2019 Braided Rivers seminar speakers
Dr. Jan Wright, Chair Te Manahuna Aoraki: Jan Wright’s affection for the Canterbury High Country began when she was a 15-year-old, canoeing on Lake Heron. That trip left a lasting impression and she is excited about being involved in a project to preserve and restore the life and biodiversity of this very beautiful part of the country. Prior to joining Te Manahuna Aoraki, Jan was New Zealand’s Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment for ten years, retiring in 2017. Her last report as Commissioner was about New Zealand’s birds and she fell in love with the wrybill-the only bird in the world with a beak that curves to the right, and one that lives in the Mackenzie country. Jan has a Physics degree from Canterbury, a Masters degree in Energy and Resources from Berkeley in California, and a PhD in Public Policy from Harvard. In her working life, she has taught at Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in Otara and worked as an independent policy and economic consultant for many different NZ government agencies and as a member of many boards. Dr Wright is a Companion of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Jan is also a member of the Interim Climate Change Committee and the Westpac Sustainability Advisory Panel.
Nick Ledgard, Chair Ashley Rakahuri Rivercare Group Inc (ARRG) and BRaid: Nick is a retired forestry researcher (Scion/NZFRI) returning to ornithological roots put out as a youngster. He is a long-time OSNZ member. Currently, he spends most of his time trying to improve the lot of native birds on braided rivers (particularly on the Ashley-Rakahuri River) and pursuing his interests in farm forestry and wilding trees. He is the chairman of the Ashley Rakahuri Rivercare Group and BRaid.
Sonny Whitelaw, Manager BRaid: With a background in coastal geomorphology and climate change (primarily sea level rise), Sonny has worked on environmental management projects in Vanuatu, Australia, and New Zealand. She was the joint winner (with Lincoln University, DOC, and Hurunui College) of the 2014 Supreme Green-Ribbon Award for the Nina Valley Ecoblitz. The author of several novels, in 2014 she collaborated with over 100 children to produce the book Celebrating Biodiversity in the Hurunui District. Sonny has managed BRaid since 2015 while developing project plans for other organisations, including the ‘Predator-Free Hanmer Springs’ project for Te Tihi o Rauhea Conservation Trust.
Dr. Murray Hicks, NIWA: Principal Scientist for River and Coastal Geomorphology at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd (NIWA) in Christchurch, he specialises in sediment transport by coastal and river processes. Over recent decades, he has focussed on measuring and modelling national suspended sediment loads and the morphodynamics of Canterbury braided rivers and applying results to assessing the effects of water-use schemes, dams, and gravel extraction on river morphology and physical habitat. He has also used coastal sediment budgets, remote-sensing, and morphological models to investigate the effects of changing river sand/gravel yields on the stability of the coast in the context of rising sea level and changing wave climate.
David Owen, Environment Canterbury: With a background in agriculture and soil conservation, David has worked for ECan as a forester, mainly on the berms of braided rivers, and as a manager of River Engineering. From 2004, he led a team that developed regional parks for the lower Waimakariri and Ashley Rakahuri Rivers. Recently, David was appointed to the role of Principal Biodiversity Advisor for Braided Rivers.
Grant Davey, Ashley Rakahuri Rivercare Group Inc (ARRG): A mineral exploration geologist and hydrogeologist, Grant’s career has taken him to Indonesia, Australia, and most recently here in New Zealand with ECan. He has had a longstanding interest in birds, primarily as a photographer. Living on a bank of the Ashley River, he is now applying his technical and IT skills to support the work of the Ashley Rakahuri Rivercare Group.
Dr. Frances Schmechel, Environment Canterbury: Frances has been involved with braided rivers and shorebirds (wader species) since she moved to NZ in the early 1990s. She studied Chatham Island oystercatchers as part of her thesis while at Lincoln University, and has since been involved with waders via the black stilt recovery programme, braided river bird surveys, as a member of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on Braided River birds, and is currently involved via her work at Environment Canterbury where she helps to implement the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS) and manages one of the Regional Flagship Programmes for Braided Rivers.
Dr. Jean Jack, Environment Canterbury: A Land Ecologist at Environment Canterbury, Jean provides advice to Ecan staff, particularly for consent processing. In the past: a student and tutor of ecology at Lincoln University where she gained a PhD in Ecology looking at Ecosystem Services of native plants in agricultural landscapes. Originally Jean is from Oakura in Taranaki with family connections back to Timaru & Lyttelton – where she now calls home.
Donna Field, Environment Canterbury: Donna works in the biodiversity and land management area. She is based in the Ashburton Depot and spends a lot of time finding ways to improve the habitat for birds in the Ashburton River, particularly in the lower reaches. Most of this work is providing technical advice drawn from a broad ecological knowledge base. Donna is fortunate to have a good team of scientists and an active Forest and Bird Group to help her.
Dr. Richard Maloney, Department of Conservation: Richard’s background is a mix of threatened species conservation, reintroductions and habitat management, particularly in braided rivers and dry-lands environment. He is the lead science advisor for black stilt, an endangered wading bird with 70 wild adults remaining. His MSc in zoology attempted to train NZ robins to recognize and respond to introduced mammalian predators, and his PhD was on the reintroduction and breeding ecology of houbara bustards, which he did while working on conservation projects in the Saudi Arabian desert. In the last decade, Richard led work for DOC in setting outcome-based objectives for all-natural heritage work and for cost-efficiently prioritizing national resources for all threatened species. He has been involved in similar work in the states of Tasmania and New South Wales in Australia.
Dr. Tara Murray, University of Canterbury: Tara is a senior lecturer in the University of Canterbury where she teaches biosecurity, forest health, insect biology, and insect conservation in the School of Forestry, School of Biological Sciences, and Environmental Science degree programmes. Tara grew up helping out her dad who worked to protect the threatened birds of the Mackenzie braided rivers, particularly Kaki but has always been fascinated with the diversity of insect life. In 2015 she established a research programme focused on insect conservation which centres around Threatened and At-Risk grasshoppers and other braided river insects in the Mackenzie basin. Tara is also the secretary of the New Zealand Entomological Society.
Jemma Welch, Department of Conservation: Jemma completed her BSc and MSc at Auckland University studying the breeding ecology of grey-faced petrels. She has worked with numerous other seabird species during and since throughout New Zealand. This eventually brought her down to the braided rivers of the upper Waitaki basin where she took up monitoring black-fronted terns on the Tasman River. She has since become the biodiversity ranger for Project River Recovery, managed by DOC and funded by Meridian and Genesis Energies, where she spends her time galivanting around the upper Waitaki basin’s rivers chasing birds, insects and lizards and stumbling across the occasional plant.
Ailsa Howard, Forest & Bird / Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust: Ailsa graduated in Botany (with a Biogeography leaning) from Otago in 1983. A keen tramper and birder, she is currently Chairperson of Forest and Bird, Kaikoura Branch, and Secretary and Trustee of The Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust. Alisa is also a freelance photographer, with a particular interest in advocacy for wildlife. She is currently undertaking 5-year research project: The Banded Dotterels of South Bay – the empty nest syndrome, a project born from the influx of weeds into the braided river systems forcing dotterels to nest (almost entirely unsuccessfully) on the beach.
Brad Edwards, Department of Conservation: Brad studied Zoology at Massey University before starting a career with DOC. Residing in Geraldine, he works predominantly on Braided Riverbed Ecosystem Recovery in the Rangitata and Waitaki. His career has been orientated towards threatened species work and is a strong supporter of whole ecosystem management to preserve them.