Anastasia Rickard has always been interested in genetics, but is taking a less traditional approach to demonstrating the impact of inheritance and science in our lives.
Anastasia, one of the SING Aotearoa’s alumni 2019, is studying towards a Bachelor of Science, while working as a Quality Control Laboratory Technician at Bakels Edible Oils (NZ) Ltd, testing and analysing raw materials and finished products.
SING Aotearoa is a week-long residential internship programme. It is designed to develop indigenous understanding of the technical, ethical and cultural issues when engaging with researchers in genomics projects related to Māori populations and indigenous species.
Tauranga-based Anastasia, who affiliates with Tainui, Te Arawa, Ngāti Porou and Ngāti Whakaue, attended the programme to gain skills and knowledge in science, genetics and Mātauranga Māori, with a goal to work with her community in this area.
“I loved SING, especially the energy and the diversity of bringing together people from diverse disciplines to have in-depth discussions about science, genomics and Mātauranga Māori. We were able to learn so much about inheritance from both a cultural and scientific perspective,” she said.
“Discussing the blend of science and culture at a much deeper level opened my eyes to the possibilities of helping and educating others on the role of genetics and technology in our everyday lives.”
Anastasia previously worked for Scion in Rotorua, as a Forest Genetics Intern working on a research project involved with the genetic improvement of various trees in the forestry industry and as a laboratory assistant on the delivery of DNA extractions in specialty wood products.
While the genetics work, alongside her university studies, motivated her to follow a science career path, her previous Scion work provided some unexpected inspiration that has helped to boost her awareness about the role of genes in nature.
Anastasia discovered the beauty of microscopy work and imagery of native flora and fauna while working on a research project with Scion materials scientist Dr Nancy Garrity. She is now using this as inspiration for her business venture with her grandmother Leilani, a contemporary fashion designer with a background in traditional Māori weaving.
Their brand Natura Aura takes inspiration from New Zealand’s culture, nature and science and incorporates the microscopic designs into fashion garments and accessories. They have gained global recognition in the process and have displayed their designs in national and international fashion showcases.
“Being informed about genetics, science and technology is important but there is more than one way of educating and engaging with people, into seeing the benefits. I now see that through what I create with my fashion brand, people can be influenced through the arts and fashion,” she said.
“I love the synergies between science, inheritance and the natural world, and being able to use my talents to incorporate traditional practices, culture and technology to give a deeper understanding of the world.”