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Out of the office, off to work

Mark Orams will research mammals on the Blake expedition to the Auckland Islands.

Mark Orams still manages to get away from his computer to do field studies.
Mark Orams still manages to get away from his computer to do field studies.

Twelve Kiwi students set off yesterday on a 13-day voyage to the Auckland Islands in the subantarctic where they will help to plan the building of a world-leading research station. They will be joined on the Young Blake Expedition by a crew of New Zealand marine scientists, representatives from the NZ Navy, DoC, Niwa and the Sir Peter Blake Trust. This week we talk to five of the expedition's members. Today, Mark Orams, a professor of marine tourism and associate director of AUT's New Zealand Tourism Research Institute. He joins the expedition as the marine mammal specialist.

Q: You've sailed around the world, what is a typical day at work now?

Some days I will be taking lectures or tutorials at AUT, others I will be writing a chapter for a textbook. I have to say, I do spend too much time in front of a computer, but I still get out to do some fieldwork every now and again, so I am not completely office bound.

Q: What is your role on the Young Blake Expedition?

Marine ecologist and researcher. The subantarctic islands and the Southern Ocean is a biologically diverse and important ecosystem and the Auckland Islands are particularly important as a breeding ground for the southern right whale and for the New Zealand [Hooker's] sea lion. Both of these species were hunted to ow numbers during the 19th and early 20th centuries and, while they are now protected under the NZ Marine Mammals Protection Act, they're still under threat. We intend to observe and record their behaviour and debate the bycatch and conservation management issues.

Q: What would be your advice to the 12 student voyagers on the expedition?

Make the most of this opportunity, pace yourself and seek to contribute as much as you can. The more you engage and contribute the more you will get out of it. My hope is that this expedition will be one that they will look back on in 20 years and think that this was a critical experience that shaped their lives and helped them become who they are. In particular, I hope some of them go on to become significant and influential environmental leaders.

Q: Is there any thing you would like to share with readers about the expedition?

The vision for this expedition and subsequent ones is ambitious - to establish the Scott Base equivalent for the subantarctic in a dedicated research station. This is an exciting and a worthy objective. Let's make it happen!

To read a feature on the Auckland Islands expedition, click here.

- NZ Herald

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