Rebecca Yeates

Whakatane’s Rebecca Yeates is literally looking into the root of things with her Master of Science research, being conducted in partnership with the University of Waikato and AgResearch.

Her research addresses ryegrass root architecture and the competition for soil phosphate between ryegrass and white clover. These two plants, when grown in pasture together, absorb more phosphate than if grown separately. Rebecca’s goal is to develop methods for screening ryegrass genotypes for root characters that reduce their competitiveness for phosphorous. The end result should be more productive mixed pastures, with reduced needs for phosphorus and nitrogen. In turn, this will improve the long-term environmental and economic sustainability of the pastoral industry.

Her project methodology involves developing a rapid screening protocol for selecting ryegrass seedlings with shorter root hairs, so that they may be propagated from. It will also help establish if root hairs are a practical trait for future breeding programmes aiming to improve nutrient efficiency.

Her thesis project is being incorporated into AgResearch’s Pastoral Genomics Plus research programme, focusing on the delivery of elite novel plant germplasm to forage plant breeders.

As one might expect, Rebecca is passionate about agronomy and plant breeding. In addition to her research studies, she is also a teaching assistant at the University of Waikato and a science technician at AgResearch’s Ruakura research centre.

Once her postgraduate studies are completed, Rebecca aims to continue working in the area of plant physiology and breeding-ideally in knowledge transfer between the scientific community and other stakeholders, such as farmers.

Matthew House

Currently in his final year of study towards a Bachelor of Science, double majoring in Earth and Environmental Sciences, Matthew aspires towards a future protecting the environment while also encouraging sustainable development. He is excelling in his studies, and on completion of his first year of study was jointly awarded the University’s ‘Top of School’ award in the science and technology category.

In addition to his academic work, Matthew, who comes from Matamata, is an assistant research technician for DairyNZ. That role is helping him to broaden his experience of New Zealand’s agriculture sector.

Matthew is an active member of the Hamilton branch of Search & Rescue. He joined its Youth chapter in 2013 and has since completed several of its training courses, including in outdoor first aid. A former Scout, who attained his Chief Scout award in 2011, Matthew cites these early experiences of the outdoors as helping to sow the seed for his passion in New Zealand’s outdoors and natural history.

In his spare time Matthew also volunteers on a casual basis with the Hamilton City Gully Restoration, a project dedicated to cleaning up and restoring Hamilton’s little known gully ecosystems. He also belongs to the New Zealand Trust for Conservation Volunteers.

Matthew hopes to take up a career in the field of environmental analysis and management, focusing on some of New Zealand’s most pressing environmental issues and obtaining desirable outcomes for both farmers and conservationists.

Ellen Plumtree

A future in the oil and gas industry beckons for Ellen Plumtree of Patea, Taranaki currently in her Honours year of a Bachelor of Engineering, majoring in chemical and biological engineering. Her Honours research involves designing a processing plant, including detailing the plant’s operational design, hazard report and financial analysis.

Work placements over the course of Ellen’s Bachelor’s studies have helped develop her interest in a career in the oil and gas sector, with summer internships at Vector Limited’s Kapuni Gas Treatment Plant and Methanex’s methanol production plant at Motunui.

Ellen is fascinated by how substances can be manipulated on a molecular level, and chose to study engineering because she enjoys the practical application of the sciences, combined with the problem-solving opportunities available through engineering. Ellen shares her enthusiasm for the sciences with the children of Patea Area School, where she is a volunteer teacher aide for the school’s discovery science programme.

After completing her degree, Ellen hopes to obtain a graduate position in the oil and gas industry, ultimately moving overseas for a while to take up learning opportunities in larger manufacturing plants and projects.

In addition to her studies, Ellen is an accomplished sportsperson. As a senior member of the Carlyle Pony Club, she is a volunteer instructor who helps to mentor younger riders while and competing regionally and nationally as a member of the club’s dressage team. Ellen also competes in other sports, for New Plymouth Mountain Bikers and the Waikato University Hockey Club.