• Summary

Developing the next generation of marine managers and researchers

This impact case study describes how our researchers are sharing EBM knowledge and building lasting relationships with students and teachers – inspiring the next generation (August 2021)

Our ongoing relationship with Marlborough Girls’ College (MGC) is creating an intergenerational living legacy of students who are thinking about marine management in a holistic, interdisciplinary way. This year, we supported MGC to implement new sustainability courses for junior students that incorporate ecosystem-based management (EBM) and mātauranga Māori. 

In July 2018, a group of senior students called the MGC Marine Team wrote an open letter to Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern, requesting an update to marine legislation to better protect the Marlborough Sounds. 

Responding to the open letter, our researchers Conrad Pilditch and Simon Thrush contacted the students congratulating them on their leadership. This sparked a connection with Melynda Bentley, the students’ teacher, who expressed interest in incorporating EBM principles into the classroom.  

“Around the same time, I read an NZ Geographic article about Sustainable Seas and EBM. That’s when the penny dropped for me – I thought EBM would be a great teaching tool.” – Melynda Bentley 

Connecting students with research 

In October 2018, the researchers attended the students’ celebration of their project and the community that helped them, including mentor Steve Urlich (formerly Marlborough District Council (MDC), now Lincoln University and then co-leader of our Policy and legislation for EBM project). 

Four students and Melynda attended our annual conference in November 2018, where they gave the closing remarks. Melynda was awarded the school Board Scholarship to work alongside Simon and Conrad in 2019 to learn more about EBM principles. 

These connections also include hands-on experiences where different student cohorts, including those from local iwi Te Ātiawa, have joined fieldwork in Marlborough Sounds. 

The school principal and Board have supported Melynda and the teachers’ professional development and the students’ participation. There was also strong support from Te Ātiawa. MDC and local tourism operators contributed in-kind to the March fieldtrip by providing boats, skippers and facilities. 

Training teachers in EBM principles 

In November, we hosted a two-day workshop with Te Ātiawa in Picton for eight science and social science teachers from MGC. The purpose of the workshop was to build the teachers’ confidence and knowledge of EBM and mātauranga, so that they could incorporate it into the years 9 and 10 sustainability courses. 

After the workshop, we shared methods to improve stakeholder participatory processes developed in Phase I. Melynda adapted these to teach students how different aspects of participation and decision-making can affect environmental outcomes. 

Day 1 of the workshop kick-started in Waikawa (Credit: Conrad Pilditch)

Bringing EBM to the classroom and field 

In keeping with the EBM philosophy, the courses are being taught from multiple perspectives including cultural, biophysical, and social sciences. Students learn how to make informed decisions to manage the impact of human activities on land and water, using their knowledge of science, kaitiakitanga, mātauranga and EBM. 

  • The year 9 course was introduced in February and the year 10 course in July 2021 (Figure 1).
  • The junior courses will inform the development of a new year 11 course.
  • To share the learnings widely, Melynda, Simon and Conrad are submitting a paper to an education journal, describing how to use EBM as a teaching tool.

In March, a group of senior students and teachers joined fieldwork for our Ecological responses to cumulative effects project. 

“This trip reinforced the importance of getting students out of the classroom and into the field. To see what marine researchers actually do was very special. They saw emerging researchers in action – including role models of women working in marine science.” – Melynda Bentley 

We’ve seen clear benefits of face-to-face experiences between researchers and the students:  

  • Three former students are studying marine science at university.
  • Four of the original Marine Team founded Youth for Marine Protection (YFMP), a youth organisation advocating for better protection of Marlborough Sounds.
  • YFMP are co-development partners for Policy and legislation for EBM (Figure 1).

“Without Sustainable Seas, we would not have the foundation to bring EBM for Aotearoa into the classroom. We have learnt how to work together in diverse teams, develop new ways of doing, and these lessons are now being introduced to schools as a better way to manage the environment.” – Conrad Pilditch 


Conrad Pilditch [email protected] 

Research organisations: University of Waikato, University of Auckland