"I hate pine trees," says third-year ecology student Kate Ladley. "They're like maggots on the landscape."
It's the right kind of attitude for a New Zealand environmentalist. And it was one motivating factor in Ladley's giving up her job as a landscaper and choosing to study Ecology at Otago.
"I wanted to do something which was more conservation focused," she says.
In the summer of 2002, Kate had the opportunity to apply some of her university-learnt skills when she joined a team surveying vegetation in the upper reaches of the Waitaki River catchment area. The research was funded by Meridian Energy, as part of Project River Recovery, and involved sampling 750 randomly selected plots.
"Unfortunately, the area's a mess. There are a lot of weeds, such as lupins and willows, and in some places, there is very little river flow."
Hydroelectricity is a controversial topic at the moment, with the proposed Project Aqua scheme to dam the lower Waitaki River. However, Ladley thinks this may actually benefit the area, by regulating irrigation management.
"Hydro schemes can be done well - look at Manapouri for example. And they are still one of the more ecologically sound ways of generating electricity."
Just as long as they don't encourage more pine trees...