A 14-year-old Bay of Plenty student with a keen interest in tropical fish has netted a spot at a national environment forum.
Leonie Hitchman, a year 11 student at Katikati College, pictured, is one of 52 senior students from around the country chosen to attend the Sir Peter Blake Youth Enviroleaders Forum.
This year's week-long forum is being run in conjunction with the Ministry of the Environment from April 11 to 17 in Rotorua. It will focus on fresh water management, planning and eco-tourism.
Students will participate in workshops and leadership exercises and go on field trips to the likes of Lake Rotorua and Lake Rotoiti to learn about lake water quality management.
The forum will also feature several speakers, including ministry representatives, local and central government politicians, environmental experts, Sir Peter Blake Trust alumni, and business and community leaders.
Leonie's interest in marine life started with just a few goldfish. Before long she had about 14 fish and had made more than 2500 posts on an online tropical fish forum, advising people how to care for their fish.
"I got the goldfish when I was eight and then started doing research and found I really enjoyed it," Leonie said.
"I've now only got one fish - a dwarf pufferfish - because we moved but I want to get more and look at getting another tank."
Leonie said she was especially looking forward to the water quality management element of the Enviroleaders Forum.
"I've been following the expeditions people go on online since I was in year 8.
"This year I'm finally old enough to go.
"It will be great to meet other people that share the same interests and hear from the speakers."
Leonie - also a keen musician and wildlife photographer - said she hoped to tell her school about what she learned and do some community work.
She was studying physical and natural science at school and planned to study Marine Biology at Waikato University when she graduated.
Sir Peter Blake Trust chief executive Shelley Campbell said students would be exposed to various career paths and shown real world applications of classes they enjoyed at school.
"This is a really hands on, exciting week," she said.
"Sir Peter was a huge advocate of the importance of inspiring our young people through challenging adventures. "