5 September 2022

Myrtle rust is a widely spreading pathogen that threatens the growth and survival of Aotearoa New Zealand’s 37 endemic myrtle species, including the nationally critical swamp maire (Syzygium maire). Myrtle rust will have a major effect on swamp maire health. However, in addition to the threat of myrtle rust, swamp maire is a wetland obligate species, and more than 90% of wetlands in Aotearoa have been drained.  Because its habitat has been decimated, little is known about where the tree occurred historically. Historical maps of swamp maire distribution can help guide its restoration.

Project Summary

This project involves digitizing herbarium collections into Geographical Information System (ArcGIS) to map where Swamp Maire were found historically. A successful applicant would have a background in biology or geography and a keen interest in conservation. We will teach you how to search the archives and how to digitize the information you find.

The student would need attention to detail and patience to explore archival material. The student may spend time in Auckland or other archives as needed. The student could hone their GIS skills and contribute towards the conservation of a nationally critical species. Experience using ArcMap desired.

Background

Myrtle rust, a pathogen discovered in Aotearoa in 2017, threatens survivorship and growth of Aotearoa New Zealand’s 37 endemic myrtle species, including the nationally critical swamp maire (Syzygium maire). The abundance of myrtle species in Aotearoa means this pathogen is spreading widely. Many restored wetlands sites, especially those initiated prior to 2017, were designed without consideration of myrtle rust invasion for swamp maire. Alongside myrtle rust exposure, this wetland-obligate tree faces pressures of habitat loss and climate change. Because of the multiple threats facing swamp maire, developing a restoration plan for swamp maire is challenging. Our aim is to identify and establish locations for restoration that could provide refugia for swamp maire in the face of multiple pressures. Knowing the historical distribution of swamp maire would enable more accurate models of potential location for restoration, yet currently no such maps exist.

Opportunities for learning

The student will have the opportunity to explore herbarium archives and to develop an understanding of best practice in landscape ecology. Through mapping historical locations of swamp maire using archival data, the student will develop their skills in ArcGIS and contribute towards the conservation of a nationally critical species. The student will have an opportunity to work with scientists at Manaaki Whenua and Victoria University of Wellington. In addition to the Bioprotection Aotearoa network of researchers, the student will also be part of a network of postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers, based in the Deslippe Lab at Victoria University of Wellington, exploring questions related to wetland restoration.

The student would need attention to detail and patience to explore archival material. The student must be willing to spend time in Auckland or other archives as needed. Our preferred candidate has a passion for conservation and an eagerness to communicate these results in meaningful ways, such as through contribution to scientific publications and communicating results to iwi, government, and restoration groups. Experience using ArcMap desired. With the guidance of supervisors Stephanie Tomscha and Julie Deslippe, the student would be expected to produce a report summarizing the findings of their research, as well as a short 5-minute presentation to the researchers of Bioprotection Aotearoa. These deliverables provide an opportunity to employee best practices in ecological research. The topic of this summer work could be extended or developed into postgraduate research.

Scholarship Amount

A total of $6000 tax free is available for each scholarship. Fortnightly payments will be made for the duration of the scholarship, with the final payment of $1000 on receipt of the approved student project report.

Application Process

Please download and complete the BA Summer scholar student application form 2022 (Word doc).  Send your completed application form, along with a CV and a Cover Letter detailing why you feel you wouldbe suitable for this position.

Email applications to Elena Johnson, [email protected] before the closing date 23 September, 2022. 

 


Location:  Wellington
Institution: Victoria University of Wellington
Supervisor(s): Dr. Julie Deslippe
Other staff Stephanie Tomscha (Victoria University of Wellington), Mahajabeen Padamsee (Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research)
Pou:  Pou 1: Titirangi
Project: Project 1.3: A new framework to asess ecosystem health for Aotearoa New Zealand
Application Form:  Download and complete the BA Summer scholar student application form 2022 (Word doc)
Apply to:  Email applications to Elena Johnson, [email protected] , include a CV and cover letter
Applications close:  Friday 23rd September 2022