Grandchild of Ranginui Walker earns doctorate

By Tema Hemi

Dr Leilani Walker has graduated from Auckland Unversity with a Doctorate of Philosophy in Biological Sciences. Today she accepted the honour carrying the legacy of her reknowned grandfather, Dr Ranginui Walker.

The creepy and crawly may inspire fear in some, but for this Whakatōhea descendant they hold the key to understanding our world.

Walker says, "I think that spiders are really beautiful and I think that spiders and insects are a really important part of our natural eco-system but we just don't understand them.  And I think that in order to properly look our environment we really have to understand everything that goes on in it."

Walker has graduated in a field that not many Māori are a part of. 

"There are not very many, particularly higher up, I don't see many Māori faces at all.  I know a few in post-grad and they're amazing people but to be honest particularly in conservation and in bio-security there aren't many Māori faces at all and that's pretty sad."

And she's taking up the mantle left by her grandfather.

Walker says, "This robe is his legacy.  He got this from his doctorate in 1970 and he told us that the first grandchild to get a doctorate will get to wear his robe so that's me but I think the other thing is that as a third generation Māori person going to university knowing that he was once there made me believe I deserved to be there and no matter how few Māori faces I saw I knew I had a right to be there."

Walker says she will continue to research New Zealand's spiders so that she learns all the beneficial and great things they have to offer our natural eco-system.