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2022 Seminar Speakers


Brad Edwards (Department of Conservation) is a Nga Awa River Ranger (based in Raukapuka). He leads the DOC representation on the Ko te Whakahaumanu o te Rakitata Awa project working group that seeks alignment across agencies and the community to restore the mauri of the Rakitata, ki uta ki tai.

Clement Lagrue (Department of Conservation) is a Science Advisor ecosystems (based in Ōtepoti) for DOC. His background in freshwater ecology combines with current work in terrestrial ecosystems to take a holistic view at ecosystem functioning and management. He’s part of the Department’s threatened ecosystem workstream focusing on limestone, coastal turfs, saltpans, and braided river conservation and management across Southland, Otago, and South Canterbury. He leads a 10-year long braided river restoration project (2016-2026) on the Aparima River (Southland) in collaboration with a local gravel extractor, Fish&Game, Environment Southland, and local Iwi. Data from this project is informing recent changes in gravel extraction techniques to include an ecosystem-wide consideration of the potential impacts and benefits of gravel extractions on braided river ecosystem functioning and biodiversity.

C. Ellery Mayence (Department of Conservation) is a Principal Science Advisor for DOC based in Ōtautahi. He leads the Department’s threatened ecosystems research workstream, a programme of work involving projects in ecosystems ranging from dry to wet and coastal to inland.

Colin O’Donnell (Department of Conservation) a Principal Science Advisor for DOC based in Ōtautahi. He been working on braided river wildlife since the late 1970s, particularly on fauna surveys and habitat use studies of river birds. He maintains a number of long-term monitoring databases for braided river bird populations. Colin’s research focuses on threatened species and threatened ecosystems, especially the ecology of rainforest bats and birds, developing predator control techniques for forests, wetlands, braided rivers, and alpine ecosystems, and developing monitoring methods for lizards and invertebrates.

Emma Williams (Department of Conservation) Science Advisor for DOC, she leads the Department’s Mobile Terrestrial Threatened Species Workstream. Emma work on highly mobile threatened species, includes several braided riverbed bird species, such as banded dotterels, black-fronted terns, South Island pied oystercatchers and wrybills. Her projects are often holistic and collaborative in nature because of the landscape scale movements of the species she works on. She has also done 12 + years work on wetland birds, including the Australasian bittern, spotless cakes and marsh crakes.

Fraser Gurney (Lincoln University) is a postgraduate student working with the Department of Conservation to study black-fronted terns and their movements. While studying he has been working for Wildland Consultants as an ecologist/ornithologist, primarily conducting braided river bird surveys. Fraser has previously worked for the Department of Conservation Tier One Biodiversity Monitoring Team and is a keen birdwatcher in his spare time.

Grant Davey (Ashley Rakahuri Rivercare Group) has been a mineral exploration geologist in six countries and was a hydrogeologist at Environment Canterbury for four years. He has a PGDip in Environmental Science. For about five years he’s been an active member of the Ashley Rakahuri Rivercare Group and of BRaid.

Grant Edge (Councillor, Environment Canterbury)  is a first term Councillor and a previous deputy chair of the Waimakariri Water Zone Committee. A Landscape Architect with a background in urban and rural design and planning. Grant is co-chair of the Transport and Urban Development Committee and a member of other committees including Audit, Finance and Risk, Regional and Strategic Leadership, Natural Environment, Catchment -subcommittee and the Climate Change Action committee. He is also the Council representative on the Kaikoura Water Zone committee and the Biosecurity Advisory Group for North Canterbury. Grant’s concerns remain the same as at the beginning of the term with a focus on dealing with climate change, water quality issues and land use change. He believes the democratic process has been revitalised in Council and that the relationships with our Ngai Tahu and Papitipu Runanga will further improve environmental outcomes for the region.

Holly Harris (University of Canterbury) is researching on the Cass River in Tekapo for her doctorate. With a bit of experience in freshwater and terrestrial biomonitoring, she is now interested in how braided rivers work as whole ecosystems to support the life that exists within them, such as the birds and fish that we know and love.

Inge Martens (University of Canterbury) is currently doing her master’s degree in Biology. During her undergraduate degree, she developed an interest in rare and threatened ecosystems as well as Ecosystem-based management.

Naomi Wells (Lincoln University) joined the Soils & Physical Sciences Dept staff in 2021, after five years working at Southern Cross University (Lismore, NSW, Australia) on issues around nitrogen and greenhouse gas dynamics at the interface of terrestrial/aquatic/marine ecosystems. As a biogeochemist, Naomi accounts for how biologically-active elements move through landscapes. She works across aquatic, terrestrial, marine, and atmospheric sciences in order to understand how nitrogen, a critical agricultural fertiliser and now ubiquitous aquatic contaminant, moves around the planet. She received her PhD from Lincoln University in 2014, her MSc from the University of Aberdeen, and her BA from Wellesley College (USA). You can find out more about her research here, or on Twitter at: @15nswells.

Nick Ledgard (Ashley Rakahuri Rivercare Group and BRaid) 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.

Samantha Turner and Jennifer Schori (Department of Conservation) are Biodiversity Rangers for Project River Recovery based in Twizel. They conduct research and monitoring in the braided rivers and wetlands of the Upper Waitaki Basin to benefit native plants and animals. Some of their current work is focussed on black-fronted terns, non-migratory galaxiids, Lakes skinks and threatened grasshoppers.

Tara Murray (Department of Conservation) Tara is based in Dunedin as a Science Advisor |Kaitohu Pūtaiao in DOCs Terrestrial Science Unit. Her work with terrestrial insects over 20+ years has included biosecurity, biodiversity, ecology and behaviour, climate change, monitoring, and insect conservation. Tara graduated with an honours degree from Otago University, studying native grassland weevils, followed by an MSc in Massachusetts, a PhD with Forest Research in Rotorua, and a postdoc and the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment in Western Sydney. Tara was a senior lecturer at Canterbury University for 9 years, during which time she started working on the Robust grasshopper, before joining DOC in 2019. She is also vice president of the New Zealand Entomological Society.

Tom Kay (Forest & Bird) is the Freshwater Advocate based in Wellington. He’s worked for Forest & Bird in various roles since 2017, though took a 6-month hiatus as a policy advisor at Kāhu Environmental in 2021. Tom has a keen interest in rivers, which he continues to develop through his passion for whitewater kayaking. Kayaking has led Tom to some of Aotearoa’s most interesting and exciting rivers, including a brief spell training and working as a raft guide. Tom has a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science (2016) and a Master’s of Science in Ecology (2020), both from Massey University in Palmerston North, and he was a recipient of the Rivers Group research grant for postgraduate students in 2018. Tom’s MSc research focused on measuring changes in river habitat over time, particularly changes caused by human impacts such as engineering. Tom’s interests in freshwater continue to come through in all of his work—with his current interest figuring out how to get decision-makers and policy-writers to protect the natural character and physical habitat of rivers, and make ‘room for rivers’, rather than just focus on water quality, quantity, and flood protection engineering.

Wendy Fox (Lincoln University) is a postgraduate student studying ecology and conservation. Birds have always been an interest, and gulls (especially karoro) have sparked a special interest over the past couple of years, which has led to postgraduate research analysing breeding success of colonies on the Waimakariri River.

Sonny Whitelaw (BRaid) has a background in coastal geomorphology and climate change, and 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, she collaborated with over 100 children to produce the 227-page book Celebrating Biodiversity in the Hurunui District. Sonny has managed BRaid since 2015, manages, and is the Climate Change Environmental Consultant for Mahaanui Kurataiao.

Please contact Sonny for any questions about the seminar or this website.