A desire to protect and enhance the quality of the awa and moana of Aotearoa is the driving force behind the recipient of the inaugural Tūwharetoa Settlement Trust STEM scholarship.

As part of our commitment to promoting and advancing the educational aspirations of its people, TST acknowledges the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in the future of the iwi and the country.

Third year University of Waikato Bachelor of Science student Shaun Toroa Te Rire McNeil is the first rangatahi awarded a $10,000 grant to further his development in his focus area of cellular and molecular biology and chemistry.

Shaun, whose whakapapa is to Ngāti Turangitukua and Hirangi Marae, plans to pursue postgraduate study as a natural products chemist upon attaining his degree. A genuine desire to make a difference in the preservation of freshwater biodiversity in Aotearoa made him standout as the successful recipient.

Natural product chemistry is an area that provides practical applications to support the sustainability of waterways. This area of science looks at what makes up living things and what they create on a chemical level. This is key to understanding the interactions between species in our waterways and the ways they affect each other.

Through natural product chemistry Shaun will be able to look at what biomolecular pathways our native species use to survive, learn where they may be vulnerable to attack, and then develop ways to protect them. When a river becomes polluted and the life within it begins to struggle, science will look for the specific biomolecular pathway that is affected by the pollution and find ways to protect them while work is done to stop the pollution.

TST Chairman Rakeipoho Taiaroa (Ngāti Hinemihi, Ngāti Kurauia, Ngāti Manunui, Ngāti Te Kohera, Ngāti Turumakina) said that the trustees were thoroughly impressed with Shaun’s dedication to an area of science that is important to our people.

“The awa and moana are fundamental to our way of life and protecting the biodiversity of our waterways is key to ensuring they stay healthy for future generations to enjoy,” Mr Taiaroa said.

“We are thrilled to be able to support Shaun in his studies.”

Upon being told of his successful application, Shaun noted his thanks to the Trust for awarding him the grant.

“It feels great knowing that my iwi supports my studies. University life can be very busy and difficult, so help like this can make it all a bit easier and lets me focus on learning,” said Shaun.

Shaun hopes to reconnect to his Ngāti Tūwharetoa whānau, whenua, awa and moana on completion of his postgraduate study.

“I hope to make everyone proud and do my part by working towards protecting the whenua, awa, and moana.”

The TST STEM scholarships are open to registered members of the iwi who reside in Aotearoa and are in their third year or higher of University study. Applications open 1 November 2019.

Shaun Toroa Te Rire McNeil

Shaun Toroa Te Rire McNeil, recipient of the inaugural Tūwharetoa Settlement Trust STEM scholarship.