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Soltice Morrison dives to reconnect with the natural world

Illustration / Sara Moana

When Soltice Morrison was a young girl, she remembers staring at a photo of her grandmother swimming in Lake Rotorua, wondering why she was in the water. Morrison wasn’t allowed to swim in the lake. It was polluted. Her grandmother told her that when she was little everyone could swim in the lake. 

“I didn’t understand why she could, and I couldn’t. They used to dumb it down for me saying ‘it’s dirty’ but I wanted to know why it was dirty,” says Morrison. “As I've grown up, I’ve learned the reasons why.”

And now she’s actively working to restore balance to not just Aotearoa’s lakes but many natural resources as a Māori scientist. Not being able to swim in the lake she grew up next to did not stop Morrison from being drawn to wai (water). Diving has been a way to escape the confines of her own mind and body and truly connect with te taiao (the environment that contains and surrounds us). 

“When I’m diving, it’s my quiet time,” says Morrison. “I find that everything above water is filled with chaos, it's fast paced, it's about productivity and everything is so urgent. When I’m underwater all I can hear is my own heart beating. All I can feel is my body moving in unison with the water around me. I become more aware of myself and my connection with the natural world”.

The 26-year-old (Ngāti Whakaue, Rereahu-Maniapoto) completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Geology & Oceanography at Otago University in 2018. After graduating, she added PADI Divemaster to her credentials.

“Learning to dive was a journey of self-discovery. I learnt that I’m able to achieve a meditative state of mind underwater while simultaneously freeing my mind from negativity and self-doubt. I tend to come up with my best ideas underwater and try to bring them to life when I return to the surface”.

With her qualifications and understanding of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge), Morrison feels a responsibility as a kaitiaki (guardian) to respect, guard and conserve the environment. This has fuelled her drive to pursue a career in Environmental Science where she provides sustainable environmental solutions and advice underpinned by a holistic understanding of te ao Māori (Māori worldview) at Aurecon – an engineering, design and advisory company.

As a child, Morrison was fascinated by science but never envisaged becoming a scientist. “When I thought of scientists, I thought of men with grey hair, like Einstein! It never crossed my mind that Māori wāhine could wear lab coats too”. 

Growing up in Rotorua, she enjoyed swimming at local lakes and biking the tracks that weaved through geysers near her home. At a young age, Morrison learned about respect and her relationship with Papatūānuku. 

“It was natural, a part of everyday life,” she says. “After my siblings were born, I watched my mother bury their placenta in the land behind my grandparents’ house. Before eating, travelling and activities like fishing my whānau would say karakia. I sang waiata about my ancestors and their connection with the world around us. I knew which waterways near home were tapu (sacred) and not to be swum in. I didn’t realise at the time that these acts were significant to Māori – I thought everyone else did these things too”.

It wasn't until she stepped away from Rotorua- the first person in her family to go to university - that she realised that it wasn't something everyone did. “There were few Māori around me and I suddenly became ashamed of my upbringing and cultural practices. I felt different and I wanted to fit in, so I refused to embrace my culture like I did back home”. 

On the contrary, Morrison now has a new role in her company, weaving te ao Māori into environmental projects and she is working to ensure culture is recognised and embraced in more spaces across Aotearoa. 

“It takes courage and sometimes I do feel vulnerable, but I’ve opened up and shared my cultural perspective of the world. I do it because I want to create safe spaces for minority groups to feel proud about who they are. I do it in hope that minority groups will express their culture alongside their field of study. They shouldn't have to come into an institution or workplace and feel they have to be someone different - because those unique voices are key to driving changes, particularly in the climate and environmental space. There's just not enough of these voices.”

Morrison has also been part of Lakes380, a five-year research project that looks at understanding the environmental health and histories of New Zealand’s lakes. “Engagement with mana whenua and incorporation of mātauranga Māori has been at the forefront of the project. The project team engages with iwi and hapu and spends time at local marae recording stories and notable lake changes that mana whenua has seen and experienced over time. 

“Scientists collect sediment cores from lakes across Aotearoa and fancy analysis is completed in laboratories but Māori knowledge has been critical in understanding the science. For example, kuia and kaumatua / elders shared stories of catching tuna (eel) in local waterways as children and now they’re nowhere to be seen. This helps scientists understand the changes in water quality and its effects on habitats and ecology. Both scientists and mana whenua benefit from this project. Scientists can piece together their puzzle while exploring options to restore and remediate lakes alongside mana whenua.”

In te ao Māori, people and the natural world are one. One of Morrison’s favourite whakataukī is ‘koh wai o, koh wai.’ - Who are you? I am the water’ and extends to: ‘I am the land’, ‘I am everything’. 

So when it comes to her body, Morrison views it as tapu. “My body is sacred. Everything I do whether that be internal thoughts and feelings, or external conversations and actions, I'm always mindful of the way I’m treating my body because ultimately it's my entire being. If I tell myself good things, if I treat myself well, if I feed myself good food, then that's when I'm at my best and this can be useful for comparisons with our environment. How we treat the earth and how we feed and nourish the earth is ultimately going to impact the way it gives back to us or the way that we see it.” 

Whenever she feels overwhelmed with climate change and what needs to be done, Morrison knows she can dive under the wai to restore her hauora (well-being). 

“It is underwater that I can truly focus on taha wairua (spiritual well being), taha hinengaro (mental and emotional wellbeing), taha tinana (physical wellbeing), taha whānau (social wellbeing) as well as my connection with the environment. 

“I’m reminded to find balance and to nurture all aspects of my wellbeing. If we can switch to this understanding that we are one with the natural environment, it’s so much easier to understand how we can look after it. We will see a better world when we nurture it.”

The writer wishes to acknowledge the support of YWCA Aotearoa for their help and aroha with this series.

No items found.
Illustration / Sara Moana

When Soltice Morrison was a young girl, she remembers staring at a photo of her grandmother swimming in Lake Rotorua, wondering why she was in the water. Morrison wasn’t allowed to swim in the lake. It was polluted. Her grandmother told her that when she was little everyone could swim in the lake. 

“I didn’t understand why she could, and I couldn’t. They used to dumb it down for me saying ‘it’s dirty’ but I wanted to know why it was dirty,” says Morrison. “As I've grown up, I’ve learned the reasons why.”

And now she’s actively working to restore balance to not just Aotearoa’s lakes but many natural resources as a Māori scientist. Not being able to swim in the lake she grew up next to did not stop Morrison from being drawn to wai (water). Diving has been a way to escape the confines of her own mind and body and truly connect with te taiao (the environment that contains and surrounds us). 

“When I’m diving, it’s my quiet time,” says Morrison. “I find that everything above water is filled with chaos, it's fast paced, it's about productivity and everything is so urgent. When I’m underwater all I can hear is my own heart beating. All I can feel is my body moving in unison with the water around me. I become more aware of myself and my connection with the natural world”.

The 26-year-old (Ngāti Whakaue, Rereahu-Maniapoto) completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Geology & Oceanography at Otago University in 2018. After graduating, she added PADI Divemaster to her credentials.

“Learning to dive was a journey of self-discovery. I learnt that I’m able to achieve a meditative state of mind underwater while simultaneously freeing my mind from negativity and self-doubt. I tend to come up with my best ideas underwater and try to bring them to life when I return to the surface”.

With her qualifications and understanding of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge), Morrison feels a responsibility as a kaitiaki (guardian) to respect, guard and conserve the environment. This has fuelled her drive to pursue a career in Environmental Science where she provides sustainable environmental solutions and advice underpinned by a holistic understanding of te ao Māori (Māori worldview) at Aurecon – an engineering, design and advisory company.

As a child, Morrison was fascinated by science but never envisaged becoming a scientist. “When I thought of scientists, I thought of men with grey hair, like Einstein! It never crossed my mind that Māori wāhine could wear lab coats too”. 

Growing up in Rotorua, she enjoyed swimming at local lakes and biking the tracks that weaved through geysers near her home. At a young age, Morrison learned about respect and her relationship with Papatūānuku. 

“It was natural, a part of everyday life,” she says. “After my siblings were born, I watched my mother bury their placenta in the land behind my grandparents’ house. Before eating, travelling and activities like fishing my whānau would say karakia. I sang waiata about my ancestors and their connection with the world around us. I knew which waterways near home were tapu (sacred) and not to be swum in. I didn’t realise at the time that these acts were significant to Māori – I thought everyone else did these things too”.

It wasn't until she stepped away from Rotorua- the first person in her family to go to university - that she realised that it wasn't something everyone did. “There were few Māori around me and I suddenly became ashamed of my upbringing and cultural practices. I felt different and I wanted to fit in, so I refused to embrace my culture like I did back home”. 

On the contrary, Morrison now has a new role in her company, weaving te ao Māori into environmental projects and she is working to ensure culture is recognised and embraced in more spaces across Aotearoa. 

“It takes courage and sometimes I do feel vulnerable, but I’ve opened up and shared my cultural perspective of the world. I do it because I want to create safe spaces for minority groups to feel proud about who they are. I do it in hope that minority groups will express their culture alongside their field of study. They shouldn't have to come into an institution or workplace and feel they have to be someone different - because those unique voices are key to driving changes, particularly in the climate and environmental space. There's just not enough of these voices.”

Morrison has also been part of Lakes380, a five-year research project that looks at understanding the environmental health and histories of New Zealand’s lakes. “Engagement with mana whenua and incorporation of mātauranga Māori has been at the forefront of the project. The project team engages with iwi and hapu and spends time at local marae recording stories and notable lake changes that mana whenua has seen and experienced over time. 

“Scientists collect sediment cores from lakes across Aotearoa and fancy analysis is completed in laboratories but Māori knowledge has been critical in understanding the science. For example, kuia and kaumatua / elders shared stories of catching tuna (eel) in local waterways as children and now they’re nowhere to be seen. This helps scientists understand the changes in water quality and its effects on habitats and ecology. Both scientists and mana whenua benefit from this project. Scientists can piece together their puzzle while exploring options to restore and remediate lakes alongside mana whenua.”

In te ao Māori, people and the natural world are one. One of Morrison’s favourite whakataukī is ‘koh wai o, koh wai.’ - Who are you? I am the water’ and extends to: ‘I am the land’, ‘I am everything’. 

So when it comes to her body, Morrison views it as tapu. “My body is sacred. Everything I do whether that be internal thoughts and feelings, or external conversations and actions, I'm always mindful of the way I’m treating my body because ultimately it's my entire being. If I tell myself good things, if I treat myself well, if I feed myself good food, then that's when I'm at my best and this can be useful for comparisons with our environment. How we treat the earth and how we feed and nourish the earth is ultimately going to impact the way it gives back to us or the way that we see it.” 

Whenever she feels overwhelmed with climate change and what needs to be done, Morrison knows she can dive under the wai to restore her hauora (well-being). 

“It is underwater that I can truly focus on taha wairua (spiritual well being), taha hinengaro (mental and emotional wellbeing), taha tinana (physical wellbeing), taha whānau (social wellbeing) as well as my connection with the environment. 

“I’m reminded to find balance and to nurture all aspects of my wellbeing. If we can switch to this understanding that we are one with the natural environment, it’s so much easier to understand how we can look after it. We will see a better world when we nurture it.”

The writer wishes to acknowledge the support of YWCA Aotearoa for their help and aroha with this series.

Creativity, evocative visual storytelling and good journalism come at a price. Support our work and join the Ensemble membership program
No items found.

Soltice Morrison dives to reconnect with the natural world

Illustration / Sara Moana

When Soltice Morrison was a young girl, she remembers staring at a photo of her grandmother swimming in Lake Rotorua, wondering why she was in the water. Morrison wasn’t allowed to swim in the lake. It was polluted. Her grandmother told her that when she was little everyone could swim in the lake. 

“I didn’t understand why she could, and I couldn’t. They used to dumb it down for me saying ‘it’s dirty’ but I wanted to know why it was dirty,” says Morrison. “As I've grown up, I’ve learned the reasons why.”

And now she’s actively working to restore balance to not just Aotearoa’s lakes but many natural resources as a Māori scientist. Not being able to swim in the lake she grew up next to did not stop Morrison from being drawn to wai (water). Diving has been a way to escape the confines of her own mind and body and truly connect with te taiao (the environment that contains and surrounds us). 

“When I’m diving, it’s my quiet time,” says Morrison. “I find that everything above water is filled with chaos, it's fast paced, it's about productivity and everything is so urgent. When I’m underwater all I can hear is my own heart beating. All I can feel is my body moving in unison with the water around me. I become more aware of myself and my connection with the natural world”.

The 26-year-old (Ngāti Whakaue, Rereahu-Maniapoto) completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Geology & Oceanography at Otago University in 2018. After graduating, she added PADI Divemaster to her credentials.

“Learning to dive was a journey of self-discovery. I learnt that I’m able to achieve a meditative state of mind underwater while simultaneously freeing my mind from negativity and self-doubt. I tend to come up with my best ideas underwater and try to bring them to life when I return to the surface”.

With her qualifications and understanding of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge), Morrison feels a responsibility as a kaitiaki (guardian) to respect, guard and conserve the environment. This has fuelled her drive to pursue a career in Environmental Science where she provides sustainable environmental solutions and advice underpinned by a holistic understanding of te ao Māori (Māori worldview) at Aurecon – an engineering, design and advisory company.

As a child, Morrison was fascinated by science but never envisaged becoming a scientist. “When I thought of scientists, I thought of men with grey hair, like Einstein! It never crossed my mind that Māori wāhine could wear lab coats too”. 

Growing up in Rotorua, she enjoyed swimming at local lakes and biking the tracks that weaved through geysers near her home. At a young age, Morrison learned about respect and her relationship with Papatūānuku. 

“It was natural, a part of everyday life,” she says. “After my siblings were born, I watched my mother bury their placenta in the land behind my grandparents’ house. Before eating, travelling and activities like fishing my whānau would say karakia. I sang waiata about my ancestors and their connection with the world around us. I knew which waterways near home were tapu (sacred) and not to be swum in. I didn’t realise at the time that these acts were significant to Māori – I thought everyone else did these things too”.

It wasn't until she stepped away from Rotorua- the first person in her family to go to university - that she realised that it wasn't something everyone did. “There were few Māori around me and I suddenly became ashamed of my upbringing and cultural practices. I felt different and I wanted to fit in, so I refused to embrace my culture like I did back home”. 

On the contrary, Morrison now has a new role in her company, weaving te ao Māori into environmental projects and she is working to ensure culture is recognised and embraced in more spaces across Aotearoa. 

“It takes courage and sometimes I do feel vulnerable, but I’ve opened up and shared my cultural perspective of the world. I do it because I want to create safe spaces for minority groups to feel proud about who they are. I do it in hope that minority groups will express their culture alongside their field of study. They shouldn't have to come into an institution or workplace and feel they have to be someone different - because those unique voices are key to driving changes, particularly in the climate and environmental space. There's just not enough of these voices.”

Morrison has also been part of Lakes380, a five-year research project that looks at understanding the environmental health and histories of New Zealand’s lakes. “Engagement with mana whenua and incorporation of mātauranga Māori has been at the forefront of the project. The project team engages with iwi and hapu and spends time at local marae recording stories and notable lake changes that mana whenua has seen and experienced over time. 

“Scientists collect sediment cores from lakes across Aotearoa and fancy analysis is completed in laboratories but Māori knowledge has been critical in understanding the science. For example, kuia and kaumatua / elders shared stories of catching tuna (eel) in local waterways as children and now they’re nowhere to be seen. This helps scientists understand the changes in water quality and its effects on habitats and ecology. Both scientists and mana whenua benefit from this project. Scientists can piece together their puzzle while exploring options to restore and remediate lakes alongside mana whenua.”

In te ao Māori, people and the natural world are one. One of Morrison’s favourite whakataukī is ‘koh wai o, koh wai.’ - Who are you? I am the water’ and extends to: ‘I am the land’, ‘I am everything’. 

So when it comes to her body, Morrison views it as tapu. “My body is sacred. Everything I do whether that be internal thoughts and feelings, or external conversations and actions, I'm always mindful of the way I’m treating my body because ultimately it's my entire being. If I tell myself good things, if I treat myself well, if I feed myself good food, then that's when I'm at my best and this can be useful for comparisons with our environment. How we treat the earth and how we feed and nourish the earth is ultimately going to impact the way it gives back to us or the way that we see it.” 

Whenever she feels overwhelmed with climate change and what needs to be done, Morrison knows she can dive under the wai to restore her hauora (well-being). 

“It is underwater that I can truly focus on taha wairua (spiritual well being), taha hinengaro (mental and emotional wellbeing), taha tinana (physical wellbeing), taha whānau (social wellbeing) as well as my connection with the environment. 

“I’m reminded to find balance and to nurture all aspects of my wellbeing. If we can switch to this understanding that we are one with the natural environment, it’s so much easier to understand how we can look after it. We will see a better world when we nurture it.”

The writer wishes to acknowledge the support of YWCA Aotearoa for their help and aroha with this series.

No items found.
Creativity, evocative visual storytelling and good journalism come at a price. Support our work and join the Ensemble membership program

Soltice Morrison dives to reconnect with the natural world

Illustration / Sara Moana

When Soltice Morrison was a young girl, she remembers staring at a photo of her grandmother swimming in Lake Rotorua, wondering why she was in the water. Morrison wasn’t allowed to swim in the lake. It was polluted. Her grandmother told her that when she was little everyone could swim in the lake. 

“I didn’t understand why she could, and I couldn’t. They used to dumb it down for me saying ‘it’s dirty’ but I wanted to know why it was dirty,” says Morrison. “As I've grown up, I’ve learned the reasons why.”

And now she’s actively working to restore balance to not just Aotearoa’s lakes but many natural resources as a Māori scientist. Not being able to swim in the lake she grew up next to did not stop Morrison from being drawn to wai (water). Diving has been a way to escape the confines of her own mind and body and truly connect with te taiao (the environment that contains and surrounds us). 

“When I’m diving, it’s my quiet time,” says Morrison. “I find that everything above water is filled with chaos, it's fast paced, it's about productivity and everything is so urgent. When I’m underwater all I can hear is my own heart beating. All I can feel is my body moving in unison with the water around me. I become more aware of myself and my connection with the natural world”.

The 26-year-old (Ngāti Whakaue, Rereahu-Maniapoto) completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Geology & Oceanography at Otago University in 2018. After graduating, she added PADI Divemaster to her credentials.

“Learning to dive was a journey of self-discovery. I learnt that I’m able to achieve a meditative state of mind underwater while simultaneously freeing my mind from negativity and self-doubt. I tend to come up with my best ideas underwater and try to bring them to life when I return to the surface”.

With her qualifications and understanding of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge), Morrison feels a responsibility as a kaitiaki (guardian) to respect, guard and conserve the environment. This has fuelled her drive to pursue a career in Environmental Science where she provides sustainable environmental solutions and advice underpinned by a holistic understanding of te ao Māori (Māori worldview) at Aurecon – an engineering, design and advisory company.

As a child, Morrison was fascinated by science but never envisaged becoming a scientist. “When I thought of scientists, I thought of men with grey hair, like Einstein! It never crossed my mind that Māori wāhine could wear lab coats too”. 

Growing up in Rotorua, she enjoyed swimming at local lakes and biking the tracks that weaved through geysers near her home. At a young age, Morrison learned about respect and her relationship with Papatūānuku. 

“It was natural, a part of everyday life,” she says. “After my siblings were born, I watched my mother bury their placenta in the land behind my grandparents’ house. Before eating, travelling and activities like fishing my whānau would say karakia. I sang waiata about my ancestors and their connection with the world around us. I knew which waterways near home were tapu (sacred) and not to be swum in. I didn’t realise at the time that these acts were significant to Māori – I thought everyone else did these things too”.

It wasn't until she stepped away from Rotorua- the first person in her family to go to university - that she realised that it wasn't something everyone did. “There were few Māori around me and I suddenly became ashamed of my upbringing and cultural practices. I felt different and I wanted to fit in, so I refused to embrace my culture like I did back home”. 

On the contrary, Morrison now has a new role in her company, weaving te ao Māori into environmental projects and she is working to ensure culture is recognised and embraced in more spaces across Aotearoa. 

“It takes courage and sometimes I do feel vulnerable, but I’ve opened up and shared my cultural perspective of the world. I do it because I want to create safe spaces for minority groups to feel proud about who they are. I do it in hope that minority groups will express their culture alongside their field of study. They shouldn't have to come into an institution or workplace and feel they have to be someone different - because those unique voices are key to driving changes, particularly in the climate and environmental space. There's just not enough of these voices.”

Morrison has also been part of Lakes380, a five-year research project that looks at understanding the environmental health and histories of New Zealand’s lakes. “Engagement with mana whenua and incorporation of mātauranga Māori has been at the forefront of the project. The project team engages with iwi and hapu and spends time at local marae recording stories and notable lake changes that mana whenua has seen and experienced over time. 

“Scientists collect sediment cores from lakes across Aotearoa and fancy analysis is completed in laboratories but Māori knowledge has been critical in understanding the science. For example, kuia and kaumatua / elders shared stories of catching tuna (eel) in local waterways as children and now they’re nowhere to be seen. This helps scientists understand the changes in water quality and its effects on habitats and ecology. Both scientists and mana whenua benefit from this project. Scientists can piece together their puzzle while exploring options to restore and remediate lakes alongside mana whenua.”

In te ao Māori, people and the natural world are one. One of Morrison’s favourite whakataukī is ‘koh wai o, koh wai.’ - Who are you? I am the water’ and extends to: ‘I am the land’, ‘I am everything’. 

So when it comes to her body, Morrison views it as tapu. “My body is sacred. Everything I do whether that be internal thoughts and feelings, or external conversations and actions, I'm always mindful of the way I’m treating my body because ultimately it's my entire being. If I tell myself good things, if I treat myself well, if I feed myself good food, then that's when I'm at my best and this can be useful for comparisons with our environment. How we treat the earth and how we feed and nourish the earth is ultimately going to impact the way it gives back to us or the way that we see it.” 

Whenever she feels overwhelmed with climate change and what needs to be done, Morrison knows she can dive under the wai to restore her hauora (well-being). 

“It is underwater that I can truly focus on taha wairua (spiritual well being), taha hinengaro (mental and emotional wellbeing), taha tinana (physical wellbeing), taha whānau (social wellbeing) as well as my connection with the environment. 

“I’m reminded to find balance and to nurture all aspects of my wellbeing. If we can switch to this understanding that we are one with the natural environment, it’s so much easier to understand how we can look after it. We will see a better world when we nurture it.”

The writer wishes to acknowledge the support of YWCA Aotearoa for their help and aroha with this series.

Creativity, evocative visual storytelling and good journalism come at a price. Support our work and join the Ensemble membership program
No items found.
Illustration / Sara Moana

When Soltice Morrison was a young girl, she remembers staring at a photo of her grandmother swimming in Lake Rotorua, wondering why she was in the water. Morrison wasn’t allowed to swim in the lake. It was polluted. Her grandmother told her that when she was little everyone could swim in the lake. 

“I didn’t understand why she could, and I couldn’t. They used to dumb it down for me saying ‘it’s dirty’ but I wanted to know why it was dirty,” says Morrison. “As I've grown up, I’ve learned the reasons why.”

And now she’s actively working to restore balance to not just Aotearoa’s lakes but many natural resources as a Māori scientist. Not being able to swim in the lake she grew up next to did not stop Morrison from being drawn to wai (water). Diving has been a way to escape the confines of her own mind and body and truly connect with te taiao (the environment that contains and surrounds us). 

“When I’m diving, it’s my quiet time,” says Morrison. “I find that everything above water is filled with chaos, it's fast paced, it's about productivity and everything is so urgent. When I’m underwater all I can hear is my own heart beating. All I can feel is my body moving in unison with the water around me. I become more aware of myself and my connection with the natural world”.

The 26-year-old (Ngāti Whakaue, Rereahu-Maniapoto) completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Geology & Oceanography at Otago University in 2018. After graduating, she added PADI Divemaster to her credentials.

“Learning to dive was a journey of self-discovery. I learnt that I’m able to achieve a meditative state of mind underwater while simultaneously freeing my mind from negativity and self-doubt. I tend to come up with my best ideas underwater and try to bring them to life when I return to the surface”.

With her qualifications and understanding of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge), Morrison feels a responsibility as a kaitiaki (guardian) to respect, guard and conserve the environment. This has fuelled her drive to pursue a career in Environmental Science where she provides sustainable environmental solutions and advice underpinned by a holistic understanding of te ao Māori (Māori worldview) at Aurecon – an engineering, design and advisory company.

As a child, Morrison was fascinated by science but never envisaged becoming a scientist. “When I thought of scientists, I thought of men with grey hair, like Einstein! It never crossed my mind that Māori wāhine could wear lab coats too”. 

Growing up in Rotorua, she enjoyed swimming at local lakes and biking the tracks that weaved through geysers near her home. At a young age, Morrison learned about respect and her relationship with Papatūānuku. 

“It was natural, a part of everyday life,” she says. “After my siblings were born, I watched my mother bury their placenta in the land behind my grandparents’ house. Before eating, travelling and activities like fishing my whānau would say karakia. I sang waiata about my ancestors and their connection with the world around us. I knew which waterways near home were tapu (sacred) and not to be swum in. I didn’t realise at the time that these acts were significant to Māori – I thought everyone else did these things too”.

It wasn't until she stepped away from Rotorua- the first person in her family to go to university - that she realised that it wasn't something everyone did. “There were few Māori around me and I suddenly became ashamed of my upbringing and cultural practices. I felt different and I wanted to fit in, so I refused to embrace my culture like I did back home”. 

On the contrary, Morrison now has a new role in her company, weaving te ao Māori into environmental projects and she is working to ensure culture is recognised and embraced in more spaces across Aotearoa. 

“It takes courage and sometimes I do feel vulnerable, but I’ve opened up and shared my cultural perspective of the world. I do it because I want to create safe spaces for minority groups to feel proud about who they are. I do it in hope that minority groups will express their culture alongside their field of study. They shouldn't have to come into an institution or workplace and feel they have to be someone different - because those unique voices are key to driving changes, particularly in the climate and environmental space. There's just not enough of these voices.”

Morrison has also been part of Lakes380, a five-year research project that looks at understanding the environmental health and histories of New Zealand’s lakes. “Engagement with mana whenua and incorporation of mātauranga Māori has been at the forefront of the project. The project team engages with iwi and hapu and spends time at local marae recording stories and notable lake changes that mana whenua has seen and experienced over time. 

“Scientists collect sediment cores from lakes across Aotearoa and fancy analysis is completed in laboratories but Māori knowledge has been critical in understanding the science. For example, kuia and kaumatua / elders shared stories of catching tuna (eel) in local waterways as children and now they’re nowhere to be seen. This helps scientists understand the changes in water quality and its effects on habitats and ecology. Both scientists and mana whenua benefit from this project. Scientists can piece together their puzzle while exploring options to restore and remediate lakes alongside mana whenua.”

In te ao Māori, people and the natural world are one. One of Morrison’s favourite whakataukī is ‘koh wai o, koh wai.’ - Who are you? I am the water’ and extends to: ‘I am the land’, ‘I am everything’. 

So when it comes to her body, Morrison views it as tapu. “My body is sacred. Everything I do whether that be internal thoughts and feelings, or external conversations and actions, I'm always mindful of the way I’m treating my body because ultimately it's my entire being. If I tell myself good things, if I treat myself well, if I feed myself good food, then that's when I'm at my best and this can be useful for comparisons with our environment. How we treat the earth and how we feed and nourish the earth is ultimately going to impact the way it gives back to us or the way that we see it.” 

Whenever she feels overwhelmed with climate change and what needs to be done, Morrison knows she can dive under the wai to restore her hauora (well-being). 

“It is underwater that I can truly focus on taha wairua (spiritual well being), taha hinengaro (mental and emotional wellbeing), taha tinana (physical wellbeing), taha whānau (social wellbeing) as well as my connection with the environment. 

“I’m reminded to find balance and to nurture all aspects of my wellbeing. If we can switch to this understanding that we are one with the natural environment, it’s so much easier to understand how we can look after it. We will see a better world when we nurture it.”

The writer wishes to acknowledge the support of YWCA Aotearoa for their help and aroha with this series.

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Soltice Morrison dives to reconnect with the natural world

Illustration / Sara Moana

When Soltice Morrison was a young girl, she remembers staring at a photo of her grandmother swimming in Lake Rotorua, wondering why she was in the water. Morrison wasn’t allowed to swim in the lake. It was polluted. Her grandmother told her that when she was little everyone could swim in the lake. 

“I didn’t understand why she could, and I couldn’t. They used to dumb it down for me saying ‘it’s dirty’ but I wanted to know why it was dirty,” says Morrison. “As I've grown up, I’ve learned the reasons why.”

And now she’s actively working to restore balance to not just Aotearoa’s lakes but many natural resources as a Māori scientist. Not being able to swim in the lake she grew up next to did not stop Morrison from being drawn to wai (water). Diving has been a way to escape the confines of her own mind and body and truly connect with te taiao (the environment that contains and surrounds us). 

“When I’m diving, it’s my quiet time,” says Morrison. “I find that everything above water is filled with chaos, it's fast paced, it's about productivity and everything is so urgent. When I’m underwater all I can hear is my own heart beating. All I can feel is my body moving in unison with the water around me. I become more aware of myself and my connection with the natural world”.

The 26-year-old (Ngāti Whakaue, Rereahu-Maniapoto) completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Geology & Oceanography at Otago University in 2018. After graduating, she added PADI Divemaster to her credentials.

“Learning to dive was a journey of self-discovery. I learnt that I’m able to achieve a meditative state of mind underwater while simultaneously freeing my mind from negativity and self-doubt. I tend to come up with my best ideas underwater and try to bring them to life when I return to the surface”.

With her qualifications and understanding of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge), Morrison feels a responsibility as a kaitiaki (guardian) to respect, guard and conserve the environment. This has fuelled her drive to pursue a career in Environmental Science where she provides sustainable environmental solutions and advice underpinned by a holistic understanding of te ao Māori (Māori worldview) at Aurecon – an engineering, design and advisory company.

As a child, Morrison was fascinated by science but never envisaged becoming a scientist. “When I thought of scientists, I thought of men with grey hair, like Einstein! It never crossed my mind that Māori wāhine could wear lab coats too”. 

Growing up in Rotorua, she enjoyed swimming at local lakes and biking the tracks that weaved through geysers near her home. At a young age, Morrison learned about respect and her relationship with Papatūānuku. 

“It was natural, a part of everyday life,” she says. “After my siblings were born, I watched my mother bury their placenta in the land behind my grandparents’ house. Before eating, travelling and activities like fishing my whānau would say karakia. I sang waiata about my ancestors and their connection with the world around us. I knew which waterways near home were tapu (sacred) and not to be swum in. I didn’t realise at the time that these acts were significant to Māori – I thought everyone else did these things too”.

It wasn't until she stepped away from Rotorua- the first person in her family to go to university - that she realised that it wasn't something everyone did. “There were few Māori around me and I suddenly became ashamed of my upbringing and cultural practices. I felt different and I wanted to fit in, so I refused to embrace my culture like I did back home”. 

On the contrary, Morrison now has a new role in her company, weaving te ao Māori into environmental projects and she is working to ensure culture is recognised and embraced in more spaces across Aotearoa. 

“It takes courage and sometimes I do feel vulnerable, but I’ve opened up and shared my cultural perspective of the world. I do it because I want to create safe spaces for minority groups to feel proud about who they are. I do it in hope that minority groups will express their culture alongside their field of study. They shouldn't have to come into an institution or workplace and feel they have to be someone different - because those unique voices are key to driving changes, particularly in the climate and environmental space. There's just not enough of these voices.”

Morrison has also been part of Lakes380, a five-year research project that looks at understanding the environmental health and histories of New Zealand’s lakes. “Engagement with mana whenua and incorporation of mātauranga Māori has been at the forefront of the project. The project team engages with iwi and hapu and spends time at local marae recording stories and notable lake changes that mana whenua has seen and experienced over time. 

“Scientists collect sediment cores from lakes across Aotearoa and fancy analysis is completed in laboratories but Māori knowledge has been critical in understanding the science. For example, kuia and kaumatua / elders shared stories of catching tuna (eel) in local waterways as children and now they’re nowhere to be seen. This helps scientists understand the changes in water quality and its effects on habitats and ecology. Both scientists and mana whenua benefit from this project. Scientists can piece together their puzzle while exploring options to restore and remediate lakes alongside mana whenua.”

In te ao Māori, people and the natural world are one. One of Morrison’s favourite whakataukī is ‘koh wai o, koh wai.’ - Who are you? I am the water’ and extends to: ‘I am the land’, ‘I am everything’. 

So when it comes to her body, Morrison views it as tapu. “My body is sacred. Everything I do whether that be internal thoughts and feelings, or external conversations and actions, I'm always mindful of the way I’m treating my body because ultimately it's my entire being. If I tell myself good things, if I treat myself well, if I feed myself good food, then that's when I'm at my best and this can be useful for comparisons with our environment. How we treat the earth and how we feed and nourish the earth is ultimately going to impact the way it gives back to us or the way that we see it.” 

Whenever she feels overwhelmed with climate change and what needs to be done, Morrison knows she can dive under the wai to restore her hauora (well-being). 

“It is underwater that I can truly focus on taha wairua (spiritual well being), taha hinengaro (mental and emotional wellbeing), taha tinana (physical wellbeing), taha whānau (social wellbeing) as well as my connection with the environment. 

“I’m reminded to find balance and to nurture all aspects of my wellbeing. If we can switch to this understanding that we are one with the natural environment, it’s so much easier to understand how we can look after it. We will see a better world when we nurture it.”

The writer wishes to acknowledge the support of YWCA Aotearoa for their help and aroha with this series.

Creativity, evocative visual storytelling and good journalism come at a price. Support our work and join the Ensemble membership program
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