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Public talk

Women in Conservation

Event date:
Event location:

Online and in-person at The National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
New Zealand

Event type:
Public talk
Conservation area:

Forest & Bird and the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa hosted a captivating event on International Womens Day. This day of inspiration and empowerment was dedicated to honouring the profound influence of women on the world of conservation. 

Important Note: 

  • Registration for an in-person event at the National Library of NZ was open exclusively to students from schools, colleges, and universities, identifying as females aged 14 - 24. 
  • The digital event, hosted via Zoom, was open to the public.

In-Person Event at the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa: The day commences with a Mihi, followed by an insightful discussion on early women in conservation. Following that, guests will have an opportunity to listen to and be inspired by a compelling panel discussion featuring renowned women conservationists who have amplified their voices to champion the cause of nature. The panel includes Stephanie Rowe, Deputy Director-General Biodiversity, Heritage & Visitors at the Department of Conservation; Amanda Black, co-director of BioProtection Aotearoa; Trish Kirkland-Smith, Head of Nature Solutions & Partnerships at Fonterra; and Nicola Toki, the Chief Executive of Forest & Bird. Subsequent to the panel discussion, students will have the opportunity to participate in smaller, more intimate workshops led by influential women. These sessions illuminate pathways for the younger generation to become champions of nature. This event offers a distinctive opportunity to explore, learn, and draw inspiration from the impactful journeys of women in conservation, showcasing how they have harnessed their voices to effect positive change. 

Digital Event on Zoom: The digital event starts with Mihi followed by a talk on early women in conservation. Viewers will then have an opportunity to watch a streamed panel discussion featuring distinguished women conservationists. This panel includes Stephanie Rowe, Deputy Director-General Biodiversity, Heritage & Visitors at the Department of Conservation; Amanda Black, co-director of BioProtection Aotearoa; Trish Kirkland-Smith, Head of Nature Solutions & Partnerships at Fonterra; and Nicola Toki, the Chief Executive of Forest & Bird. Following the panel discussion, attendees will have the unique opportunity to engage in smaller, focused digital sessions hosted on Zoom. These sessions will take the form of panel discussions featuring professionals from various fields, each dedicated to specific topics related to conservation. It's a digital space where knowledge is shared, ideas are exchanged, and inspiration is cultivated. Join us for a day of celebration, learning, and empowerment as we recognize the invaluable contributions of women in conservation. 


Click on the link below to download a copy of our programme.

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Final programme for Women in Conservation

Watch the digital session replays on our YouTube playlist here

  1. Opening mihi and speech
  2. Apryl Morton on women's contribution to conservation
  3. The Science panel
  4. The Advocacy panel
  5. The Art panel
  6. The Keynote panel discussion
  7. Nicola Toki's closing speech

Panel discussion speakers

Nicola Toki

Forest & Bird Chief Executive, Nicola Toki

Forest & Bird chief executive Nicola Toki. Image Forest & Bird

Nicola Toki has a 20 year history of conservation leadership and advocacy for New Zealand’s wildlife and wild places.

Having worked in a range of roles across the private and public sector, Toki is an enthusiastic champion for engaging people with the special values of New Zealand’s natural world and has a deep understanding of the environmental management challenges and opportunities in this country.  Nicola is a strong believer in the power of storytelling to build people’s understanding of and love for nature, so that they feel inspired to act to protect it.  Some of her storytelling achievements include convincing the Prime Minister to name Sirocco the kākāpō as New Zealand’s official “Spokesbird for Conservation”; being part of a team that created “Royal Cam”, the web camera at Taiaroa Head focusing on the albatross colony; her weekly radio segment on RNZ with Jesse Mulligan – “Critter of the Week”; and most recently, co-host of the new nature documentary series “Endangered Species Aotearoa”, which has begun filming for its second season.

Returning to Forest & Bird as chief executive is an honour and a privilege for Nicola, who worked as a conservation advocate for Forest & Bird a decade ago.  Since that time, Nic worked in pest control advocacy for OSPRI, set up the Living Water programme in the South Island for Fonterra; and was the very first project manager in the Predator Free New Zealand movement, creating the Predator Free NZ Trust.  Most recently, Nic worked as the Department of Conservation’s Threatened Species Ambassador. Immediately preceding her role as Chief Executive of Forest & Bird, Nicola was in a senior leadership role in the Department of Conservation as the Operations Director for the Eastern South Island.

In her spare time, Nicola enjoys spending time outdoors, and contributing to pest control while hunting.

Amanda Black

Amanda Black profile pic

Professor Amanda Black, Direction Bioprotection Aotearoa (National Centre of Research Excellence)

Ko Maungapohatu toku maunga
Ko Tauranga toku awa
He uri ahau Tuhoe, Whakatohea, Te Whanau a Apanui nga iwi
Ko Amanda Black toku ingoa

I grew up in Whakatane, Eastern Bay of Plenty, left to go to Otago University to study whatever that took my interest. I have worked in a Regional Council, Independent Research and Consultancy before coming back to University to pursue an academic career. My research expertise are in Soil chemistry; biochemistry; microbiology; inclusion and development of Māori priorities and solutions in biosecurity and mainstream science. My current areas of research are in understanding external influences on ecosystem functioning and health especially pathogen spread across landscapes; and, protection of culturally significant taonga species and ecosystems from unwanted pests and diseases and the impacts of climate change.

When I’m not working, I am spend time with my whanau, including two boys aged 9 and 7.

Trish Kirkland-Smith

Trish Kirkland-Smith profile pic

Trish Kirkland-Smith is the Head of Nature Solutions & Partnerships at Fonterra. Her team drives the nature agenda in the Co-op, develops at-scale nature-based solutions programmes, and brokers and oversees the implementation of partnerships with public and private entities to accelerate action for nature.  Trish has spent much of her career working in natural resource management and sustainability in the public, NGO and business sectors. For the past eight years she has been focused on putting nature back at the heart of food production and productive landscapes.  Her keen interest is in the system change required for regenerative food production and how we support farmers and rural communities to adapt and thrive.

Stephanie Rowe

Stephanie Rowe profile pic

Stephanie Rowe is Deputy Director-General Biodiversity, Heritage and Visitors at Department of Conservation. Biodiversity, Heritage and Visitors group is the centre of DOC’s technical and scientific expertise and also delivers national operations for pest management, monitoring and biosecurity. The group leads the implementation of Te Mana o Te Taiao (the Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy) and the Visitor and Heritage Strategy.




The speakers for the in-person webinars are:

Tanya Marriott (Design)

Tanya Marriot profile pic 2

Tanya is Character designer who works in a variety of media including interactive storytelling, playful interaction and character-centric communication. Her work seeks to build meaningful experiences and storytelling opportunities between digital and tangible activities and objects. Tanya has led pedagogical development which explores methods of playful experience design for social change, and the character as a communication tool. Tanya is an internationally recognised character designer, and the president of international consortia the National Institute of American Doll Artists. Tanya has contributed design expertise to the Toy industry in the UK, and the film industry both nationally and internationally.

Margaret Tolland (Art)

Margaret Tolland profile pic

Margaret is an established artist, based in Titahi Bay, Porirua. She has enjoyed a long career in arts education in both school, gallery and museum settings. More recently Margaret has been a part of the Artists in Schools programme creating art programmes and murals. Margaret has illustrated a variety of children’s picture book titles over the last 10 years with many focussed on Aotearoa’s endemic species. She continues to paint for exhibitions and commission work and facilitates hand on workshops. Her artworks are rich in texture, colour and detail, and they invite you to peek into the environment of the wonderful birds, animals, insects, flora and fauna that inhabit everyday spaces and also places maybe not so often seen. Recently she has become interested in predation and the challenges facing our native species with a series of paintings with the birds becoming the activists.

Jessica Lamb (Advocacy)

Jessica Lamb profile pic

Jessica Lamb is the Forest & Bird Youth Director. Kia ora, ko Jess tōku ingoa. I am in my last year at the University of Canterbury studying a Bachelor of Science majoring in Geography, minoring in Environmental Science. I have been involved in environmental mahi for the past 5 years, when I first joined Forest & Bird Youth (F&BY) in 2019. I co-founded the Rotorua F&BY hub with my twin sister, Kaitlyn, and since moving to Ōtautahi for uni, I have become a leader of the Christchurch hub. Recently I have become the Youth Director for F&B. I am also passionate about other forms of climate action, such as composting and waste minimisation. I do this through my mahi at the University of Canterbury through the Sustainability Office and the UC Compost Club

Aishwarya (Ash) Muralidhar (Advocacy)

Ash Muralidhar profile pic

Aishwarya (Ash) Muralidhar is an environmental educator, project coordinator, tour guide extraordinaire, and conservation advocate. She has worked for, volunteered for, and engaged with sanctuaries and conservation not-for-profits in India and Aotearoa New Zealand for over a decade, having done everything from tiger surveys to award-winning educational videos to volunteer recruitment. Currently, she is the Youth Network Support Coordinator at Forest & Bird, focusing on providing a platform for rangatahi to amplify their voice and action across the motu and empowering them with professional development and opportunities to enter the environment and sustainability space. 


Dr. Kareen Schnabel (Science)

Kareen Schnabel profile pic

Dr. Kareen Schnabel is a marine biologist and has worked at NIWA, Wellington since 2005. Her training and previous roles took her around the globe from Germany to Canada, the Bahamas and New Zealand, she now focuses on the taxonomy and systematics of marine decapod crustaceans, with research relating to biodiversity, distribution, fisheries and phylogenetics. She has published over 50 research papers and has named nearly 70 taxa: from species, genera and a family of squat lobsters. Her experience in the field cover SCUBA diving trips around the world and participating in deep-sea surveys since 2006, using traditional tools as well as personned submersibles. In 2022, she became the first woman scientist to descend to the deepest point of the ocean around Aotearoa, over 10,000 m in the Kermadec Trench.

Digital sessions speakers are:

Session 1: Science (11:00 - 11:25 am)

Emily Mabin Sutton
Emily Mabin Sutton profile pic

Co-founder & GM Climate Club After working in software for 10 years, Emily joined up with Jenny & Dhanya to create the Climate Club, a group aiming to raise the awareness of climate change and help everyday busy people take more high-impact climate actions. They now run a range of workshops, impact newsletter and have a growing membership across the motu. 





Dr Susie Wood
Dr Susie Wood profile pic

Dr Wood’s research is multidisciplinary and integrative, with the overarching goal of improving knowledge on freshwater ecosystems. It spans three broad areas: (i) toxic cyanobacteria dynamics in freshwater systems (both planktonic in lakes and benthic in rivers), (ii) the development and application of molecular techniques to monitor and understand aquatic systems, and (iii) integrating cutting edge techniques with more traditional paleolimnological approaches to guide future lake management and restoration.  She received the Kilham Lecture Award from the International Limnology Society in 2022 and the New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society medal in 2019 for her outstanding contributions to freshwater science.

She recently co-led a large 6-year multidisciplinary project  ‘Our lakes’ health: past, present, future’ ( Using sediment coring, novel proxy analyses (environmental DNA, high-resolution core scanning), geochronology and mātauranga Māori (indigenous knowledge) the team reconstructed water quality and lake health over the past 1000 years for about 10% of lakes in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Mahuru Wilcox
Mahuru Wilcox profile pic

Mahuru (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Ranginui) is passionate about supporting iwi and hapū to engage in research that supports wellbeing of communities and their taiao. Her background is in freshwater and wetland ecology (MSc), and she now works within a Māori research team at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research looking at restoring health of land and waterways grounded in mātauranga a iwi and hapū.




Session 2: Advocacy (11:35 - 12:00pm)

May Downing
May Downing profile pic

May Downing, LLM (Hons) - Senior Environmental Lawyer, Forest & Bird Protection Society Inc. 

May has been in-house counsel for Forest & Bird for two years and in this time has appeared for Forest & Bird at many hearings - from Council-level through to the Supreme Court.  This has included declaratory and judicial review proceedings.

May has recently represented Forest & Bird in the Environment Court against resource consent applications to extract sand within the Pakiri Embayment, and prior to this, against an application to construct a large landfill in Dome Valley. May has also regularly appears on plan changes across Aotearoa, including on regional plans and freshwater planning instruments.  May has a strong interest the laws pertaining to both freshwater and marine spatial planning.  Prior to Forest & Bird, she was a solicitor at the Department of Conservation. 

Alexandra Moyes
Alexandra Moyes profile pic 2024

Alex is a corporate fundraiser by trade, with around 10 years’ experience leading high value partnerships. She believes in the power of business and a force for good, and enjoys exploring how well-aligned collaborations between charities and businesses can unlock that. She is also interested in (and regularly humbled by) the relationship donors have with the charities they support.

Alex is currently acting group manager for the Fundraising & Membership team at Forest & Bird, having been ‘borrowed’ from her corporate fundraising role for a few months.

After gaining a degree in political science, Alex started her career in London, England, where she worked in local and central government and in a global public affairs and communications agency. Following a purpose-led career, she then moved into the charity sector as a fundraiser.

Alex has lived in New Zealand for almost five years, and shares a home west of Ōtautahi Christchurch with her family. In her spare time she practices and teaches yoga and gets outdoors whenever possible.

Nicky Snoyink

Nicky Snoyink profile photo

Since 2018, Nicky has been Forest & Bird’s Regional Conservation Manager in Canterbury and the West Coast. She writes submissions on activities that impact on nature and the climate, and participates in statutory public hearing processes for such activities. Nicky also works closely with the local Forest & Bird branches and collaborates with allied communities on issues of concern, encouraging participation in these public processes, which is a vital to maintaining New Zealand’s democracy. Nicky is also the lead on Forest & Bird’s browsing pest animal project and on the West Coast stewardship land review process.

Session 3: Art (12:10 - 12:35pm)

Fee Cortis
Fee Cortis profile pic

Fee is currently a Head of Marketing at iconic kiwi brand BLUNT where she is a member of the leadership team and runs a team covering design, content creation, brand management, NPD, PR and ecommerce. Prior to joining BLUNT, Fee spent ten years working around the world for global company Heineken and is also a trained photographer and graphic designer who has also run her own full-service ad agencies in two different countries, illustrated a children’s book and likes to paint native birds in her spare time.




Jenny Mitchell
Jenny Mitchell profile pic

Jenny is a dynamic storyteller who is rapidly capturing fans across the motu and the globe. Her music is full of warmth, truth and family harmonies - think the best of The Chicks + Norah Jones.

Described by Rolling Stone as, “her best work yet,” her 2022 album, Tug of War, is a deep and emotional dive for the artist and the listener. With songs inspired by new love, change, loss and her discovery of Lucille Ball, it finds Jenny at her most raw and honest while creating a musical work that’s as rich and fertile as the farming country where she grew up. Tug of War was released via Cooking Vinyl Australia and received nominations for a 2023 Australian Golden Guitar and Aotearoa Music Award and features the pivotal release of Trouble Finds a Girl. A collaboration with Tami Neilson, the stirring anthem directly addresses the mistreatment of women in the music industry and was crowned the 2022 APRA Best Country Song.

Her most recent touring project, The Bush & the Birds Tour, traveled throughout NZ in support of conservation organisation Forest & Bird. An extension of track 11 from Tug of War, the tour was an ode to her late Grandfather’s love of the land and generated over $2000 in donations for Forest & Bird. 

Serai Te Kani
Sera Te Kani profile pic

Serai is the visionary CEO behind Moa & Friends, a company that elevates beloved New Zealand gifting brands onto the global stage while championing sustainability. Their first ‘friend’, the Metalbird brand, has soared to success and is now established in 8 markets around the world, while actively contributing to bird conservation efforts along the way. In a short 24 months, Serai led the Metalbird team to land both a New Zealand Trade Enterprise Special Award: Extraordinary Growth in Emerging Business and a Best Awards Purple Pin for Value of Design. Serai lives on the Hibiscus Coast with her family.

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