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.

Shaun Thomason, Biosecurity and Biodiversity Advisor at Land Information New Zealand (LINZ): Shaun studied a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Biodiversity and last year completed a Master of Science in Society at the Victoria University of Wellington studying topics such as community engagement and the public perception of conservation. He is also heavily involved in a personal capacity with the Predator Free Northland (Wellington) community group. Sean’s work with LINZ focuses on the biodiversity outcomes of LINZ’s land management activities. He is also involved with the development of the new LINZ Biosecurity Strategy.

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 Lan Pham, Environment Canterbury. Lan has worked with galaxiids and the local communities surrounding them over the last decade across Southland, Otago and Canterbury. She has a Masters in Freshwater Ecology and a Certificate of Proficiency in Law from the University of Otago looking into the benefits of removing trout from native fish habitat in ZEALANDIA (Wellington) and the inadequacies of legal protection for native freshwater fish in New Zealand. Lan is passionate about communicating the wonders of New Zealand native fish to local communities and working towards practical conservation solutions. She is the founder of Working Waters Trust and was elected to Environment Canterbury Council in 2016, where she focuses her efforts on prioritising the health of both people and our environment.

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.’

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.

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, 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.

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.

Rachel L Hufton Project Officer, Aspiring Biodiversity Trust: Rachel is a professional ecologist and ornithologist, originally from 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 habitat 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. 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. 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.