EMR is based in eight regions throughout New Zealand below are coordinator profiles and contact emails addresses:
Check out our National report for 2020
Samara Nicholas - Poutokomanawa/ Co-director - Marine Lead
Kia ora, my name is Samara Nicholas, during my time as head prefect at Kamo High School in 1998, our year 13 geography class was involved in the application for a Marine Reserve in the Whangarei Harbour, the marine biodiversity around Motukaroro inspired me! After completing a Diploma in Environmental Management I went on to establish the Experiencing Marine Reserves programme in 2001. I was a foundation trustee of the Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust from 2002 - 2019. As Poutokomanawa/co-director for the trust I now have more of a focus on management and impletmenting strategy and getting in the water of course! I was extremely privileged to be recognised in 2005 in the Sir Peter Blake Leadership awards as one of New Zealand 's Emerging Leaders. In 2005 I completed a Bachelor of Applied Science degree. I am a PADI Divemaster and registered assessor for unit standards in snorkelling. I am an experienced and regular public speaker. My favourite marine creature is the nudibranch. Between EMR and being a proud mum Blaze) and wife to Shane, there is not a lot of time for much else, but I am a active member of the Whananaki community, I love to snorkel, dive, surf, ride horses or garden in my spare time!
My career highlight has been heading to the Kermadec Islands as crew member on board Young Blake Expeditions in 2012 & 2018. During October 2014, Samara was the MC at the New Zealand Dolphin Underwater Club 60th anniversary and was awarded the New Zealand Underwater Leo Ducker Award for Meritorius recognition and contribution to diving. In 2018, I won the Seaweek Ocean Champion Award.
I became a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to marine education and conservation on Queens birthday weekend 2018.
Lorna Doogan - Deputy National & Auckland Regional Coordinator - On maternity leave until April 2021
Kia ora koutou, I am the Deputy National and Auckland Coordinator for Experiencing Marine Reserves. I started volunteering for EMR in 2013 when I was running the Auckland University Underwater Club. By 2014 I was managing the Auckland region and since 2017 I have helped Samara run the national team.
I have always had a passion for the ocean having spent all my summers as a child in the beautiful Opito Bay, Coromandel. I was a surf lifeguard at United North Piha for 5 years earning my Bronze Medallion. Scuba diving has always been a large part of my life. I completed my Open Water Course when I was 13 and slowly worked my way up to Divemaster over the following years. While I was studying for my BSc in Biological Sciences and Marine Science at the University of Auckland, I was lucky enough to become involved in the Auckland University Underwater Club. I became the president of the club in 2013 and during this time I received my Master of a Small Commercial Dive Vessel as well as developing essential organisational skills for my role as an EMR Coordinator. My role for EMR has grown and changed in the past 6 years and I now do the underwater and landbased photography/ videography for the trust as well as funding applications and IT management.
My favourite animal would have to be the sunfish because of their gloriously uncoordinated swimming.
Isabel Krauss - Northland Regional Coordinator
Kia Ora, I'm Isabel and based in Whangarei Northland.
Unlike many other coordinators, I didn't grow up close to the sea, so when I did move to New Zealand to complete my studies in Environmental Science I immediately fell in love with both the rivers and streams as well as the sea. I initially became involved with EMR through the Auckland University Underwater Club, helping out on several snorkel days around Auckland. I then started working for the trust in 2017 and am excited to engage as many people as possible in marine and freshwater education and conservation. In my free time I can either by found in the water snorkeling or diving, or on the water sailing and exploring the coast!
Oliver Bone - Northland Coordinator
Kia ora! Ko Oliver Bone toku ingoa. I’m an Ocean enthusiast and am passionate about working with communities to co-create a thriving world for all. I believe nature needs to be nurtured, restored and protected so all life on Earth can flourish. In 2012 I was awarded a scholarship by the Royal Society of New Zealand to study the effects of pollution on microbial processes in the Wellington Harbour.
Between 2014-2016 a group of friends and I joined forces to create Grow Aotearoa, a community based social enterprise working to make healthy, sustainable food accessible to all. I currently help raise environmental awareness as a guide for Experiencing Marine Reserves. I’m a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver and hold a Masters degree with First Class Honours in Marine Biology and a Bachelor of Science in Ecology & Biodiversity from Victoria University of Wellington, NZ.
Ray Downing - Northland Coordinator
Kia ora, my name is Ray (aka Stingray) Downing and I am based in the Bay of Islands but am originally from Whangarei. I joined the EMR team in Northland during the 2019 season and it has been awesome so far working alongside a team of passionate people. It has also been a great opportunity to practice my underwater photography which is something I have always been interested in. I am fortunate to live in sunny Northland and to be surrounded by such beautiful coastline. For this reason the ocean has always played an important role in my life. With a background in Primary teaching, I hope to inspire tamariki to participate actively in making a positive difference for the environment.
Elle Gibson - Northland Coordinator
Kia Ora I’m Elle, the ocean has always felt great to me and after completing my study in marine biology, my respect and interest for the marine environment has just kept growing. I am a passionate surfer and diver aiming to keep the place I have fun in, in the best condition it can be. I joined EMR many years ago but ventured out to explore overseas, now after five years I’m back with with this fantastic team to encourage and inspire all ages. A favorite experience of mine is watching baby squid hover and dance.
Sophie Journee - Auckland Coordinator
Kia ora my name is Sophie, I started volunteering for EMR in 2016 and have just begun as an assistant coordinator based in Auckland. I studied biological science at the University of Auckland, which inspired me to pursue a career in ecological conservation. I am involved in many conservation projects around Auckland and am extremely passionate about protecting the Hauraki Gulf’s marine life. I am a qualified snorkel instructor and rescue diver and love helping kids gain confidence in the water. My favourite marine creature is the hammerhead shark, and I am hopeful that I will eventually see one in NZ waters!
Teschna Christie - Auckland Assistant Coordinator
Ella Walmsley - Auckland Assistant Coordinator
Kia ora! My love for the outdoors started early, spending summers in and around the sea of the Coromandel and Auckland. This continued into my studies and I've now completed my BSc in Environmental Science and Applied Conservation. During my degree I was involved with a few different environmental groups, I joined a local Waste Wise group and co-founded a sustainability club at university. This volunteering led me on to being a snorkel guide for EMR and now I'm excited to be more involved with schools and community events.
One of my favourtie sea creatures is the Greensnout parrot fish because they remind me of paddle pop ice creams.
Koha Kahui McConnell - EMR cadet - Auckland Assistant Coordinator
Ko Ngati Maniapoto me Ngati Porou oku Iwi
Ko Avondale toku Kainga
Ko Koha toku Ingoa
My love for the sea began when I was a young child and had the privilege to be surfing when a pod of orca swam three breaks behind me and my father to just check out these weird mammals in their home. From that time onwards I always knew everything in the water is just as beautiful, if not more than, everything on land.
As Maori, I feel a personal responsibility and culpability to protect te Moana as it is the highway that connects all Polynesians, a vast coastal connection that calls beckons with calls of adventure and wonder. I feel in this life that I have just as much of a right to protect this blue floating ball as those who came before me felt they had the right to damage it. "Totu he whenua, whatungarongaro he tangata"
Amber Boyd - Hauraki Coromandel Regional Coordinator
Hi my name is Amber Boyd, I am born and bred on the Coromandel Peninsula and I am currently based in Whitianga with my husband and 3 daughters.
I have a love for the ocean which came from father who was a commercial crayfisherman, I spent many hours with him on his boat, including my first christmas as an 8month old.I feel priviledged to be part of the EMR team. My favourite part is getting children in the Marine Reserve and hearing the squeals of delight when they see big fish close. Also watching children over come their anxiety and have an experience that they will never forget.
My favourite marine creature is the eagle ray, watching them underwater they are so graceful and calm.
Elvisa Van Der Leden - Taranaki Regional Coordinator
Kamusta! Just like many other EMR coordinators, I started with EMR as a volunteer snorkel guide and immediately fell in love with the work that EMR programmes deliver to communities all over Aotearoa. Through marine conservation education, I’ve been able to apply the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired through my Media Studies Degree, Marine Science Diploma and PADI Divemaster certification. As well as being involved in various other conservation projects around Taranaki, including the Finding Little Blue penguin monitoring project, I also teach breakdance to kids and enjoy other artsy things like playing piano, painting and poetry.
Nicole Sturgess - Taranaki Assistant Coordinator
Hi everyone, my name is Nicole and I am based in Taranaki.
I hold a Bachelor of Science and a Masters in Biological Sciences, Majoring in Marine Biology. I have always been fascinated by the marine world and I spent my childhood exploring rock pools and learning about the wonderful wildlife in my coastal backyard. I became involved with EMR in 2018 through volunteering as a Snorkel Guide on snorkel days in New Plymouth, Taranaki.
I am also a Divemaster and love exploring the underwater world with SCUBA gear. When I am not in the water there is a good chance you will find me practising yoga on my mat or paddling out on the water on my stand up paddleboard.
Pat Swanson - Taranaki Ambassador
Hi there – My name is Pat Swanson and I am the lead regional EMR coordinator for Taranaki. We are very lucky here to have the help of the Nga Motu Marine Reserve Society as our umbrella organization, and also we have the dedicated help of Mike Tapp, our local educator from the Department of Conservation. I helped establish EMR in Taranaki in 2011, initially with my class of Year 5 and 6 students at St Pius X School in New Plymouth. I am now the marine studies teacher at Highlands Intermediate. I have in my past life been a commercial diver and also a fisheries research technician. I have a Bachelor of Education, I am a PADI qualified Open water diver, and also an NZQA qualified snorkel instructor. My wife Debbie and I have three children, who are all nearly as keen on the sea as myself! When I am not doing EMR, I am still more than likely in or on the water, or else in the kitchen cooking. If I had to choose a favourite marine creature it would be the John Dory – I always find them fascinating, despite their rather depressed expression!
Amy-Rose Hardy - Gisborne Regional Coordinator
Amy-Rose has been working for Nga Mahi Te Taiao part time since 2012 and started working full time since 2015 as manager of the Experiencing Marine Reserves and Whitebait Connection programmes in Tairawhiti. Spending her childhood in and around the ocean has embedded a strong passion for protecting our natural resources. Taking on this role, it enables Amy to grow her passion and commitment for educating children and the wider community about environmental conservation and engaging individuals towards sustainable development.
Joe Palmer - Gisborne Coordinator
Kia ora, my name is Joe Palmer, I have been an EMR coordinator since 2008 in the Gisborne region. The Gisborne regional umbrella company is Nga Mahi te Taiao, operated by my father Murray Palmer. I am an NZQA Snorkel Instructor. My favourite marine creature is Paua. I enjoy diving, big wave surfing, fishing and water sports. I am a proud dad to 2 children.
PS this is actually Joe in this picture!
Zoe Studd - Mountains to Sea Wellington Director
Kia ora my name is Zoe and I have been involved with EMR for the last 8 years. Ex-dive instructor (Kaikoura and Samoa), gained my marine and coastal science degree from Australia, then worked in environmental policy for several years in NZ and the US. I became involved in EMR whilst retraining as a teacher and coordinated in Wellington for a couple of years before going full time in the classroom. Missed it too much, so I am back on board again for 2014. Favourite creature of the moment- Hermit Crab.
Sarah Kachwalla - Mountains to Sea Wellington Project Manager
Hi my name is Sarah. I am very excited to be starting my first season as an EMR coordinator (summer 2014/2015) with the Wellington Island Bay Marine Education Centre. I have been involved as a helper for the past couple of seasons. I have had a passion for the ocean from a young age and decided to become a Marine Biologist when I was 8 years old. I have a Masters in Marine Conservation and love being able to pass on my knowledge and enthusiasm to students, teachers, parents and the general public. I am a certified diver and a snorkel instructor. In my spare time I enjoy being outdoors, especially being involved in marine activities. My favourite marine creatures are nudibranchs and leather jackets.
Liz Gibson - Mountains to Sea Wellington Project Manager
Kia ora my name is Liz, 2013 was my first year as an EMR coordinator based in Wellington with IBMEC.I am completing my Masters in Marine Conservation and a BSC in Zoology. My favourite marine creature is the giant squid and my other passion is music.
Jorge Jimenez Senen - Mountains to Sea Wellington Programme Coordinator
Jorge is an ocean enthusiast that loves being in the water. He has been interested in the marine environment since a young age. Borned in Madrid, Spain, he would have to drive at least 3 hours to get to the nearest beach. After completing his BSc in Biotechnology, he decided to leave Europe and explore more in depth the oceans of the world. He volunteered for 5 months in a turtle conservation, rehabilitation and education centre in Indonesia. Duriing the volunteering, he discovered his passion of marine conservation education, teaching students and tourist the effects of human activity in our marine environments and how to mitigate these effects. After completing the volunteer, Jorge decided to study a MSc in Marine Conservation at Victoria University of Wellington. During his master degree, he would volunteer with the Wellington team taking the school kids snorkelling around the Taputeranga marine reserve. This is how he got involved with the team, the EMR program and the trust.
Veronica Mohan - Mountains to Sea Wellington Trainee Coordinator
Howdy! I'm Veronica, but I go by Roni. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I moved to a small island off the coast of Texas where I earned my BSc in Marine Biology. In July 2018, I came to Wellington to study a Masters in Marine Conservation Biology. During my studies at Vic, I began volunteering with the EMR program for Mountains to Sea. I enjoyed teaching the kids and helping to create kaitiakitanga so much that I continued to volunteer on Whitebait Connection field trips. I am now a Program Coordinator Trainee for Mountains to Sea! My favorite marine animals are cephalopods (especially cuttlefish) and sharks. My favorite freshwater fish is the tuna/longfin eel.
Helo, shwmae! My name is Joe and I hail from Wales, the hilly land of rain and poetry.
For as long as I can remember I have had an affinity with nature and the outdoors, especially the marine environment. Following this passion I completed a BSc in Oceanography at the University of Southampton and after working with the Environment Agency for a year, decided it was time to see some more of the world. I started volunteering with Mountains to Sea Wellington over a year ago and quickly fell in love with the EMR programme. I have been a teacher on and off my entire life, most recently teaching swimming to school children, and I fully believe that there are few things more important than forging a connection between the younger generations and the natural environment that surrounds them.
I am currently interning with Mountains to Sea Wellington and have never been more excited about getting involved and jumping in the water. I am an avid diver, scuba is my therapy and my happy place; most weekends you can find me under the water in Taputeranga marine reserve being chased by blue cod. You may also see me volunteering up at Wellington Zoo Te Kōhanga crying over the fluffiness of Red Pandas.
I would definitely struggle to choose a favourite marine animal, though I do love manatees... I mean look at those derpy sea cows. There is also a special place in my heart for seabirds, especially penguins and the wandering albatross who is a traveler like me.
Freya McCall - Nelson Regional Coordinator
Kia ora. I'm Freya, EMR coordinator for the Nelson region. I've always lived by the ocean and enjoyed playing in, on or under it!
I have a BSc in Biology, a Graduate Diploma in teaching and have worked as a primary school teacher for seven years. Somewhere along the way I worked as a research assistant for a conservation trust and as a tour guide on the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. I also learned to scuba dive and developed a passion for conservation and the environment. I'm also part land lubber and I enjoy trail running, tramping and skiing.
Experiential learning outside the classroom is the best and I'm really looking forward to combining my love of the natural world with my experience and skills in education through EMR!
Jude Heath - Nelson Ambassador
Kia ora, My name is Jude Heath and I have been the Te Tau Ihu O Te Waka coordinator working for the Mountains to Seas Trust since 2016. I have continued on from our area ambassador Megan Wilsons’ amazing work!
My background is in adventure since I could walk and I have lead groups into the outdoors for recreation and adventure since 1991. Initially Working at Whenua Iti Outdoor Pursuits Centre for 5 years and teaching others to white water raft and sea kayak in Canada and Switzerland from 2004 until 2006, I tutored and coordinated Environmental Studies Programmes for North Tec in the Maungaturoto and Mangonui in the Northland areas.
During 2007, I trained as primary teacher, mainly to educate students “outside the classroom”.
I live by the moana at Riuwaka near Motueka with my partner Scott and my two children Jade 16yrs and Hunter 13yrs.
I am passionate about protecting and educating others about our local marine reserves and why we need more of them in Nelson, Tasman, Golden Bay and the Marlborough Sounds by actively showing people what lives beneath the ocean and how marine reserves protect our fish species and habitats.
In my spare time you will find me outdoors taking photos, swimming, snorkelling, paddle boarding, tramping and paddling my Waka around our local waterways.
Stew Robertson - Nelson Coordinator
Stew Robertson loves everything to do with the aquatic realm. As well as being an EMR co-ordinator, Stew is the founder of Abel Tasman EcoTours and spends every day observing and communicating the marine ecosystems in the top of the South Island. He has also recently founded Tasman Bay Guardians, a group focused on marine conservation, leading action projects, community based management strategies and of course education in the form of EMR and Whitebait connection.
Megan Wilson - Nelson Ambassador
I was the lead EMR coordinator in the Nelson region from 2010 - 2015. I now support as an ambassador. I have my PADI dive certificate although have not scuba dived in recent years preferring the freedom of less gear when snorkeling. I also have NZQA Snorkel Instructor qualification. I have a Home Science degree and I am a primary trained teacher. I work three days teaching technology to year 7&8's. That is in old school terms, cooking, sewing, woodwork, electronics and ICT. For six years I also taught a Gifted and Talented programme (Future Thinkers) to year 5 to 8 students which included experiential learning and environmental education. I have always had an interest in conservation and the marine environment and feel most connected when I am in or on the sea. I enjoy taking education onto the outdoors and seeing and hearing the delight of EMR participants as they become more confident at snorkeling and experience the marine environment close up. I have two grown up children who are mostly left home and have recently expanded my whanau having moved in with my partner and his son. I am a keen waka ama paddler enjoying social and competitive paddling but mostly I value time away from the busyness of everyday life while paddling along the beautiful Abel Tasman coastline.
Andrew Penniket - Otago Ambassador
Andrew is a marine biologist and free-lance film-maker. Andrew supports EMR delivery in the Otago region.
Johnny Sharplin - Rakiura Assistant Coordinator
Ollie Peckham - Rakiura Assistant Coordinator