from te ao Pakeha, but also remembering in your other hand you are still Maori. Bring both of them together.”

Engagement with indigenous and minority groups

In addition to its strong science credentials, another drawcard for studying at Penn State was their encouragement for her to engage with indigenous and minority groups, including Native American and Hispanic communities.

“It is important to me to be involved in the community, and indigenous peoples are a huge part of that.

“I hope to meet other indigenous scientists also.”

Ever since she started studying she has been trying to get more Maori into science, through speaking at schools and to university groups.

“There are so many opportunities. You can work at the molecular scale through to native forests and up to going into space.

“I don’t know why there aren’t more of us Maori getting into science. We have the capability to do it, with the right support.”

She dreams of one day setting up a science “hub” on the Coast, and being a supervisor to students who want to study science while incorporate a matauranga Maori element.

She says there are huge opportunities for scientists with a Maori world view.

“We are from two worlds, and can put those two worlds together very easily.

“If I can encourage any more of us - Maori and non-Maori - it's huge.

“Whether in the traditional route, such as university, or community projects such as Uawanui Project, where all the kids are involved in taking water samples and planting trees.

“They are simple things, but everything is scientific in its own way.”

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Mere Bennison - 2 years ago
Love how you remember your Maori roots Hanareia. Congratulations on your fabulous achievements so far. May you continue to follow your moemoea and make them happen!

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