Kristin Alumni: Underwater Noise Specialist
Dr Matthew (Matt) Pine
Dr Matthew (Matt) Pine (Class of 2006) has always loved the ocean, with aspirations of becoming a marine scientist from the early age of six. Matt works in the unique field of marine acoustics science – he’s a specialist in underwater noise.
After graduating from the University of Auckland with a PhD in Marine Bioacoustics, Matt completed two postdoctoral research fellowships in China and Canada. He credits Kristin with fostering his thirst for new knowledge and finding answers through his own research, completing a total of 13 years of study since graduating from school in 2006!
Tell us about what you’re currently doing.
I’m Principal Consultant for an Auckland-based environmental consultancy, Director of my own ocean acoustics company and affiliate researcher at the Department of Biology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. Simply put, I’m a marine scientist who specialises in the way marine animals communicate using sound, how animals detect sound and how the noise we make in our oceans impacts marine life.
Is there such a thing as a typical workday for you? What does a day ‘in the office’ look like?
I don’t really have a typical workday as it is so varied! I could be on a boat and diving to service my acoustic loggers on the seafloor around the Hauraki Gulf, designing experiments or marine mammal monitoring programs, analysing or coding data, writing scientific papers, or presenting evidence in resource consent hearings.
How has the landscape for your work changed in the last 12 months? How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the way you live and work?
The landscape of my work has changed significantly in the past year. Before the pandemic I was travelling a lot between the UK, Canadian High Arctic and British Columbia, Australia, Hong Kong and around New Zealand to research marine mammals and fish. I’ve become far more focused on my own backyard with the opportunity to study New Zealand’s coastlines and what makes our oceans unique. The last 12 months has revealed extraordinary things about how our oceans responded in the absence of vessels running around the Hauraki Gulf during our lockdowns. For seven weeks during our Alert Level 4 lockdown, the life under the Hauraki Gulf celebrated the cessation of the constant vessel noise. Playing back the recordings made 35 metres deep off the Noises Island, the sound of fur seals calling, bottlenose dolphins whistling, Bryde’s whales moaning, fishes grunting and snapping shrimp crackling in between rolling waves on the distant shoreline at once was incredible! It demonstrated how well the ocean responds to any positive change and that we can turn around the dire state of our Gulf.
Are there any life lessons you’d like to share?
Don’t be afraid to blindly follow what you’re passionate about. Everyone has that one thing that they really love doing when they are young but as you get older and start thinking about careers, the more ‘mature’ jobs tend to win and the things we loved doing become hobbies. I knew I wanted to be a marine scientist and knew a PhD was required to unlock the opportunities so blindly went for it and never had (or even contemplated) a plan B.
How do you feel your time at Kristin has shaped your path beyond school?
Incredibly so! Kristin taught me so many things that I still take with me every day. The way Kristin celebrates learning and guides you to learn new things on your own was key for me, as it made me fall in love with learning. My teachers went above and beyond in conveying concepts in the classroom and their passion for it was infectious.
If you could give a message to students looking to pursue a similar path, what would it be?
It’s a bit cheesy, but just follow your passion because, for me, my obsession now pays the bills! Getting paid every day to do what I love is a privilege and Kristin contributed hugely to that. My passion for ocean research has become an obsession that has taken me around the world, and it can for you too.