1 May 2019

Gaining the skills to save a species

Enzo M.R. Reyes
Ecuadorian student studying conservation biology in New Zealand Massey University

When I decided I wanted to spend my life saving birds from extinction, I knew I wanted to study in New Zealand because all the global experts are here.

New Zealand exports conservation to the world – when you look at conservation projects around the planet, there’s always a New Zealander involved.

People say to me, why do you love birds so much? I love them because they are free. They can fly, and they are so beautiful and colourful. For me, they are the perfect species.

My big dream is to reintroduce the Floreana Mockingbird to the island of Floreana in the Galapagos Islands. It’s one of the birds that inspired Charles Darwin to develop the theory of natural selection, so losing it would be a tragedy.

At the end of a field trip in the Galapagos Islands, I told Dr Luis Ortiz-Catedral that I really wanted to work with him. Luis is from Mexico, but he trained in New Zealand and now works in Auckland.

Luis offered me the opportunity to do a PhD. I don’t have a master’s degree, so I felt very nervous about saying yes, but Luis gives me lots of support. He has become my friend as well as my supervisor, and he really wants me to succeed.

I’ve been here a year now, and I’ve already learned so much.

Studying in New Zealand is helping me reach my goal of doing conservation work in the Galapagos Islands. They’re part of Ecuador, where I’m from, so this is something I want to do for my country. 

5 Things that are different about studying in New Zealand

  1. Your lecturers give you questions instead of answers. When I was at school back home, education was mainly about memorising information. Here, it’s about critical thinking and problem-solving. My supervisor is very wise and gives me lots of his knowledge, but he doesn’t give me answers. He makes me find the answers myself.
  2. You’re closer to nature. I love the way New Zealanders value the natural world. People spend the weekends outside, exploring nature. When you go into their homes, they have pictures of native birds on their walls or on their dishes. The nature here is unique and people are very proud of it.
  3. It’s easy to be part of a global network. There are lots of connections between universities in New Zealand and the rest of the world. It makes research much easier here than in Latin America. People are keen to collaborate with me because my supervisor is famous in his field, and because they know New Zealand researchers are the experts in conservation biology.
  4. You have great resources and technology. My university is really well resourced. We have the latest technology, which is very useful in my work. I also have free access to research papers, and when I can’t find what I need there are people to help me. I needed a book from another country, and they got it for me with no charge – that really surprised me.
  5. You’re accepted for who you are. People here don’t judge you. My choices are respected, which makes me feel free. In New Zealand, I can be who I am.
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About the contributors
Enzo M.R. Reyes
Ecuadorian student studying conservation biology in New Zealand Massey University