We would first like to farewell Toni White from AgResearch in Hamilton and thank her for all her hard work on the project up until now. Taking over from her will be Margaret Brown from AgResearch and Fleur Maseyk from The Catalyst Group. We look forward to working with you both!
As the summer has well and truly drawn to a close and many other projects are wrapping up their fieldwork for the season, the team at Farming & Nature Conservation are just getting started.
Many of our fieldwork protocols require seasonal sampling, which means we need to get data during the summer and winter or once every change of season. Needless to say, our fieldworkers are stocking up on wet weather gear! One of the aims for April and May is to go out to all of the farms and collect the tea bags we buried back in February. Once we re-weigh the tea bags we will be able to calculate how much of the tea decomposed over the last three months and then compare the decomposition rate of soil under pasture, forest, regenerating scrub and pine trees.
We will also be setting up tracking tunnels, chew cards and camera “traps” in the different habitat types around the three farms. These are all to monitor mammalian pests. Tracking tunnels consist of a plastic tunnel that gets secured to the ground. Into the tunnel we place a piece of white card with ink and bait (normally peanut butter). The hedgehog, rat, mouse, stoat, weasel or ferret walks through the tunnel to get to the bait and leaves black footprints on its way out.
Chew cards work in a similar way but instead of leaving footprints the mammal leaves bite marks. Possums, rodents, hedgehogs and rabbits all leave distinctive bite marks on the piece of card which the surveyor can identify.
Camera “traps” are motion-activated trail cameras that are set up in a grid or in lines. They take photos of any animal that walks in front of them and sets off the motion sensor. This creates a massive database of photos to go through but gives some really good data about all of the animals present in the area.
While some of us will be out getting wet and muddy setting up all of this fieldwork, the more sensible ones will be tucked up in the office getting to work on modelling our farms. The last of the native vegetation has been mapped so now it’s time to get that information into ArcGIS and combine it with the farm management information. Watch this space!
Kia ora rawa atu,
The Farming & Nature Conservation team:
Hannah Buckley, David Norton, Brad Case, Margaret Stanley, Jennifer Pannell, Valance Smith, Estelle Dominati, Margaret Brown, Fleur Maseyk and Stacey Bryan