Two JGS students awarded funding from the J. S. Watson Conservation Trust

22 July 2013

Congratulations to Rachel Sagar and Megan Friesen who have won funding for their research from the J. S. Watson Conservation Trust.

Megan is a PhD candidate with the Joint Graduate School in Biodiversity and Biosecurity, researching the sensory adaptations of seabirds and the role these adaptations play in conservation concerns.

Rachel is studying for her masters degree within the Joint Graduate School in Biodiversity and Biosecurity, supervised by Dr. Matt Rayner. Her project title is "Transfer stress & success & foraging ecology of the mottled petrel, Pterodroma inexpectata".

See the full list of recipients on the Forest and Bird website


Transfer stress & success & foraging ecology of the mottled petrel, Pterodroma inexpectata

Rachel Sagar & Matt Rayner

Translocations are playing an increasingly important role in seabird conservation in New Zealand, with the establishment of new colonies giving greater security to these threatened species and providing important nutrient subsidies into terrestrial systems as a result of bird guano and other deposits. Despite the prevalence of translocations, even on a global scale, the success of the procedure is variable and often poor. The mechanisms of failure are poorly understood, and often attributed to ‘stress’. However, very little empirical evidence supports this notion. Recent work on seabirds has shown that aspects of the translocation process evoke a significant stress response in the subject species. Such findings suggest that current translocation practices could be vastly improved if the stress response could be quantified for seabirds before, throughout and after the translocation event. Given that excess corticosterone production has been associated with increased mortality, such information is vital but often neglected in New Zealand seabird conservation. Our findings will allow strict protocols around the translocation of seabirds to be developed that can reduce levels of stress associated with this stressful but necessary event, thereby improving establishments of new seabird colonies.

The sensory adaptations of seabirds – Approaching conservation from a sensory perspective

Megan Friesen, Jacqueline Beggs, Anne Gaskett

Seabirds are thought to have evolved unique sensory adaptations as a result of their extreme environments. Tube-nosed seabirds (Procellariiformes) have been at the center of many of these studies. Their behaviours, such as foraging at great distances from land and returning to their burrows in colonies at night, mean that Procellariiformes may use senses differently than diurnal birds. Procellariiformes are also one of the most-rapidly declining orders of birds in the world. We believe that understanding and integrating their sensory adaptations into management practices is the key to more effective conservation. This project aim is to i. compare the birds’ odour profiles to nesting material for the end goal of using these scents to aid in translocation efforts, ii. analyse and compare vocalizations for optimal success in acoustic attractions. Data is being investigated to understand the link between the sensory adaptations and the life history of the petrels and how these unique traits can be used to improve conservation practices.