19 March 2014

Ecoblitzing the Southern Alps


Cor Vink introduces a spider friend
Over the weekend Nina Valley played host to about 200 high school students from around the South Island, 30 or so teachers, and 50 ecologists. We were there to participate in an ecoblitz in Nina Valley and around the Boyle River area near Lewis Pass deep within the Southern Alps. The goals of the ecoblitz were to introduce high school students to ecological sampling in a real field situation as well as to collect information on diversity and distribution of species within the area. This area is increasingly being used as a research focus as great spotted kiwi are being released into Nina Valley and Lincoln University locate a major field trip there.


Planning for this event has taken well over a year. Nina Valley is a logistically difficult place to work and stay in. Tim Kelly, Jon Sullivan and Tim Curran, in particular amongst a cast of dozens, worked hard to get this concept up and running. I noticed a few extra grey hairs with these guys by the end of the weekend.
Grassland plots at Dan's Creek
Not only did they have to figure out how to keep 200 high school students happy and busy for a weekend, worry about safety in the mountains but they had to organise researchers (always difficult). In addition, when they all turned up ready to tent for two nights, the forecast was for a visit from cyclone Lusi.
James Ross talks about monitoring stoats and possums

I was there to help set out mammal monitoring equipment (tracking tunnels, trail cameras, wax tags) around the various plots set up in the valley in grassland, scrub and forest. I also gave a talk on kiwi and what they tell us about the biological history of New Zealand. When the kids weren't helping to gather information from our research plots they were taken in groups to see how to monitor for specific groups of organisms by experts. I took groups to show how we monitor mammals (including spotlighting in the evenings), spiders, and birds.

Ecoblitz over: a happy Jon Sullivan and Tim Curran
The energy of the kids was fantastic and the questions that I fielded were of a really high standard. It seems that the future of ecology in New Zealand is in good hands. We were incredibly lucky in that the cyclone went around our alpine valley and we had no real rain. Overall, the ecoblitz was a huge success. The next step is to look at the data that was collected and to get a handle on the diversity present in the area. That is something that will take a few months to put together and will be the icing on this particular cake. Stay tuned for an update!

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