New Zealand

For 4 years I was fortunate enough to visit a number of offshore island nature reserves around the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand.  This spectacular archipelago is chock full of endemic New Zealand critters, seabirds, and a rich cultural history.  Many of these islands belong to the Ngāti Hei, Ngātiwai, Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāti Awa, and other Hauraki Gulf iwi (Māori tribes).  Each have their respective traditions, but one common thread is the importance of muttonbirding (harvest of petrel chicks).

Part of my PhD research was examining how petrel populations recover after rodent eradication.  Rodents were introduced by both Māori and later Europeans and are thought to suppress petrel populations by eating eggs and chicks – and if the seabird species is small enough – adults.  Recovery of petrels is central to the restoration of New Zealand islands – both ecologically and culturally.  When we visited a predator-free island, the importance of petrels was immediately apparent, with thousands of birds calling and crashing through the canopy, tuatara darting in and out of seabird burrows, and weta and geckos crawling around the lush forest.

Thanks to the local iwi and my supervisory team at MWLR I feel so lucky that I had the privilege of studying these taonga (treasures) of Aotearoa (New Zealand)!

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