Ko Te Waipounamu te waka (My canoe is the South Island)
Ko Aorangi te maunga (My mountain is Aorangi)
Ko Waimakariri te awa (My river is the Waimakariri)
Ko Steph Borrelle ahau (My name is Steph Borrelle)
I’m a PhD Candidate researching seabird island conservation ecology. My work investigates the influences of seabird recovery to islands following predator eradication. Specifically, I am looking at;
- The patterns of recovery of seabird ecosystem engineering properties (e.g., nutrient enrichment, soil disturbance from burrowing) on islands cleared of introduced mammalian predators,
- How ecological (e.g., foraging strategy, prey type, habitat), and demographic (life-history) factors (e.g., age of first reproduction, population size, fecundity) influence recovery.
- How do the pressures on seabirds from multiple human activities in the oceans, including plastic pollution, fisheries, and climate change, affect seabird populations, and what this means for post-predator eradication seabird conservation.
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.
What do I hope to achieve? My work aims to evaluate seabird recovery to islands following predator eradication, expand our understanding about how seabirds influence island habitats through nutrient inputs and burrowing activity, and how they are being affected by intensifying human activities in the oceans. This knowledge can help inform future seabird conservation action.
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.