Born and raised in Whakatū Nelson, Shenae was just 17 when she started in the industry, inspired by a love of marine biology and the ocean.
"I got in on the algae side of things, then moved into shellfish, specifically geoduck," she says. "Under the microscope it is such a cool animal, looking around for a place to burrow."
She worked while studying, graduating with a Bachelor of Aquaculture and Marine Conservation(external link) at NMIT, and accumulated plenty of industry experience before becoming an aquaculture tutor at NMIT Te Pūkenga.
During her career Shenae has done many Greenshell Mussel larval runs, when the free-swimming larvae metamorphose into a more recognisable mussel-like shape that settles onto a rope. This settlement process is a project she also runs with her students in class.
Shenae is also completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Aquaculture(external link) at NMIT.
"I am doing my post-grad research on sea cucumbers, which are potentially a huge export market for New Zealand."
Currently, sea cucumbers are wildly harvested, but researchers are looking at farming them under aquaculture farms, known as polyculture.
"Fish farmers are keen to use them because sea cucumbers live on the ocean floor and vacuum up algae and organic debris, leaving behind a healthier environment."
Aquaculture is the fastest-growing food production industry in the world, and there is plenty of scope for anyone wanting to enter the industry.
Aotearoa New Zealand is a leading producer of farmed Greenshell mussels, King salmon, and high-quality Pacific oysters; plus there's a strong focus on sustainability and research.
"You can do anything from opening mussels in a factory, joining a boat crew on a salmon farm in the Sounds or the Twizel canals, or working with microscopic algae in a lab," says Shenae.
"If you love the ocean, enjoy being outdoors, love science, or are keen on research and development—there's a role for you in aquaculture."
Shenae is also a member of Young Fish Aotearoa New Zealand(external link) —a networking group for young people (under 35) involved in the seafood industry.
At the 2023 New Zealand Aquaculture Conference, in front of 400 delegates, Shenae spoke about aquaculture training at NMIT Te Pūkenga.
"I shared a bit about my journey in the aquaculture industry, the great facilities ākonga have access to, and what it means to learn in the region where most New Zealand aquaculture produce is grown."
More information on aquaculture qualifications and programmes here.(external link)