Revelation with rhinos leads to Lincoln

20 April 2023 | News

Ronja Haerdtner had an epiphany when undertaking an internship in rhino conservation in the South African savannah.

"When I heard about the Master of International Nature Conservation degree, I immediately knew that this is what I want, what I need to do," Ronja said.

"The programme offers the chance to study the same field in two totally different parts of the world: the University of Göttingen in the middle of Germany and Lincoln, with totally different challenges in conservation.

I chose my undergraduate programme accordingly and now, six years later, I am finally here in Lincoln for my last semester. To be able to study here, on the other side of the planet, enriches me with whole new perspectives.

Ronja's main reason for choosing the programme was to gain international perspective.

"Global biodiversity loss, global climate change, global nitrogen pollution, as well as invasive species, change in land use and poaching structures. All these challenges need to be fought with a broad horizon and holistic approach."

She said compared to Germany, the most urgent threats to biodiversity and approaches to protect it are very different in New Zealand, "where its unique biodiversity has evolved in complete isolation from other parts of the world and a total absence of mammalian predators".

However, at Lincoln she also learned about challenges that were similar to most parts of the world, such as the fundamental impacts agriculture had on biodiversity and the interdisciplinary approach necessary to protect nature, "without which humans couldn’t live on this planet".

Being awarded a Welcome to New Zealand scholarship from Education New Zealand worth €8000 (NZ$13,500) helped with the trip down under, and she is enjoying her Lincoln semester. 

"I love being in New Zealand," Ronja said.

"The diversity of landscapes within short distances is stunning. One day I could see mountains with glaciers, forests, pastures, cliffs, a beach and the ocean at once, which was just incredible.

"Also how open, friendly, communicative and helpful people are here makes one feel very welcomed and many things are much less complicated than in Germany, for example the process of buying a car.

"What I like the most about Lincoln University is its supportive community, its open-door policy and how lecturers meet students on a one-to-one level."

She said a surprise was the number of people at bars and parties in shorts and gumboots, which she had never experienced before.

Her main goal after graduation is to grow the NGO, Students4Students e.V., which she recently co-founded to support conservation students from African protected areas.

"I want to use the tools and knowledge gained in this study programme to coordinate local conservation efforts that impact each other more effectively.

"I hope to combine academic research and publications with the practical implementation of effective conservation measures, and to make an effort to bring as many scientific results from conservation research into practice as possible."