Victoria students to present at Conservation Biology Oceania conference

The Society for Conservation Biology Oceania’s 2018 conference will take place at Te Papa on July 3rd to 5th.

The conference aims to bring together communities of conservation professionals to address challenges and present new findings, initiatives, methods, tools and opportunities in conservation science and practice.

Victoria University of Wellington are proud to be co-hosting the conference, and the University’s Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology is supporting Master’s and PhD students to present their research.

Sean Rudman (MSc candidate)

Sean Rudman will be presenting his research on the development and testing of experimental games, to determine whether devaluation strategies can save species from poachers.

“Escalating poaching threatens many species with extinction,” says Sean. “Population managers have taken to using devaluation strategies, such as dehorning rhinos, to discourage poachers. Whether these strategies work is untested and debated.”

The next stage of Sean’s research will be to test the games and finalise their development with local communities in South Africa.

Katherine De Silva (MSc candidate)

Katherine De Silva has been looking into the temporal dynamics of native seedling regeneration within planted urban forest sites.

“This work seeks to directly address many key restoration questions,” says Katherine. “Such as, ‘what natural succession is happening in urban forests?’, ‘how does the planted canopy influence regeneration of native seedlings underneath?’ and ‘what environmental or landscape factors influence regeneration?’”

Katherine installed permanent plots across five cities and selected 45 research sites to measure the structure, composition and environmental conditions.

“My field season was almost 4 months long full-time, from December 2017 through March 2018. I rented a motorhome for this time period, which was logistically a fantastic way to get around all my sites across the 4 southern cities,” says Katherine. “I spent every day in the field collecting vegetation data, which I am now in the process of sorting out.”

Katherine is now doing the preliminary data analysis using R software.

Victor Anton (PhD candidate)

Victor Anton is undertaking research, supported by the Wellington City Council, which provides key insights for better management of invasive species in New Zealand’s urban environment.

Victor has been deploying remote cameras in forested sites around Wellington, to better understand the ecology of invasive species in urban environments. The cameras enable him to simultaneously monitor a large range of animals.

“Based on the data collected from the camera, I’ll investigate how the distributions and abundances of invasive mammals are affected by diverse characteristics of the urban environment,” Victor says. “Characteristics like the types of vegetation, the connectivity of similar habitats and the predator control efforts of the community can all influence invasive mammals.

“These complex interactions, taking place in urban ecosystems, can determine the distribution of animals that threaten our native biodiversity.”

Nyree Fea (PhD candidate)

Nyree Fea will be presenting her research on undertaking a national meta-analyses on the responses of New Zealand’s forest birds to invasive mammal control.

“Our project took advantage of bird monitoring data collected across the breadth of New Zealand over the past 50 years,” says Nyree. “We aimed to identify which extant forest bird species benefited the most (or least) when intensity of invasive mammal control increased, or those that are particularly vulnerable (or resistant) to less management.

“Our results show positive effects of intensive mammal control on native birds at the national scale, particularly for populations of the larger endemic species, namely the New Zealand pigeon, parakeet and tui.

“However, responses can be variable, especially for populations of the smaller endemics, such as the brown creeper, rifleman, tomtit and yellowhead,” says Nyree. “This is likely driven by a combination of factors – such as predation from recovering mammal populations and competition from recovering larger, possibly more dominant, native bird populations.”