Samara Nicholas is a founding trustee and Programme Director of the Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust. She was recognised in 2005 in the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Awards. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Science degree from AUT and is a graduate of Northtec’s Diploma of Environmental Management. Samara played a key role in the Kamo High school’s marine reserve proposal and establishment and is currently a representative on the Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserve advisory committee. Samara founded the Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) programme in 2001. Samara leads the development and expansion of the EMR programme throughout 9 regions of New Zealand in which she works with a team of up to 20 regional coordinators. The EMR programme was recently adopted in South Australia to help generate community engagement in marine reserves.
Samara is a PADI Dive Master and a registered assessor for unit standards in snorkelling. She was involved in the development of the Sir Peter Blake Trust’s ‘Young Blake Expeditions’ and was the snorkelling director for the inaugural expedition to the Kermadec Islands in 2012. In 2014, Samara received the Leo Ducker award from the New Zealand Underwater Association for outstanding deeds or services to New Zealand’s underwater environment. She was Seaweek coordinator in Northland for three years from 2014-2016. Samara is a regular public speaker and mentor for marine conservation projects. She has provided annual seminars to the University of Auckland post-graduate Marine Reserves course (begun by Bill Ballantine) at Leigh Marine Laboratory for five years.
Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) is a national programme of experiential learning about marine conservation. EMR’s independence, professional delivery, marine reserves focus and provision of a range of learning styles make it unique within New Zealand. Since its introduction in Northland in 2002, programme uptake has continued to increase throughout the country. The Department of Conservation (DOC) is a foundation partner of the Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust, and has supported the development of the EMR programme since inception. The Tindall Foundation and DOC Community Fund support the programme’s national expansion and community engagement activities.
The concept of EMR is to engage schools and communities by providing the equipment and expertise for a hands-on learning experience in the ocean. The programme involves investigating marine biodiversity and local marine environments before venturing to a fully-protected marine reserve. After this experience, students
are able to compare unprotected and protected areas and are then supported to put their knowledge into ACTION within the community.
Since 2002, EMR has expanded to eight regions, with a team of 20 coordinators, EMR has guided snorkel experiences for 27,834 (39,304 including accompanying whanau and teachers) students in NZ marine reserves and over 14,889 people have been engaged in EMR organised marine conservation events. In all, almost 50,000
(49,532) kiwi’s have been engaged in EMR.
Samara is an inspiration and role model to all ages in how positive persistent action can lead to change benefiting society, in particular by creating new marine reserves and educating families about the marine environment. Her major achievement has been making EMR a sustainable marine education programme in addition to successfully advocating for new marine reserves. These successes are leading to long lasting changes in how New Zealand society will respect and protect ocean life.