Victoria University student Shannon Bentley is the recipient of DU’s first Wetland Care scholarship.
Shannon, who is from Upper Hutt and Carterton, has a bachelor of science degree and is now studying for a master’s in ecology.
She is looking at facilitating effective wetland restoration in the Wetlands for People and Place research group.
“This project looks at wetland restoration in the Ruamahanga catchment, and my role in the project (in part) is to find the ecosystem services gained from wetland restoration,” she says.
“This project has been an amazing opportunity to contribute to the Wairarapa’s environment and clean up the Ruamahanga River.
“In the Wairarapa, farmers have been undergoing wetland restoration on private property. Farmers have used different restoration techniques to re-establish a wetland ecosystem,” she says.
“Wetlands produce services such as water purification, flood abatement, carbon storage, and species habitat.
“My master’s research asks how restoration, species diversity and ecosystem services interact.
“Specifically, I will ask how does restoration affect the biodiversity of plants and soil microbes? And how do biodiversity and restoration treatments affect the ecosystem services?
“With this information, I hope to be able to advise which wetland restoration techniques are effective at restoring ecosystem services.”
Her goal is to quantify the gain in nutrient retention, flood abatement, carbon storage, and plant and microbe diversity in 18 restored wetlands of differing ages in comparison to 18 unrestored wetlands.
“By measuring how wetlands are functioning (via ecosystem services) after they have been restored, and looking at what restoration treatments are effective, this project will be able to determine how effective our current restoration efforts are,
and which restoration techniques are working.”
DU Director Jim Law says, of Shannon: “She is exactly the kind of person that our scholarships are directed at. She is a bright, passionate young Kiwi.” Shannon’s supervisors are Dr Julie Deslippe, assistant director of the Centre of Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology at Victoria, Dr Stephanie Tomscha, head of the Wetlands
for People and Place project and a postdoctoral research fellow at Victoria, and Ra Smith.
Ra Smith is an environmental iwi liaison for Shannon’s iwi, Ngāti Kahungunu, and a whanaunga (relative). He is involved in the effort to clean up Lake Wairarapa.
DU director and bittern expert Emma Williams’ workload has become a whole lot busier after she was appointed science advisor (wetland birds) for the Department of Conservation in October.
A fulltime job for four years, her main task is to deliver the national bittern research plan. The role also involves work with other wetland birds such as spotless crakes and marsh crakes with the aim of setting up new collaborations with organisations to try to fill some of the knowledge gaps about cryptic and native wetland birds.
Projects include working with Stephen Hartley and students at Victoria University in Wairarapa Moana. One of the current projects involves putting out artificial bittern nests in several study sites, including Wairio, to determine what predators are targeting bitterns.
Emma says new bittern monitoring projects in South Kaipara, Auckland region, Tauranga and Turangi are expanding DOC’s national monitoring reach. The goal is to identify where bittern strongholds and hot spots are and inform where new projects are needed to try to reverse bittern declines.
Restoration Day at Wario May 21, proved to be a success with helpers like Ross Cottle, Ian Gunn, and Tapuwa Marapara, who were able to share their expertise with those who attended.
Adding to the success was the wide diversity of people present, both as presenters and as participants. There were 30 on the bus all up and the combination of talks on the bus and pauses during the field trips gave plenty of time for the story to unfold and for people to ask questions.
The weather played its part too!
It’s all science: Two PhD students, Eve Sutter (wearing hat) and Elisa Piispa, from Victoria University School of Chemistry and Physical Sciences, using an array of electrodes to measure below-ground resistivity at various depths. The technique can be used to estimate the profile of the water table along a transect without the need to dig multiple bore holes.
(Stephen was the organiser).