While many students are taking advantage of the summer holidays for some serious rest and relaxation, a NorthTec environmental science student is hard at work helping to clean up Whangarei's freshwater systems for Northland Regional Council (NRC).

Jenny Gillanders, who is halfway through a degree in applied science at NorthTec, secured full-time work over the summer break after assisting with a pilot project for the NRC's land management team.

Ms Gillanders' work was done as part of her practicum, and she is now enjoying the opportunity to earn an income as well as gain work experience and expand her professional networks. She is carrying out "ground truthing" to collect data on stock exclusion, erosion, fish passage barriers and riparian habitat. The data she gathers can then be analysed by the team at NRC, enabling them to identify potential areas for improvement for enhanced water quality in the Whangarei Harbour catchment.

A former veterinary nurse, Ms Gillanders spent several years travelling and working overseas, and when she returned after a lengthy absence, she decided it was time for a career change. Having always been keen on the environment, she decided to look at the education options available. After considering several university courses, she decided to apply to NorthTec because of the structure of its programme, which enables students to gain three qualifications over three years. After one year, students gain a certificate in conservation and environmental management; after two years they earn a diploma; and after successful completion of the third year, a Bachelor of Applied Science (Biodiversity Management).

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Ms Gillanders, who spent her primary school years in Pakaraka, near Kerikeri, said one of the key selling points was that every year you got a qualification.

She is no stranger to holiday jobs, having previously worked alongside NorthTec science tutor, Dai Morgan, assisting him with his weta research project. She has also worked for the Native Forest Restoration Trust, clearing noxious weeds at the William Upton Hewett Memorial Reserve, near Pipiwai.