Meet our Education Team

Meet the team responsible for delivering the Trust’s Hillary’s Hut – Antarctica Virtual Reality Experience around schools, community groups and events in New Zealand.

Dr Gabriela Roldan

Education Manager

Dr Gabriela Roldan joined the team as Education Manager for 2022. Her extensive experience as an educator and Antarctican is helping shape the Trust’s education programme as we share emerging technology content with schools and communities around New Zealand and the world.

Gabriela is a social scientist and educator with a passion for Antarctica. She has a PhD in Antarctic Studies from the University of Canterbury and her interests span from geopolitics and history to human connections with Antarctica. Gabriela’s Antarctic experience have led her to take on a variety of roles, from assisting policy-makers on Antarctic tourism matters to creating and implementing strategic plans for the development of gateway cities. Antarctic education and community outreach programmes are pillar projects in her career; she has designed and delivered school-based curriculum Antarctic programmes in New Zealand, Argentina and Chile. Also, at an international level, Gabriela collaborates as a member of the Advisory Committee on Capacity Building, Education and Training for the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.

An avid and curious traveller, Gabriela lectures regularly on cruise ships and has visited Antarctica over sixty times.

Adelma Matthews

Public Engagement Officer

Adelma Matthews joined the Trust’s education team in March 2023. An experienced educator with over 20 years of experience working in schools and with communities, Adelma is looking forward to sharing stories of Sir Edmund Hillary and the magic of Antarctica with communities around New Zealand. During her time as a classroom teacher, team leader, deputy principal and resource teacher of learning and behaviour, she has championed the enthralling stories of the heroic-era of Antarctic exploration. With her keen appreciation for the environment, Adelma has also run various environmental groups within schools and is keen to ensure students appreciate the unique environment of Antarctica. As a member of the Learning Through The Arts Committee, Adelma helped organise several national conferences around New Zealand, and ran various workshops for a wide variety of groups. She is looking forward to connecting with many different people through the Trust’s Inspiring Explorers Education™ programme.

In her leisure time, Adelma is a keen runner and biker, enjoying both road biking and mountain biking in all areas of New Zealand and abroad.

Lucy Howell

VR Assistant

Lucy visited Antarctica as a postgraduate student at the University of Canterbury, which led her to move to Christchurch (from Melbourne) to undertake a Masters degree. During this time Lucy worked on developing a protocol for extracting Weddell Seal DNA from snow samples.

She is currently doing her PhD on kororā/little blue penguins and how we can use molecular tools to inform conservation. Despite the shift away from Antarctic research, Lucy remains very interested in Polar Research and loves that working with Antarctic Heritage Trust allows her to maintain that connection. Having visited Sir Edmund Hillary’s hut in person, Lucy says it’s exciting to now get to share it with the public through the VR experience. Outside of work and research Lucy enjoys being creative and she occasionally gets to combine all her passions, including painting the Gateway Antarctic Pop Up Penguin which was displayed at the Canterbury museum in 2020!

Melanie Dixon

VR Assistant

Melanie Dixon is a writer, adventurer and photographer, with an academic background in biology and environmental change. She is based in Christchurch and has worked in education for many years, tutoring and mentoring students and adults in creative writing, including at the University of Canterbury and at Write On School for Young Writers. Her short stories and flash fiction have been published and anthologised internationally, and she is currently working on a speculative post-climate-change trilogy for young adults.

Melanie has an ongoing fascination with exploration and wild places, including Antarctica. She loves running, cycling and kayaking and is always looking for the next adventure!

Alex Aves

VR Assistant

Alex is an Antarctic early career researcher currently completing her PhD at the University of Canterbury, with a focus on microplastics in Antarctica.

On the side she gets to share her passion and interest for the Antarctic by working with Antarctic Heritage Trust and taking the virtual reality experience of Sir Edmund Hillary’s hut to schools and outreach events across the country. Alex says it is the most fulfilling role to talk to members of the public about all things Antarctic and seeing the excitement after people complete the VR experience.

As well as being involved as much as possible in all things Antarctic, Alex likes to spend her weekends out in the hills getting to see the beauty New Zealand has to offer. Having grown up in Sydney, she also has a love for the ocean and spends a lot of her time in or near the water.

Karina Leppik

VR Assistant

Karina Leppik holds degrees in physics and astronomy, and has had a varied career in both education and science operations. She has wintered over at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station with a submillimetre telescope, and held various operational roles with NASA’s airborne observatory, SOFIA, including science flight planner and mission director.

Karina has taught secondary and tertiary physics and astronomy, and overseen telescopes and planetariums for educational programs. In addition to assisting with the Trust’s VR tour of Sir Edmund Hilary’s hut, she is the scientist in residence at the International Antarctic Centre.

Arek Aspinwall

VR Assistant

Arek is a PhD student at the University of Canterbury, looking at how the rebuild of Aotearoa New Zealand’s new Antarctic station will impact the seals hanging out nearby. He got to visit Antarctica with the University in 2019 and has been plotting on how to get back ever since!

On his trip to the ice, Arek relaxed by playing the piano that is now living in the restored Sir Edmund Hillary’s Hutt. He has visited multiple other huts looked after by Antarctic Heritage Trust and is happy to talk about Antarctica in English or in Polish.

When not looking at pictures of seals, Arek can be found around Christchurch playing frisbee or volleyball, or out in the mountains hiking or skiing.

Book VR for my School or Community Group

Antarctic Heritage Trust is touring Hillary’s Hut – Antarctica Virtual Reality Experience around schools and community groups and events in New Zealand. If you would like the team to bring the experience to your school, community group or event fill in the form and someone will be in touch soon. Thank you to our national tour sponsor Dulux New Zealand.

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