Maori shellfish project wins scholarship

University of Waikato PhD student Vanessa Taikato in the field. Supplied photo.

University of Waikato PhD student Vanessa Taikato has been awarded the 2018 Bruce Cronin BayTrust Scholarship to study ways in which Maori moved marine shellfish from location to location.

Worth $5000, the scholarship was established by BayTrust to recognise Bruce Cronin’s service to the people of the Bay of Plenty.

Bruce was the first manager of BayTrust, serving for 18 years from 1996 to 2014.

Vanessa was born in the Maungatapu area and attended Tauranga Girls’ College. She has completed a BSc in Marine Biology and an MSc in Research at the University of Waikato, and will use the scholarship to study for her PhD.

“I aim to use archaeological evidence to test hypotheses around the human-modified distribution of toheroa and to investigate the tools and methods used by Maori to translocate toheroa and other kaimoana,” she says. “I aim to determine whether the Matauranga of kaimoana translocation can inform contemporary restoration and management of depleted shellfish resources.”

Since 2014, Vanessa has been working for the Manaaki Te Awanui Trust as a researcher, focusing mainly on report writing and statistical analyses of ecological data.

The first part of her PhD research will investigate archaeological data, looking at timelines of historical toheroa distribution. Vanessa will then look at the science behind the translocation of toheroa.

“What were the traditional methods used to translocate shellfish and how did they work?” she asks. “Historical documents indicate that pre- and post-European Maori used kelp bags, also known as poha, to translocate toheroa, and other kaimoana species. Poha are manufactured from the bull kelp Durvillea poha (a New Zealand endemic seaweed).”

Vanessa will look into the feasibility of using these traditional methods of moving shellfish to see if this could help improve the lot of threatened species today.

The scholarship is administered by Universities New Zealand, which administers 40 other scholarships with a total value over $4 million.

Applicants for the Bruce Cronin BayTrust Scholarship must have links to the BayTrust geographical area, either through birth, education or whakapapa.

BayTrust CEO Alastair Rhodes says this is a great example of a successful scholarship aimed at projects within the Bay of Plenty region.

“Vanessa was chosen for her previous examples of work completed in marine biology and her leadership skills for our communities in the future. We hope the scholarship helps Vanessa achieve her goals going forward.”

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