Bailey Lovett is making a splash in both marine biology and competitive sport, and puts it all down to sheer hard work.
She won the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize in 2010 and was a finalist for Young New Zealander of the Year two years later. After completing a first class Honours degree in Zoology at the University of Otago, Bailey is now working towards a PhD in salmon aquaculture at the University of Auckland. In 2011 she captained the Under 19 New Zealand Women’s Underwater Hockey Team to a gold medal in the Netherlands and she now coaches and competes in Crossfit.
Bailey’s award-winning research tracked faecal contamination levels in mussels and cockles to gauge water quality after high flow events caused by heavy rainfall. Her investigations led to Environment Southland extending the time people are advised to wait before collecting shellfish after heavy rain.
She is now working closely with NIWA and New Zealand King Salmon, investigating the causes of spinal curvature in farmed New Zealand king salmon.
“I’m not particularly a fan of doing research just for the sake of it. This applies to the real world. Aquaculture is the perfect field for me because it provides a great way to implement my scientific knowledge and at the same time feel like I’m contributing to the future of sustainable fish production,” she says.
Fishing and diving expeditions with her dad in Foveaux Strait first sparked her interest in the ocean. She says her success has come from working hard and chasing opportunities.
“I was never a genius at school, but I’ve learned that at the end of the day it comes down to the effort in you put into knowing your stuff. Learn what you can and communicate your ideas in a way that people understand, and in turn you will earn others’ respect.
“And you have to be passionate about what you do. If you are, you’ll be driven to put the work in.”
Bailey has seen her hard work open doors many times over.
“When I first wanted to get into the New Zealand under-19 underwater hockey team, I’d never played with girls and I didn’t know what their game was like. So I’d spend three to four hours on the bottom of the pool every night practicing my skills over and over because I was scared of being underprepared.”
Starting her PhD is another example of her perseverance.
“Coming into the project I felt very inexperienced. I didn’t want to put forward my thoughts, so I went away and read until I felt like I could contribute to conversations and had the confidence to start throwing ideas out there.”
When she’s not studying you can find Bailey at the gym coaching or training for CrossFit, a sport which she says suits her perfectly.
“It’s all about mental drive and it either makes you or breaks you, and I love that. It’s got a lot harder given how full on my PhD is, but at the end of the day I’m going to achieve my goals in both endeavours.”
Despite her formidable attitude, Bailey has had moments of doubt.
“When I heard about the Prime Minister’s Future Scientist prize I thought there’s no way. Even that first little grant I got, that started me on my project, I chucked the pamphlet in the bin at first because I thought I’m just a little high school student from Bluff and those awards are for really smart people. Mum, however, encouraged me to have a go. My goal was to go to uni with some experience, it wasn’t to win the prize. It taught me that if you put effort into small things they do build up to big things.
“It’s given me the opportunity to work with esteemed scientists and the funds to pursue my dreams. It’s changed my family’s life. After giving up so much to support me and my brother, it gave my parents the financial freedom for my Mum to become an early childhood teacher. To be able to make that happen for her, well that has been the most rewarding aspect of all of this for me.”
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