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8 January 2022 / Category : School

Science Under The Sea

The ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and impacts weather, temperature and the world’s food supply. It is also the place where Year 13 student Holly Kamo has spent her childhood boating, diving and exploring with her family. And for as long as she has been enjoying these important eco-systems, she knew she wanted to help protect them as a marine biologist or conservationist.

For as long as she can remember, Holly’s life has been centred around the sea. Frequent trips to Kaikoura have allowed her to swim with seal pups, dolphins and orca whales, and travelling further afield to Fiji, Australia and Thailand has only intensified her interest in the ocean.

“I have been diving since I was very little where I would snorkel in the ocean and watch my dad dive down to catch paua or crayfish,” she says. “Some of my favourite moments were swimming with a small pod of orcas and swimming with a super pod of dolphins that was coming through Kaikoura—there were roughly over 1000 dolphins and my brother and I were lucky enough to jump off the side of the boat and swim with them.”

“My first big experience with the ocean started in Fiji at the age of nine where my dad gave me the opportunity to scuba dive with a local dive instructor. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with the ocean even more and knew that it was my passion, and I have been lucky enough to scuba dive all over New Zealand, Fiji, Australia and Thailand where I have been able to experience things in the ocean that many wouldn’t.”


It was this passion that has fuelled Holly’s dream to become a marine biologist.

“Ever since I got my scuba diving qualification, all I wanted to do is be in the ocean swimming and exploring everything in it and to become a marine biologist or conservationist.”

Achieving this goal has in turn fuelled her to be her best at Rangi Ruru so she can make her dream happen. “This dream has inspired me to be my best because I know that I have to work hard to reach my goals. I want to work hard to go to university and study for the degree I need to have to get my dream job.”

This meant taking a STEM-heavy course load and taking up opportunities to further explore the field of marine biology. Holly earned her scuba diving licence at just 15 and has jumped at academic opportunities provided via her Form Tutor and Chemistry teacher Anne Bissland.

“Mrs Bissland has been the teacher to help and support me all throughout my time at Rangi Ruru, and without her I would not be where I am today. I could not ask for anyone better to help me with learning anything to do with science. She has also given me so many amazing opportunities, such as being awarded a scholarship down in Otago to take part in a marine biology field trip for a week and being part of a group of girls going to Fiji for a field trip through Operation Wallace to be alongside marine biologists and field researchers.”

Despite the ocean’s vast size and influence over life on Earth, it still holds many secrets. More than 80 percent of the ocean has never been mapped, explored or even seen by humans—and many of its vital ecosystems are under threat from rising sea temperatures, pollution and over-fishing.

It’s these mysteries and threats which Holly hopes to investigate and influence.

“Being under the water feels like another world,” she says. “So much hasn’t been discovered yet, and so I would love to pursue a career in marine biology to be able to study and learn new things about the ocean.

“Ever since I was very little, I would always be out on the boat and in the ocean swimming. I would collect heaps of shells and fossils and take them home to study and because of that my whole room is full of fossils, cool looking shells and other things from the ocean and beaches.”

For 2022, Holly plans to either study biological and environmental science at the University of Canterbury or marine biology at the University of Otago so she can enter the workforce and help protect the place she loves.

“I would love to work in the marine conservation area, which means my job would involve preserving and restoring marine ecosystems and helping vulnerable marine species or in the fisheries management sector helping to ensure fish stocks are sustainable.”

And for her next adventure?

I would love to go cage diving with great white sharks and to travel to Tonga to swim with the humpback whales.”