AUT’s School of Science will work with the Bream Head Conservation Trust to rid Bream Head Reserve of pests.
The work is part of a new collaborative agreement to advance and promote environmental science research in Northland. The School of Science’s strength in terrestrial and marine conservation is particularly pertinent to conserving Bream Head Reserve’s pristine coastline and coastal forest.
“Plant and animal pests are a serious threat to New Zealand’s natural ecosystems and the problem, especially with plants, is getting worse every year,” says Science School Head, Professor Len Gillman. “Intact coastal forest is one of the rarest types of vegetation in New Zealand due to extensive coastal subdivision and past land clearance for farming. This collaboration provides a way to enhance the effort being made by volunteers who give up enormous amounts of their time to try and turn back the rising tide of environmental degradation.”
AUT conservation scientists, led by Dr Barbara Bollard, will use drone technology and geospatial science skills to locate Moth Plant invasions. AUT marine scientists will also have input into plans to pursue a marine reserve to adjoin the existing land-based reserve.
AUT will also help the Trust with socio-ecological systems analysis; the science of analysing communities and their needs to better achieve conservation objectives, says Professor Gillman.
“We have a point of difference in the programmes that we offer students, in that we integrate the socio-economic aspect of conservation science with the ecological aspect; an approach that is vitally important for producing successful conservation outcomes.”
Bream Head Conservation Trust board member Rod Gates says the initiative began with former AUT Chancellor Sir Paul Reeves. “Sir Paul was patron of the Trust and strongly felt that urban students would better understand the fundamental importance of conservation of the natural environment if given the opportunity to experience the colours, smells and birdsong of the Northland bush. He wanted future generations to feel they owned and were responsible for the environment. He also insisted the Trust follow the principles of mātauranga Māori; that everything is connected to everything else – land, sea, air and life itself.”
AUT Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Geoff Perry says Bream Head and its marine environment is an ideal setting for field experience for teaching and research for AUT science students. The collaboration gives staff and students an opportunity to be part of advanced conservation practices and associated with projects that make a real lifestyle difference to the Northland community and New Zealand.
“Providing a challenging, useful and accessible advanced education underpinned by relevant research is at the core of AUT’s mission to create great graduates,” he says.
This month Professors Gillman and Perry attended a signing ceremony for the collaboration agreement in Whangarei. Conservation Minister, Eugenie Sage was also there and accompanied the parties on a boat trip to view the reserve from offshore.
Bream Head Scenic Reserve