Forscherin der University of Canterbury erhält wichtige Auszeichnung
News vom 16.09.2009
Amy Whitehead, Doktorandin an der neuseeländischen University of Canterbury, ist für ihre Arbeit mit dem MacDiarmid Young Scientists of the Year Award in der Kategorie Understanding Planet Earth ausgezeichnet worden.
Ihre Forschung im Bereich der gefährdeten Blauente, auch "Whio" genannt, verhilft dieser Spezies zu einer weitaus größeren Überlebenschance. Außerdem wurden drei weitere Forscher der Universität ausgezeichnet.
Top accolade for UC researcher’s whio conservation work
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A University of Canterbury PhD student whose research has given one of New Zealand’s most endangered bird species a better chance of survival has been recognised as a Young Scientist of the Year.
Amy Whitehead won the Understanding Planet Earth category award and was the overall runner-up in the 2009 MacDiarmid Young Scientists of the Year Awards presented in Auckland last week for her research centred on the whio, or native blue duck, an iconic species of New Zealand’s mountain rivers.
She was one of four UC researchers recognised mat the awards. Senior lecturer Dr Jason Tylianakis (Biological Sciences) was runner-up in the Understanding Planet Earth category for his research into food webs in coastal Ecuador. PhD researcher Petra Hoggarth (Van der Veer Institute for Parkinson’s and Brain Research) was runner-up in the Science and Our Society category for developing techniques to test the driving abilities of people over 70 (see page 2).
Dr Hadley Cave (Mechanical Engineering) was a finalist in the Future Science and Technologies category for designing a fast, flexible and accurate gas flow modelling method that runs on standard computer equipment.
Winning the title of overall runner-up gives Amy a cash prize of $5000 and a travel grant to attend a science event in Australasia. She receives another $5000 for being a category winner.
Titled “Get more ducks for your bucks”, Amy’s research combined population and habitat surveys with computer modelling to assess whio numbers, habitat quality and the effectiveness of predator control programmes. Whio numbers have declined from hundreds of thousands in the 1800s to an estimated 2500 due to predators and loss of habitat.
To carry out her research, Amy drove 14,000km and walked more than 1000km along river beds from Fiordland to the Bay of Plenty to locate whio populations and record data about them.
Department of Conservation (DOC) scientist Graeme Elliott, who works closely with Amy, said her research was at the core of DOC’s whio conservation strategy.
“Whio numbers are declining rapidly in most places, largely because of stoats. We have trapping programmes in place but it’s very difficult to know if we are trapping in the right places and if our efforts are stabilising whio numbers.”
Amy’s research has discovered that whio are restricted to fragmented areas of marginal habitat, occupying just a fraction of the river environments where they were found historically.
Amy’s work uses a science-based approach to assess the effectiveness of management techniques and identify areas of high-quality habitat where management will provide the greatest benefits.
“Conservation is expensive, so we need to make sure that predator control is applied in places that will benefit whio the most,” she said.
“One of the things that defines us as New Zealanders is our natural history — it’s a big part of our identity so we need to make sure we don’t lose any of our threatened species. If we can make them more accessible to the general public by ensuring there are more of them then people can see science doing something useful and practical.”
Amy’s supervisor, Associate Professor Angus McIntosh (Biological Sciences), said Amy had broken new ground in the scale of her research.
“She has combined 28 years of data about sightings of whio with her own data about whio habitat collected by walking long distances along New Zealand rivers, as well as information about DOC’s predator control programme,” Professor McIntosh said.
“She used landscape modelling techniques to predict the suitability of every river in New Zealand for whio conservation. She also identified areas of good habitat for whio, where they might have the greatest chance of survival. No one else has addressed conservation of a threatened species on this scale before.”
The MacDiarmid Awards are New Zealand’s top accolade for emerging researchers and are presented annually by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology in partnership with sponsors.
Quelle: University of Canterbury, Chronicle Volume 44, No. 14, 04. September 2009
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