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October newsletter: some sad goodbyes and ground-breaking progress

Kia ora koutou,

Both the Farming & Nature Conservation project and team are undergoing huge shifts at the moment, so it’s great to see lots of people signing up to our newsletter and keeping in touch via social media.

Changes in the F&NC whānau

We’ve reached three massive milestones in the last couple weeks, with our two post-docs and one PhD student completing their studies.

Dr Jennifer Pannell, who has been our modeller-extraordinaire since the project’s conception, has finished her post-doctoral study and been offered a position at North Carolina State University. While we’re sad to see her go, this is a great opportunity and the whole team are wishing her the best of luck for her next chapter.

Also turning a page is Dr Leilani Walker, who came to our project after finishing her PhD at Auckland Uni. She has spent this year looking at how people view land use change and has now secured herself a new role as the Ray Thomas Shannon assistant curator in entomology at Auckland Museum. Congrats Leilani!

Azhar measuring the maximum fire temperature as it burns vegetation samples

Azhar was looking at flammability in plants and took many samples from our study farms. During his study he improved the conventional flammability testing technique and identified surrogate measures for flammability, such as leaf dry matter content.

Azhar also identified the role plant species play in the overall level of flammability of a vegetation patch. From this he can demonstrate the ways low flammability plants can be used to reduce fire impacts.

With all these team members leaving us it’s nice to be able to welcome a couple aboard the F&NC waka. Bruce Small and Roxanne Henwood are both social scientists who are now part of our AgResearch collaboration, based in Hamilton and Auckland respectively. We’re looking forward to working with them into the future.

We also have lots of students continuing or starting their research this year, you can read all about their projects on our website.

Ground-breaking progress at the Living Laboratory site

The very first plants are in the ground at our pioneer Living Laboratory site!

We’ve partnered with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei to recloak their whenua, while investigating how we can most efficiently grow native canopy species.

In August we had our very first planting day and since then we have gotten around 3000 plants in the ground.

Over 50 staff members and students from AUT have come out to get their hands dirty and we also recently hosted around 40 school children as part of the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei holiday programme. The kids planted trees and did some sampling of earthworms, bird counts, tree measuring and water testing.

It was great to host the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei school holiday programme for tree planting and some ecological sampling

“Farming with Biodiversity” website coming together

In the last week of September Adam and Stacey spent a few days visiting farmers around the Hawke’s Bay region, interviewing them about how they’re managing biodiversity on their land.

It never ceases to amaze us how varied the people, farms and solutions to different problems are all around the country. We talked to farmers at every point along the spectrum – some only retaining native vegetation because that’s the cheapest alternative, some letting their land naturally revert into native bush, and others actively retiring areas and planting native species back.

Whatever their view, we want to gather as many real-life stories as we can with the website ‘start-up’ funding we currently have. Once we have some case studies finished and the site skeleton created (both in progress now), we can use these to find more support to keep this new project going.

We’re also awaiting funding decisions from New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, who are in the process of scoping areas for their next five years of investment. Keep your fingers crossed!

Ngā mihi,

The Farming & Nature Conservation team:

Hannah Buckley, David Norton, Brad Case, Margaret Stanley, Valance Smith, Stacey Bryan, Tarn Gillman, Adam Forbes, Jeff Silby, Estelle Dominati, Margaret Brown, Fleur Maseyk, Bruce Small and Roxanne Henwood.

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