25352250_10212071577078933_1158615568163890942_oHi! Welcome to my blog! 🙂 My name is Preston, and I’m studying Environmental Conservation and Sustainability at the University of New Hampshire. I love hiking and camping, I play the trombone (I am actually getting a double major in trombone performance!), and I love cooking and baking—I have been working on perfecting my sourdough bread this winter.

In September I will embark for New Zealand for my last semester of college. I am extremely excited to have such an amazing opportunity!! I have many friends who have done the EcoQuest program in the past, and they have all spoken so highly of their experience. It was the attitude and thoughtfulness of the people who I met after they came back from EcoQuest that led me to switch to the Environmental Conservation and Sustainability major in the first place. Now I finally get to experience New Zealand for myself!

New Zealand is particularly interesting because it is ecologically unique—the islands were some of the last places to be settled by humans, and it was even later before western civilization and industrialization came along. The isolated nature of the islands resulted in unique ecosystems and many endemic species. The only native land mammals in New Zealand are two species of bat, and the introduction of exotic mammals to the islands has caused the extinction of many native species and threatened many more.

The relative recency of European colonization allowed the native Māori to have a uniquely strong influence on the culture, government, and policy of New Zealand, despite the Pākehā invasion and subsequent decline of the Māori population. The traditional Māori relationships with the lands and waters of New Zealand are increasingly part of the mainstream views of these relationships, and that is reflected in the ecological policies enacted by the government of New Zealand.

I am very interested in the integration of a sense of community, a sense of place, and an ecological understanding with policy goals, and the shaping of public opinion based on these community-oriented mindsets. From what I have learned so far through reading about New Zealand’s history, it is a global leader in ecology- and community-minded systems thinking, and I am very interested in seeing how those systems came about, and the effects that they have. I tend to think that a lack of that kind of understanding is what leads to many of the problems we face in the United States today regarding political polarization, environmental degradation, and many other interrelated issues. It is my greatest hope that I will be able to take the experiences I gain at EcoQuest back with me to the United States and share them with communities here.