PhD candidate at Auckland University of Technology
There have been strong calls globally and nationally to increase carbon sequestration in different land uses in New Zealand.
Carbon accounting is not mandatory in agricultural sectors; thus, woody vegetation in farms has not been recognised as an opportunity to reduce New Zealand’s national greenhouse gas emissions. Sequestering carbon in living biomass and in the soil can help reduce the impact of agriculture on climate change, while improving productivity, biodiversity, and ecosystem functions.
My PhD will capture the promising opportunity and multiple challenges, such as choosing the right land management and comprehensive techniques, to increase carbon stock on farms and explore what is needed to develop an ideal scenario to maximise the co-benefits of woody vegetation in farms in term of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
PhD candidate at the University of Auckland
My PhD will be looking at how the arrangement of vegetation in the landscape affects the movement of feral cats. Improving our understanding of cat movement is important due to the negative impact that feral cats have on native biodiversity and the economic cost to farmers through the transmission of disease, such as toxoplasmosis.
Restoring and connecting forest patches on farmland for birds may have the unintended consequence of enhancing feral cat movement in the landscape. Our research will inform how restoration efforts could take account of cat movement on farms to reduce impacts.
We will use live-capture traps to capture feral cats and attach GPS devices to determine habitat use, and home range in environments differing in the arrangement and connectivity of vegetation in the landscape. We will do this by using camera traps, chew cards and tracking tunnels to determine the abundance of other invasive mammals (e.g. rodents).
The impact of vegetation arrangement on the diet of these feral cats will also be determined via stomach content analysis. Hair samples from captured cats will also be collected, for genetic analysis, in an attempt to determine relatedness of cats across the landscape.
Master of Forestry student at Canterbury University
Sheep and beef farms have had a profound impact on the composition, structure, distribution and function of New Zealand’s native vegetation cover.
The types of forest and shrubland that once thrived in the unique land environments most conducive to growing grass and meat animals are in many cases now severely underrepresented on public conservation land. This means that the bush that exists now on sheep and beef farms may have more ecological value than was previously recognised.
Over the next year I will be writing a master's thesis aiming to measure the changes in size, density and arrangement of different types of native woody vegetation on selected sheep and beef farms. The historic record of world satellite photography captured by the American Landsat satellites dates back to the 1970s, so it will be possible to measure 40 to 50 years of changes with great accuracy.
I intend to produce work that will contribute to the development of techniques for rapid, remote analysis of New Zealand’s native forest fragments to quantify carbon sequestration and biodiversity values.
Previously I worked as a captive breeder of many of New Zealand’s most threatened bird and reptile species. This experience lead me towards working with forests as one of the greatest problems in threatened species recovery is a lack of suitable habitat.
My hope is that through research like this, farmers will be more easily able to preserve forest fragments that can support mature and diverse ecosystems that benefit both the economy of the farm and the health of the local native ecosystems.
Master of Science student at AUT
Birds play a vital role in agroecosystems by acting as pollinators and seed dispersers. However, their populations can be heavily impacted by the fragmentation of suitable habitat across the rural landscape.
For my MSc I am investigating the relationships between highly-frgamented forest plant communities on New Zealand sheep and beef farms, and the bird communities they support.
My key questions are:
1. How does habitat fragmentation affect bird communities in New Zealand's agroecosystems?
2. What's the relationship between the plant and bird communities?
3. What are the species (exotic and native) that are most affected?
4. How do birds get around these fragmented landscapes? Is fragmentation a limitation for some species and not others?
Master of Science student at AUT
Patches of forest vegetation can provide many social and ecological benefits , and their restoration can help in combatting some major impacts on our ever-developing world.
For my MSc I will be working closely with our Living Laboratory project to develop protocols describing how to most effectively restore forest vegetation, on what was formerly grazed pastoral land.
Bachelor of Science (Honours) student at AUT
One of the main causes of deforestation in New Zealand is the conversion of native vegetation to functional farmland. This can have profound ecological consequences, such as biodiversity loss, soil erosion and water pollution.
For my honours research I will use geospatial analysis to identify areas on farms that would be suitable for forest preservation and restoration. I will use a model to identify spatial combinations of these areas within a farm, in order to find out which combination will be most effective at mitigating environmental issues caused by the farming system.
Bachelor of Science (Honours) at AUT
Farms provide us with food and goods, as well as incomes for many kiwi families. However, there are also negative impacts that farms have on the environment.
Multifunctionality provides a framework to integrate different stakeholder interests across multiple spatial scales. This allows us to look at competing land-use objectives such as agricultural production, ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation.
For my research project I will be using GIS (geographic information system) to quantify the different aspects of multifunctionality by considering cultural, social, environmental and economic values.
I will be looking at both the landscape- and farm-scale to judge land suitability with different farm management scenarios. I will then model the potential impacts on indigenous biodiversity and ecosystem services, on-farm and in surrounding landscapes.
This provides an opportunity to look at how we can use multifunctionality to assess the impacts agriculture has on the environment and people across the three different farms.
Intern from HAS University of Applied Science
Supported by my supervisors Jennifer Parnell and Hannah Buckley (at AUT, Auckland) I did research on the difference of bird composition in three sheep and beef farms. Because New Zealand’s land area consists of 38% sheep and beef farming systems, it is important to conserve and increase the knowledge of these potentially diverse agroecosystems. Because agroecosystems are private land, a large amount of information is missing around the ecology of many bird species, as well as mammals, invertebrates, and reptiles.
That is the reason I did a literature review about 13 species and I did 10 minute bird counts on the farms where I was looking at different habitat types like indigenous forest, pine plantation or matagouri patches. I learned a lot from my internship, met a lot of nice people and saw a lot of the beautiful nature in New Zealand.
The bird populations on the three farms were different, mostly because of the difference in farm area and patch area. Still the farms showed similar results: more exotic birds were observed in exotic and native habitat patches. The percentage of native bird species was higher in native habitat types.
At the moment I am in my last year of my study (Applied Science in the Netherlands). Hopefully I will graduate in July 2019. Now I am working on a project to enhance biodiversity in urban areas (cities), which I think is a really important subject in the future. After graduating I will do a Masters degree in Forest & Nature Conservation at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
I really miss New Zealand and the friends I made there. I hope to visit New Zealand again in the future :)