A childhood dream translated in conservation research

19 July 2019

Antarctica’s animals have fascinated Shanelle Dyer since she was nine, and thanks to a New Zealand Post Antarctic Scholarship, she is translating that fascination into a Weddell Seal research project.

The University of Canterbury student was recently awarded the scholarship at the New Zealand Antarctic Science Conference.

Her research will help streamline the way Weddell Seal numbers are counted in the Ross Sea region Marine Protected Area.

It involves GIS technology, remote sensing, and artificial intelligence, allowing her to count the seals from afar and better analyse their haul out patterns. A haul out is when the seal hauls itself back onto land or sea ice to rest and reproduce between hunting for food.

This season she is also heading to Antarctica as part of Dr Regina Eisert’s team.

Shanelle’s interest in Antarctica began with a primary school teacher who read her books about penguins and Shackleton’s expeditions.

“I’m incredibly thankful and excited to be given this opportunity since it has been a dream of mine for so long.

“It’s a bit surreal to think about being somewhere so pristine and unlike anywhere else on earth,” she says.

Antarctica New Zealand's Acting Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr Fiona Shanhun, says Shanelle’s research will help New Zealand’s contribution to understanding the effectiveness of the world’s largest Marine Protected Area.

“It is fantastic to see researchers with long held dreams of studying Antarctica contribute to internationally important conservation measures,” she says.

NZ Post General Manager Consumer Marketing and Brand, Sarah Sandoval, is proud to be supporting the next generation of Antarctic scientists.

“We are looking forward to following Shanelle’s journey and her research contribution to the globally significant Ross Sea region Marine Protected Area,” she says.


Photo: Shanelle at the University of Canterbury, taken by Dr Regina Eisert

For more information contact

Antarctica New Zealand Communications Advisor

Georgia Nelson