Ocean love brings Tyla and McKenzie to Dragonfly

November 24, 2020

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.”