I was born in Christchurch, New Zealand to a Samoan mother and New Zealand father. I grew up travelling a lot, playing representative sport and visiting family abroad. So it was at a young age that I became enthralled with two things: maps and National Geographic. Little did I realise that I would rekindle this passion later in life as I studied towards my Bachelor of Science and later Masters in Geography from the University of Otago in Dunedin. Over this period I have spent my summers working as an intern at the Centre for Sustainability (CSAFE) studying a range of geographic issues. Some of my projects included assisting the national energy authority (EECA) establish a GIS for renewable energy generation in New Zealand, engaging with communities about energy behaviour change at the household level, building EIA capacity in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and assessing the public fall out from Project Hayes, New Zealand’s largest wind farm proposal, published as part of a book entitled “Making Our Place”. So what has signified the importance of GIS in my life to date? To answer this question I would like to share two important reflections from my home and homeland:
Christchurch: On the 4th of September 2010 a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck my hometown of Christchurch. The ground moved beneath my feet and the power of Mother Nature was felt by all. Our family home on the banks of the Avon River was warped and twisted as giant fissures split the road and buckled the bridges. Electricity was out in Christchurch for a number of hours and mobile reception was patchy at best. Friends and family turned to social media to connect and convey calls for help. In the aftermath these “posts” and “tweets” were used by response services including the infamous Student Volunteer Army who used the data through an online mapping tool to deploy student volunteers to shovel silt and the like. This demonstrated the power of GIS in telling the story of the land.
Samoa: My Master of Science thesis examined the scientific and cultural understandings of biomass resource assessments for a renewable energy system in Samoa. Using ArcGIS I was able to illustrate how other ways of knowing and mapping the world have an important part to play in modern renewable energy systems in the Pacific, beyond the traditional use of technical methods. Through this we see the power of GIS in discovering the unknown story of the land.
In February 2013 I joined the Esri Australia team in Melbourne as a Graduate Consultant as part of the new Graduate Program. The 18 month program provides a diverse range of work streams that provide an insight into the many different ways Esri Australia support clients to develop innovative solutions to complex issues. I am currently working within the Professional Services team and this involves problem-solving client issues, researching solutions and continually learning through training courses and self-assigned learning modules. What really excites me about my role is the opportunity to learn from and be mentored by industry leaders who are experts in their respective fields. I am looking forward sharing my journey with you over the next 18 months.