Ocean love brings Tyla and McKenzie to Dragonfly

November 24, 2020

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Two newly minted marine biologists are the newest people to join our crew, having been recruited to work on marine and Māori language projects.

Tyla Hill-Moana credits her dad with sparking her love of the sea.

“He likes to dive a lot and we grew up going to the ocean quite often. My family are big kaimona lovers – kina, mussels, crayfish, pāua, but I’d rather give what I catch to family or mates.”

Tyla went to Te Wharekura o Rakaumangamanga and Ngā Taiātea Wharekura in Waikato and then moved to Wellington. She has a bachelor’s degree in marine biology and Māori from Victoria University of Wellington and this year she’s been working towards a Master of Marine Conservation.

“I had to change a few things because of COVID. I still have one data science paper to complete next year, but that fits well with the type of work I’m doing here.”

She describes her role at Dragonfly as a “mash up of all the stuff I learned at uni – marine biology, stats and te reo Māori. I could be part of something big that’s cool for Māori and people in general. I can’t wait to see how that blossoms.”

For McKenzie Tornquist, it was spending time at the rock pools in Mahia that began her interest in marine science.

“When I was younger we’d go to Mahia on holiday. My granddad loved the rocky shore and I loved going there with him and looking at all the sea creatures. Then later I became interested in the environment and our impact on it, including fishing.”

She has since completed a Master of Marine Biology at Victoria University of Wellington with a thesis researching the reproductive success of common triplefin fish.

“I really loved the research, right from collecting fish, to work in the tanks to examining their otoliths under the microscope. I also love stats, so the data analysis and write-up was also really enjoyable. There were new things to do every day.”

McKenzie says she always regretted not doing more stats at university. “When this job came up I was really excited as I saw it as a place where I could use my skills and learn new ones. Being able to do that in the context of marine biology is also very cool.”