Unitec Ecology Students Visit CUE Haven and Mataia—1 November 2013
For the past three years, Mel Galbraith, senior lecturer at Unitec, has brought a class of ecology students out to CUE Haven for a field trip. Two previous students have also done a portion of the practicum field work at CUE Haven.
The objective of the visit is to give the students a first-hand look at a bush restoration project. This year we decided to expand the agenda to include a visit to our neighbour, Mataia, so that the students could see a slightly more mature project and also to learn about the kiwi release that had taken place at Mataia earlier in the year.
The group arrived at CUE Haven at ten. Mel brought 15 students as well as his colleagues from the Department of Natural Sciences Don Mardle and botanist Dan Blanchon. Gill and Kevin Adshead, our neighbours from Mataia also joined us.
We all got acquainted over morning tea.
Mahrukh gave the group an overview of the CUE Haven project and explained the history of the property and the project, and discussed our plans for the future.
Tom then took the group on long walk along the walking tracks pointing out the different plantings over the years since we started the restoration project.
Along the way, Tom explained operational issues with respect to the restoration project and discussed weed and pest control, walking track construction and management, challenges associated with weather and wind, wetlands management and a number of other issues.
We made frequent stops to explore interesting things along the way and discussed any questions the students had.
The students found several skinks on the walk and were able to identify both the native Copper Skink as well as the introduced Rainbow Skink.
Once we finished up the walk the group returned to the cottage and had a quick lunch.
After lunch we headed down the road to Mataia.
The Mataia property has been in the Gardener family for generations and we met at the Old Homestead which was the family home built in 1891. For most of its history the 3,000 plus acre property has been a farm and quarry but Gill and Kevin have been restoring almost 1,000 acres and in May and June of this year they released 14 kiwi on the property. You can read details about the kiwi release here.
Gill gave the students a history of the property and explained the Mataia Restoration project and related conservation efforts.
We then went outside and Kevin demonstrated the kiwi monitoring equipment. Each kiwi has a tracking device attached to its leg and each device transmits at a different frequency. By tuning to each bird’s frequency and moving the antenna, it is possible to determine where each kiwi is and also get a general idea of their activity.
Kevin and Gill have also installed an infrared camera in the bush and showed us some videos of kiwi moving around at night.
Gill then took us on a walk in the Mataia bush. Because of its size, there are many different environments on the property from mature native forests to salt marshes and mangrove swamps. Gill pointed out different features of the property and also discussed predator control and other restoration issues.
The students had lots of questions and also took some time to explore the bush in detail.
When we got back from the walk, Gill and Kevin had organised a refreshing afternoon tea and the group had a chance to relax a bit and ask additional questions.
It was a fantastic day and we want to thank Mel for his support and for organising the visit. And thanks to Don and Dan and the students for taking the time to come out. Although the students were visiting as part of their learning, we learned a lot from them and were very impressed at their level of knowledge and enthusiasm.
We wish the students all the best with their endeavours and we hope you will all come back to visit us again soon!