New Zealand: the perfect place to study environmental sciences

New Zealand is perfectly placed as a centre for research in science, especially environmental and earth sciences, says Dr James Renwick.

Science is an approach to looking at and understanding the natural world. It is very much evidence-based, using observations to develop ideas and theories about how the world works.

Understanding the workings of the natural world is very much a detective story, piecing together lines of evidence to explain how and why events occurred. Science is also an intensely creative endeavour; coming up with new ideas and new ways of thinking about what’s going on around us.

So, training in science is an invaluable foundation for any career that requires logical and critical thinking based on observational information – such as strategy or policy development, corporate or institutional management, software/IT, and any kind of research, scientific or otherwise.

New Zealand is a wonderful place to study science, especially earth or environmental sciences. It encapsulates in a small physical space some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. It is home to a wide range of climates, land forms, and ecosystems; has thousands of kilometres of coastline and one of the world’s largest continental shelf regions and exclusive economic zones. New Zealand is also a preferred stepping-off point for study of Antarctic environments.

The climate of New Zealand is variable and dynamic, like the land itself. New Zealand is home to the windiest and southern-most capital city in the world (Wellington). Because of its geographic isolation, many of the country’s native species exist nowhere else in the world.

New Zealand: the perfect place to study environmental sciences

“The science community is well integrated, and very open and inclusive. Studying science in New Zealand gives students easy access to leading researchers in a wide range of fields”

New Zealand researchers are particularly active in the areas of seismology and volcanism, study of palaeoclimates (past climates inferred from biological and chemical proxy information), biology and biotechnology (marine and terrestrial), agricultural sciences, and the underpinning disciplines of chemistry and physics.

Because the population of New Zealand is small by world standards (around 4.5 million people), the science community is also relatively small and well integrated, and very open and inclusive. Studying science in New Zealand gives students easy access to leading researchers in a wide range of fields. New Zealand scientists are well-connected to international networks and science programmes, giving students the opportunity to work with multi-institutional and multidisciplinary teams in many areas.

Humanity is facing some of the most challenging issues in history: resource scarcity, climate change and environmental degradation. Scientific and technological development are crucial components of our response to these urgent problems. There has never been a greater need for scientific understanding and training, and innovation in our thinking around energy and the environment, management of resources and the development of society. Gaining an understanding of the scientific issues through training in the relevant science disciplines is vital to making a positive contribution to the future. New Zealand is perfectly placed as a centre for research on the most pressing issues of the modern age.

There’s a wide range of qualifications 
available, from diplomas for individual courses over a semester or a year, right through to PhDs, and with everything in between - bachelor’s, honours level, master’s. There 
are several major universities in New 
Zealand, most with campuses spread across the country, so there’s a wide range of 
venues for study.

Written by Dr James Renwick (2011)
President and member
The New Zealand Association of Scientists
Principal Climate Scientist
NIWA

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