Dr. Priscilla Wehi of Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research engages with some of the most challenging conservation issues that confront humanity globally, by focusing on human relationships with nature. To help turn the tide of biodiversity loss, her work innovates at the leading edge of biocultural diversity research, using novel approaches to focus on the intertwined connections of biological, cultural, and linguistic diversity. She collaborates with colleagues to create inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches that provide new perspectives and spaces in ecology. She also uses scientific tools such as stable isotope analysis to recover information about past socio-ecological relationships, and open new conversations about knowledge, ethics, and perspectives of biodiversity loss in different communities. In particular, she explores the relationship between conservation biology and mātauranga from her lived experience in extended whānau communities of Waikato, Ngapuhi and Tuhoe while also drawing from her roots as a New Zealand woman with origins in the Scottish clans. Cilla is Incoming Co-Director for Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre of Research Excellence and a current Rutherford Discovery Fellow.

www.priscillawehi.com Scientific Journeys

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Early Bird

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?

A huge Maine Coon called Tiny

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

Shells, rocks, baskets woven from pingao and flax, birds nests

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?

Māori. I used to know some Arabic, French and Latin, but have now forgotten most of it

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?


9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?


10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

Stewart Island / Rakiura

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?


12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

Listen to: How Bizarre by the Otara Millionaires Club (OMC), and Bathe in the River (Hollie Smith); failing that, Yo Yo Ma playing the Bach Cello Suites

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Sit by a driftwood fire on the beach at night

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

Love, humour and music

15 What beverage gives you life?


16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

HoneTuwhare’s poetry – Rain

17 What did you want to be when you grew up?

a writer

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

curiosity. The beauty I see in the world.

19 What got you excited in science?

as a kid, blowing things up, and bird song – not at the same time

20 What excites you about science now?

Everything. I’m still curious!

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?


22 What is a secret talent of yours?

stand up comedy

23 What is your favorite game?


24 What is the last book you read?


25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

I’m in the category of feel the fear and do it anyway

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

Trust yourself. You have the strength to do it.

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

Walking at the beach

29 What is the last thing you watched?

Identical Strangers

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?


31 What is your favorite animal?

kākā (Nestor meridionalis)

32 What is your favorite book?

The Hobbit

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Maasdam cheese.

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

my kids’ birthdays

35 What is your favorite plant?


36 What is your favorite science fact?

Whales have fingers

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?


39 What is your favorite sound?

bird song

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

I get up after I fall down

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?

moist (shared here especially for my sister). Actually, just joking – it’s catalyst.

42 What is your proudest moment?

holding my father’s hand when he died

43 What kind of tree would you be?


44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

it’s by the beach

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

I love my red leather boots, and always wear them to difficult meetings.

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Leilani Walker and Murray Cox