Auckland University PhD student Will McKay, who is currently based at the Leigh Marine Laboratory, embarked on an adventure of a lifetime last week as a member of a major marine expedition led by Auckland Museum.
Will was selected by the Sir Peter Blake Trust to take part in the six-week expedition, which started in southern New Caledonia on July 27 and will track through southern Fiji and Tonga, and end in New Zealand via Rangitahua the Kermadec Islands.
The 20-strong team of researchers will carry out biological surveys and genetic sampling work to compare the biodiversity, population connectivity and community structure of marine environments in the southwest Pacific region.
A number of projects will be carried out during the expedition, including a survey of predator numbers, a visual survey of whales in the region and a large-scale study to document new marine plant and animal species in the area.
“I can’t wait to get amongst a group of marine experts and help create new knowledge about the Pacific,” Will said before departure. “This will be an awesome opportunity to share the exciting nature of ocean environments and the discoveries that still await us. As part of Sir Peter Blake’s legacy, I want to spread awareness and increase engagement with the marine environment in the hope that we can ensure long-term health and sustainability.”
Part of Will’s work onboard will be to help document the expedition and the various research projects.
The museum’s head of natural sciences Dr Tom Trnski said the expectation was that the expedition would find new species that haven’t been recorded before.
“We are going to remote areas that have rarely, if ever, been surveyed in the past,” he said.
“It will be great to have Will helping us share stories about our discoveries and I hope he is able to use this experience to inspire students to learn more about our incredible marine environment and to protect it.”
Will is studying aquaculture at Leigh to complete his PhD, with a focus on the production of larval giant kokopu (whitebait).
To follow the expedition via images and short video clips, visit aucklandmuseum.com/about-us/blog