The Science of Stephanie

I’m a PhD Candidate researching seabird island ecology and monitoring. My work investigates how remote sensing technology can be used to monitor seabirds using the magic of canopy spectral reflectance as a proxy for seabird activity.

Why seabirds? I have a soft spot for the underdog – or the underbird in this case. Seabirds are the most threatened group of animals worldwide – a whopping (and unacceptable) 29 per cent risk extinction. Conservation efforts around the world have successfully focused on predator removal to protect seabirds, (like the New Zealand storm petrel), but increasing threats (think plastic pollution, fisheries interactions and climate change) mean continued and active management is vital if we’re going to protect seabird colonies the world over.

Fancy a more sciencey explanation? A limitation to active adaptive management of seabird conservation on remote islands is a lack of monitoring capacity. Seabirds deposit marine derived nutrients to their terrestrial breeding grounds, which affects the nutrient status, composition and structure of island plants. The structural and chemical constituents of plant tissues dictate how much light is absorbed and at what wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum. Consequently, plant biochemical properties can be evaluated using multispectral sensors.

Try saying that after a few pints of beer.

What do I hope to achieve? My work aims to contribute to emerging monitoring methods for seabirds using remote sensing tools that will be reliable, more cost effective and useful over large spatial scales. My research will expand our understanding about how seabirds influence island habitats through nutrient inputs and burrowing activity.

And as if I’m not time-poor enough, I went ahead and helped create the Global Change app – an interactive teaching tool that explains the role of the stomata in the global carbon and water cycles. If you’re keen to find out how human activities impact global cycles download the app for free on iTunes and Google Play. It’s also computer literate.

Also, I really don’t like plastic bags. So, I am trying to have them banned in Auckland, New Zealand.

Research Gate | Google Scholar | Institute for Applied Ecology New Zealand (AENZ)

Grey-faced petrel (Pterodroma macroptera).   


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