Sea Keeper Profiles

Bob Drey and Bill Rae

Bob Drey Policy Analyst, Ministry of Fisheries, Auckland

I work for the Ministry of Fisheries as a Policy Analyst. Some years ago, I realised how important it was for people in communities to look after their own marine resources, especially the shellfish beds. I was impressed with the work of a young biologist named Mary Gardiner who had organised a neighbourhood research project measuring populations of shellfish at Cheltenham Beach.

As the people in the community studied the shellfish populations, they began to understand more about what the shellfish needed in order to survive, and then took action to assure the shellfish would remain on their beach. I thought other communities and especially schools could join in this valuable research project. In 1993, I asked Bill Rae, head of science at Howick College in Auckland, if he would be prepared to develop a shellfish research plan for secondary school students.

Bill Rae M.Sc (Hons) Head of Science, Howick College, Auckland

I took a degree in Botany at the University of Auckland with a strong environmental emphasis. The Auckland University Field Club got me out to see native plants and animals most people never get to know about. We lobbied for many environmental issues and looking back, I feel we helped to preserve some of the country's unique features. We fought against the reopening of copper mining at Copper Mine Island and helped establish some of New Zealand's offshore islands as reserves. I also enjoyed doing numerous wildlife surveys in National Parks, Reserves, and Offshore Islands.

This active involvement with environmental issues was very important to me and I want to make similar opportunities available to my students. At Howick College, all students study native forests and for the last three years we have been involved in the Rotary sponsored Trees for Survival programme. Our students have raised over 3500 native plants and have planted about 2000 of these in erosion prone areas.

In 1993, when Bob Drey approached us about monitoring shellfish populations at Cockle Bay Beach, we were happy to become involved. We hope this will provide real data which can be used by the Ministry of Fisheries and our local community to make rational decisions about the care of this beach. The project turned out to be ideal for our fourth form students and over the last three years we have enjoyed the challenge of mapping the shellfish resources of Cockle Beach. The data gathering and analysis fit well with our Science curriculum and the students enjoyed being involved in real science.

I feel that to be actively and meaningfully involved in doing something for the environment changes us in some fundamental way. We become more positive in our personal outlook and a force helping to make the future world a better place. I hope our contribution to the design of the national shellfish census programme, will help make this a fun and rewarding experience for schools throughout New Zealand.