2020 Braided Rivers Symposium: speakers

Nick Ledgard, Chair Ashley Rakahuri Rivercare Group (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. In addition to managing BRaid since 2015, Sonny is a researcher/writer and web designer for NZ and Scottish ecological trusts and consultancies.

Councillor Grant Edge, Environment Canterbury: Grant is a previous deputy chair of the Waimakariri Water Zone Committee. A Landscape Architect with a background in urban and rural design and planning, Grant campaigned on a platform of sensible forward-thinking governance with a necessarily urgent focus on dealing with climate change and water quality issues. He believes the Canterbury region needs to action sustainable land management practices and environmental improvements. He is interested in promoting the special character of unique natural environments for growth in tourism and recreational opportunities.

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.

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.

Peter Caldwell, Senior Biosecurity Consultant Boffa Miskell: Based in Christchurch, Pete manages Land Information New Zealand’s terrestrial plant and animal pest control programme under the LINZ/Boffa Miskell Strategic Biosecurity Partnership.  Pete seeks to deliver efficient and effective control of pest species across entire landscapes by ensuring that LINZ administered land is managed within the context of local and regional imperatives and in collaboration with adjoining land managers and relevant agencies.

Shaun Thomason, Biosecurity and Biodiversity Advisor, Land Information New Zealand (LINZ): Based in Wellington, Shaun work is focused on improving the biodiversity outcomes of LINZ’s land management activities. He is also involved in a personal capacity with the Predator Free Northland community group in Wellington.

Megan Reid, Group Manager Biosecurity and Biodiversity, Land Information New Zealand (LINZ): Megan was recently appointed to the Group Manager Biosecurity & Biodiversity. She has worked in the public sector for over twenty years, predominantly in operational delivery and service design leadership roles.

Assoc. Prof. Ann Bower, University of Canterbury: With degrees from UC Berkeley and Yale, Ann studies the interactions between people and the environment. Often that relationship is shaped by things like property rights, community responsibilities, and government rules. Ann looks at how those play out in landscapes and natural resources. She has published widely about contested ownership of land – especially in the South Island high country, and now in and around braided rivers.

Dr Jonathan Tonkin, University of Canterbury: senior lecturer and founder of Tonkin Lab. He started with a PhD at Massey University working with Russell Death, Mike Joy, and Kevin Collier looking at the interaction between productivity and disturbance on structuring stream invertebrate diversity patterns. He lectured  Environmental Management and Marine Studies at the Bay of Plenty Polytech before lecturing in Environmental Science at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University China. This was followed by two years at the Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Germany, and three years at Oregon State University. He was completing a postdoc at the University of Canterbury when he received a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship: ‘Rethinking ecological networks in changing environments.’

Scott Wilson, Lincoln Agritech Limited: Scott Wilson worked as a geologist and hydrogeologist for 25 years, the last 8 in research at Lincoln Agritech. His background is in conceptualisation and modelling of groundwater systems for improved water management. He is leading a newly funded MBIE research programme to understand how braided rivers work in the subsurface.

Mike Bell, Wildlife Management International Ltd: Mike has had an interest in birds since a small child and has developed this into a career in avian conservation and research. With a BSc in ecology and over twenty years of practical experience he has a widely versatile skill set; including endangered bird research, monitoring and management; predator eradication and control; bird capture, banding and tracking; project management and development. Mike is dedicated to community-based conservation and is committed to helping provide local communities with the skills and resources needed to achieve positive outcomes for species and habitats.

Grant Davey, Ashley Rakahuri Rivercare Group (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.

Hugh Gourlay, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research: Hugh currently manages the insect containment facility at Lincoln. He is responsible for the importation, host testing, rearing and release of insect biocontrol agents for a range of weeds in NZ. Hugh started working for MAF in 1975 in Christchurch and was based at Lincoln for a while before moving to Levin where he worked at the Levin Horticultural Research Centre. After a few years, Hugh left to return to Christchurch and work and Lincoln University as a lab technician and then at the University of Canterbury as an entomology technician. Hugh finally settled at DSIR, Entomology division at Lincoln in 1982 where he has been ever since. When DSIR was dissolved in 1992, Hugh began working for Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research as a senior technician managing the quarantine and containment facility. Hugh has worked on the biocontrol of gorse, ragwort, old man’s beard, banana passionfruit, thistles, broom, tutsan, and Japanese honeysuckle. He has been surveying ragwort infestations on the West Coast for over 30 years and releasing biocontrol agents for a range of weeds here. Hugh has travelled extensively around the world as part of his work surveying, collecting and bringing potential biocontrol agents back to NZ.

Rachel L Hufton Project Officer, Aspiring Biodiversity Trust (ABT): Rachel is a professional ecologist and ornithologist, originally from the UK, living in New Zealand for five years. Her current focus is the Makarora Catchment Threatened Species Project – From Ridge To River. A partnership project centred on four focal habitats and the species they support; braided river for wrybill, black-fronted tern, banded dotterel, black-billed gull, beech/ podocarp forest for kaka and long-tailed bat, upper river catchments for whio and the alpine environment for rock wren and kea. Rachel specialises in waders and passerines and has been fortunate to work with wrybill within their breeding habitat and at one of their key wintering sites in the Firth of Thames. She has over 15 years experience within the environmental management sector and has worked as an environmental consultant focused on protected species, a local government ecologist safeguarding biodiversity on a county level and as an ornithologist on international conservation projects.

Anthony Coote Chair, Aspiring Biodiversity Trust (ABT): Anthony is a professional geo-scientist. His work with ABT is in relation to indigenous biodiversity protection and restoration programmes within the Makarora catchment. Anthony actively contributes to the management of logistics and safety in relation to braided river to alpine species surveying/monitoring and predator control field programmes. Anthony has adapted his earth/strategic-metals-resource science vocation skills to the planning and execution of ABT’s multiple habitats and species protection and monitoring projects. As a geo-scientist he provides specialist technical input into the delineation of metals in the Earth’s crust, many of these metals increasingly strategic and indispensable to expanding sustainable energy generation and consumption.

Dr. Tara Murray is a Science Advisor – Threatened Species for the Department of Conservation. Tara is a terrestrial invertebrate ecologist who grew up in the Mackenzie basin. She graduated from Otago where her honours looked at native weevil/plant associations to understand if botanical surveys can be used to predict insect biodiversity. She undertook an MSc in Massachusetts, and PhD in Rotorua (Lincoln Uni./Scion collaboration), both focused on biocontrol and biosecurity, and completed a postdoc in Australia on insect responses to climate change. During 8 years as Senior Lecturer at Canterbury Uni., she ran a programme of insect conservation research focused on drylands and braided rivers. Tara recently started Science Advisor role with DOC and primarily works on the research needs for Threatened, At Risk & Data Deficient invertebrates.

Adele Coombs, Orari River Protection Group (ORPG): Adele returned to the South Island of New Zealand in 2013 after living in Australia for 30 years, where she worked to save the Mary River from a dam in south-east Queensland and campaigned against coal seam gas and fossil fuel expansion. Back in New Zealand, Adele was alarmed at the state of Canterbury rivers and joined the ORPG as a volunteer. The ORPG started in 2003 in response to a dam proposal, which was successfully halted thanks to community support, however advocacy work for a clean river continues. Nowadays, she is on the river regularly helping with trapping predators, weed control, water testing, and monitoring endangered bird colonies, or stuck behind a computer working away for river protection! Adele works as a music teacher and school guidance counsellor.  She loves exploring mountain ranges and swimming in wild places, and environmental protection is vitally important to her.