Richard O’Driscoll

Position: NIWA Principal Scientist, Program leader for stock assessment and monitoring.

One of the most fun things I’ve done was let Happy Feet  the penguin go. We brought him to the Sub-Antarctic to let him go in 2011. It was very cool going on a voyage with a celebrity penguin (he had travelled a long way to get to the New Zealand mainland).

I’ve been working at NIWA since October 2000, so 19  years. Before NIWA I did my undergraduate study, a Bachelor of Science in zoology and microbiology at Massey University. Then I was doing a Masters at Otago University but changed to a Postgraduate Diploma so that I could extend the thesis to a PhD. I graduated in 1997 and then did a postdoctoral fellowship in Canada. As a principal scientist I am responsible for NIWA surveys to estimate numbers of fish. These population abundance estimates get used by the government to set catch allowances.

My favourite things about the job are the people and the variety of work. We get to do both practical, hands-on science and theoretical work. My particular expertise is in fishery acoustics which has lots of different people from different backgrounds like physics, engineering and biology. We get to see a practical application of science being used and all voyages have something different. My favourite voyage was one of the Antarctic voyages I led in 2015. There were two main objectives: 1) survey abundance of bycatch species in the toothfish fishery and 2) looking at foraging blue whales, using acoustics to find them. We also put a mooring in to monitor Antarctic silverfish abundance, performed water sampling. It was good to have an acoustics team lead by Pablo and to meet the BLAKE ambassadors who came on the voyage too.

For those who wish to pursue a career in science, be persistent and do it because you want to do it (not for $)! Keep learning!!!

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Above: Hiromi and Richard sort through a mesopelagic trawl catch.