My research takes place in Samoa where I study the Mao, an endangered giant forest honeyeater. When we started this project all we knew about the Mao was it was declining very fast; however, it was not clear why! Mao used to occur in American Samoa but are now locally extinct there. We are currently trying to determine if we can reintroduce them but first we need to know what this species needs to survive. For example: What food do they need? What trees do they need to nest in? Would we move adult birds or young ones? Are the chicks at risk from predators and therefore in need of protection?
We have answered a few of these questions already. Mao have only one chick at a time. The female looks after the chick for three months; one month in the nest and two months outside the nest. Unfortunately Mao seem to have only one chick a year and introduced rats are having an enormous impact predating chicks and eggs in the nest. To understand the impact of introduced predators we are putting nest cameras on morenests to determine if adult birds are also at risk. We are also trying to determine if other predators (like feral cats) are affecting young birds after they leave the nest by tracking chicks with transmitters.
Did you know that the Pacific region holds more threatened bird species (110) than any other region in the world? The Pacific has almost half of the world's endangered bird species and over 40% of the vulnerable bird species. Most of these threatened island birds live in forests. However even the basic biology of these birds is unknown and therefore effective conservation programmes cannot be developed. Results from the Mao project are already being incorperated into managment plans of other endangered bird species in the Pacific improving conservation management.
We are currenty trying to raise money for three main purposes: (1) to keep our local field assistant working on the project ($2700 USA for a year) (2) for additional nest cameras (1200 per camera) so we can monitor nest and determine if other predators are also affecting survival of the chicks and eggs and adult birds and (3) to purchase additional transmitters for tracking chicks after they leave the nest ($80 each) so we can determine if intorduced cats are affecting survival. Thus any funds we raise over our minimum goal will be put to an important and specific use.
There are new discoveries with this project every day! Because very little is known about most birds in Samoa when we find a nest it is often new to science. We are also collecting new species (plants and insects) for scientists from around the world so new species can identified. For the Mao our main discoveriies involve determining why they are declining and what we can do about it.
I am a second-year Ph.D. student at Massey University, New Zealand. As a scientist, I study the ecology or intereactions of species (i.e. mammals, insects, plants, birds) and work to apply that knowledge to find a balance between human resource use and species conservation.
How did I get interested in this work?
I grew up on a Farm in New Zealand for the first 10 years of my life. We then moved to Tanzania, Africa we I got to work at a young age on conservation projects. I have worked on conservation projects around the world ever since. Now I am mostly working on birds but I have also worked on many larger species such as lions and cheetah. I have been in Samoa for 2 years now and I really want to make an impact on conservation here in the Pacific. This project works with the Ministry of Natural resources in Samoa, Conservation International and SPREP as well as with the local villages where the birds are found.
When I'm not working on my research I like hiking, photography, running, bird watching and traveling.
Our project website is: http://www.samoanbirds.com/
A story about the project by birdlife: http://www.birdlife.org/community/2012/02/videos-provide-new-information-on-mao/
Yah we have enough funding to continue the project! Since is great since we have only today got another new Mao nest which we can now afford to put a nest camera on.
stay tuned on www.samoanbirds.com