Budding “hero marine biologist” takes home top science prize

11 Jan, 2016
Antony doing fieldwork

It’s been a great end to the year for second year AUT marine biology student Antony Vavia, who has taken home this year’s science prize at the prestigious 2015 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards.

The award, which recognises achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, rewards the 19 year old Pacific student from Manurewa in South Auckland with $10,000 to go towards funding learning and development opportunities, which he will use to continue his Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology at AUT.

Since his intermediate school years, Antony knew he wanted to be a marine biologist, and he credits this decision to his Dad who helped him focus on and choose a specific career path to follow.

“I’m passionate about both conservation, and aquaculture. Both are spaces which are growing increasingly in importance in today’s world.”

University education has had a big impact on Antony’s thinking and overarching worldview and he hopes to see more Pacific youth choose the marine biology pathway.

“One of the biggest things I’ve realised while being at AUT, is that a university education IS important,” says Antony. “It’s the best connector between me getting a career and the big world out there.”

“University has opened my eyes to issues that have real impact on my chosen field of study – climate change for one, cultural influences, knowledge and awareness for another.”

“The world has a bigger relationship with aspects of marine biology than it realises, and we need to start acting on that.”

Looking to the future, Antony wants to apply his passion to working in the New Zealand marine biology landscape, but also in what he calls his “other home” – the Pacific Islands.

“I’d love to take my knowledge and skills into the Pacific, and make a real difference there,” says Antony, who is of Cook Islands and Fijian heritage.

“Conservation and aquaculture is a key part of our Pacific culture, and is crucial to the Pacific economy and ecology.

“The ocean has barely been explored and I believe many of the solutions that can help Pacific and global communities deal with the world’s depleting resources may lie in the ocean.”

Antony adds that the Pacific Ocean is a playground for aquatic life and scientific research and knowledge can provide many ecological and economic benefits, as well as other opportunities for Pacific communities.

“Not many Pacific people enter the science field, but with our homelands affected by climate change and other issues, marine biology expertise is becoming increasingly important.”

With this ambition to effect positive change in the Pacific, budding “hero marine biologist”, Antony is no stranger to academic achievement, having won a Marine Biology scholarship to kick off his studies at AUT in 2014.

Antony plans to do his masters once he finishes his undergraduate qualification, and one day hopefully, a PhD. “I’m pretty excited to continue my next few years of study.”

Outside of university, Antony works at Tenob, a marine company where he manufactures boat accessories.

“I enjoy this environment,” he says, “And it’s one small step towards the bigger picture of my career.”

For more information on the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards, visit http://www.pacificyouthawards.org.nz/.