Introduction

Get involved in a research project through our summer scholarships.

Highlights

DOC co-funds scholarships for university students to complete a research project during summer. 

For summer 2020/21, there are two scholarships available per university.

Who can apply

Third year students who are interested in conservation, and enrolled in one of these universities:

  • University of Auckland
  • Auckland University of Technology
  • University of Waikato
  • Massey University
  • Victoria University of Wellington
  • University of Canterbury
  • Lincoln University
  • University of Otago

How to apply

If you're interested in applying for a summer scholarship:

  1. Take a look at the available projects below for some that you’d like to do.
  2. Get in touch with your university scholarship office/coordinator. They will help you get started.

If you're awarded a scholarship you'll work on the project over summer, and produce a report by the end of March.

The summer scholarship is a study opportunity. For a summer job at DOC see our Summer Internship Programme.

For more information, contact ScienceSummerScholarships@doc.govt.nz.

In this section

Current projects

These research projects aim to encourage and support students continuing with post-graduate studies to focus on conservation.

Some of the following have already been completed, and others will be worked on in the future. But all are of high interest to the DOC. See the status summary of summer scholarship projects.

 

Surveillance method detection thresholds and control tool efficacy rates for Plague Skinks (syn. Rainbow Skink)

ID: 1002
Work area: Threats
Status: Available
University: University of Auckland
Place: It is recommended that the research should occur in stocked enclosures at known densities which will need to be somewhere suitable in the North Island.

Question

What are the detection thresholds for respective survey and monitoring methods (i.e. how many skinks have to be there before we can reliably detect that they’re there using each method at a known density and frequency )? What are the removal rates for existing control techniques (i.e. what proportion of the lizards present does each control technique kill)?

Description

Previous research bids have detailed this research and will be made available on request. The success of this project within the time frame (a summer internship) will depend on having a capable supervisor in an area where plague skinks already occur; e.g. Auckland; and having the resources and support available.


Understanding the range of Archey’s frog populations in Southern Coromandel

ID: 1008
Work area: Terrestrial
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Field based project, Thames, Coromandel Peninsula.

Question

What is the current range of Archey’s frog in Southern Coromandel?

Description

Archey’s frogs are at low to moderate abundance on the Coromandel Peninsula after a 80%+ decline in the late 1990’s. There are large unexplained gaps in distribution, particularly south of Thames. We don’t fully understand the range of this species and whether these gaps in distribution are real or an artefact of data collection/survey effort. Targetted surveys are needed to confirm the current range of known populations in Southern Coromandel and to examine whether Archey's frogs are present in areas south of Thames. The information collected would increase our understanding of the species range on the Peninsula and inform management priorities and interventions for Southern Coromandel populations. It may also inform conservation strategies for the species as a whole. Much of the time would be spend in the field and would be based from Thames. Excellent backcountry skills and fitness are important. There is another summer project proposed from Thames, and if selected, both students could work as a 2-person field team (refer Archey's frog monitoring trial project).


Effectiveness of DOC's Safety Messages

ID: 1015
Work area: Recreation,Tourism,Historic
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Desktop

Question

How effective are DOC’s safety messages, particularly for non-English speaking visitors.

Description

We are keen to understand what works and what doesn’t work with DOC's current safety messages. The particular focus would be on safety messaging for non-English visitors. We would like to compare DOC’s current approach with best practice internationally (in communicating with non-native speaking visitors) to understand what improvements we can make.


The most effective way to present Safety Messages to achieve appropritate response?

ID: 1016
Work area: Recreation,Tourism,Historic
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Desktop

Question

What is the international best practise for successful safety messaging?

Description

Presentation, medium, colours and message - what are the key components that ensures successful uptake of the message and appropriate response? What are the learnings from international work in this area that could be applied within NZ to achieve success? This project would suit students from tourism, recreation, marketing, social science backgrounds


How do visitors self-assess their skill experience and fitness levels?

ID: 1022
Work area: Recreation,Tourism,Historic
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Desktop

Question

How well do visitors self-assess their skill, experience and fitness levels?

Description

A questionnaire that first asks them to (qualitatively) rank themselves in these three areas, then poses a series of quantitative questions to test the accuracy of their initial self-assessment.


Activity assessment for high risk seabirds

ID: 1065
Work area: Marine
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Desk-based project. Would be best suited to a candidate willing to spend time in Wellington, to facilitate guidance from DOC supervisors.

Question

How can activity data collected from tracking devices deployed on seabirds help us understand their susceptibility to threats?

Description

Black petrels and flesh-footed shearwaters are two of the species ranked as at highest risk from commercial fisheries in New Zealand. Substantial effort has be conducted to deploy tracking devices on these birds, predominantly to describe their at-sea distribution. These devices also collect data that allow an assessment of behaviour, such as foraging, flying or time at the breeding colony. Such data have remained an under utilised resource, and this project will look to apply the latest methods to assess the data collected. This will allow a better understanding of when, where and how these birds are subject to threats such as fisheries bycatch, which can be used to inform management measures to mitigate these threats. This project may also include assessment of currently unanalysed tracking data to complement the activity assessment.


Spatial Heterogeneity of House Mice in open habitats

ID: 1125
Work area: Terrestrial
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Several sites around the South Island

Question

How do mouse numbers vary across different habitat types and season in open landscapes (e.g. alpine grasslands) and does this have implications for standard tracking tunnel protocols for mice

Description

Existing mouse tracking tunnel monitoring protocols used in forested habitats may not be optimal for monitoring mice in open habitats. We'd like to test habitat characteristics around tracking tunnels and investigate how patchiness of mice relates to habitat types on a micro and broader scale. Existing tracking tunnel data from past 5 years (collected spring, summer and autumn) can be used as an index of mouse density. Habitat covariate data would need to be collected in the field.


The effects of drones on the visitor experience.

ID: 1133
Work area: Recreation,Tourism,Historic
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: To be agreed/ possibly a range of different types of visitor experiences in a range of settings

Question

What impact does the use of drones have on visitor satisfaction on public conservation land?

Description

To be designed in consultation with the student. This could involve; A literature search into how others are managing the impacts of drones and any best practice available A brainstorming session with DOC staff to understand what we need to know Design and execution of qualitative visitor interviews in a range of recreation settings Design and execution of qualitative interviews with drone users (possibly)


Viewing and analysing trail camera footage of animals interacting with A24 self-resetting traps

ID: 1139
Work area: Threats
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Hamilton office

Question

To compare rat and stoat interactions with A24 self-resetting traps to test different techniques for preventing native non-target species entering the devices

Description

In this trial we are comparing the rat and stoat catch rates in A24 self-resetting traps set in various ways in order to prevent native non-target species entering the devices. We will be observing and comparing the rat and stoat catch rates between: • 50 x A24s set at the standard height (12cm above ground) with no exclusion device fitted (this will be the control group) • 50 x A24s set 70cm above ground with no exclusion device fitted • 50 x A24s set 130cm above ground with no exclusion device fitted • 50 x A24s set at the recommended height with Goodnature Ltd. parrot excluders fitted • 50 x A24s set at the standard height with 'Bissett kea and weka' wire excluders fitted If time allows, we will also work though some historic trial data looking at different luring options for rats with the A24s. These data were collected between October 2015 and February 2016.


Seabirds from space: can remote sensing data be used to detect nesting seabird colonies.

ID: 1170
Work area: Terrestrial
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Work can be conducted remotely, based on data from preservation and chalky inlets in Fiordland National Park. Some possibility for field work can be considered. .

Question

Can remote sensing data detect unknown seabird colonies through spectral changes in guano enriched vegetation?

Description

Seabirds nesting in coastal forest and scrub, like that of western Fiordland, greatly enrich the environment through provision of ocean derived nutrients (guano). This leads to increased invertebrate and lizard abundance and visibly enriched vegetation. We are interested to test a range of remote sensing approaches which could yield tools for detecting and monitoring unknown populations of seabirds across vast areas of the conservation estate. Using vegetation ‘greenness’ from simple colour thresholding through NDVI and other spectral indices and on to much more complex hyperspectral imaging which is capable of extracting information on the chemical composition of leaf material. Survey data is available from islands with known presence/absence status to ground truth a tool against potential reality, and identification of seabird sites could be further investigated by the department. Project is supported by the Te Anau district office.


The use of Matauranga Maori and rongoa Maori to assist the Department of Conservation in developing an awareness of how Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is conceptualised and can be applied in conservation and management.

ID: 1177
Work area: Terrestrial
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Kaimai (Tauranga) and Waipoua Forests

Question

How does Matauranga Maori and rongoa Maori be applied in the ecological management of Kauri dieback.

Description

Kauri dieback spores infect the roots and damage the tissues that carry nutrients within the tree, eventually killing it. The disease can be spread by only a pinhead of soil. The spores contaminate soil, which can be moved around by human activity, animals (especially pigs) and vehicles. Infected trees will eventually show a range of symptoms, such as yellowing foliage, leaf loss, dead branches and often (but not always) lesions that bleed resin at the base of the trunk. DOC is responsible for many of New Zealand’s most significant kauri forests, including Waipoua Forest, which is home to the iconic Tâne Mahuta, the largest kauri in New Zealand. DOC is part of a Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)-led collaboration that is undertaking research to develop a treatment for kauri dieback. Matauranga Maori or Traditional Ecological Knowledge is a mixture of knowledge, beliefs, and practices operating in an iterative and holistic system that emerges over time, across generations. TEK has been applied in the management of various flora and fauna species for millennia. While many scholars of Matauranga Maori understand TEK as science, some researchers still maintain the philosophical question of whether it is, indeed, “science" as the understanding of what TEK is and in which circumstances and how to use it remain unclear. This uncertainty may lead to inequitable approaches to research with Indigenous communities. Therefore, it is worth exploring how DOC conceptualises Matauranga Maori and question how it may be considered in pursuits of acquiring the best available science for natural resource management. The results will provide DOC some foundation knowledge on how Matauranga Maori could enhance the knowledge base for decision-making about ecosystems, species and their habitats, and provide longitudinal knowledge for climate change projects. This may strengthen relationships with Whanau, Hapu and Iwi over topics of common interest, reduce misunderstandings about Iwi natural resource perspectives, and broaden understandings of ethics of wildlife use. Research using both Maori and Western paradigms could result in mutually agreeable and equitable approaches to conservation.


Understanding visitor experiences on public conservation land in the Bay of Plenty

ID: 1178
Work area: Recreation,Tourism,Historic
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Okere Falls, Rainbow Mountain Scenic Reserve, Lake Tarawera Scenic Reserve

Question

What can be done to improve the visitor experience at key recreational areas within the Bay of Plenty?

Description

A Summer long survey of recreational users at key sites in the Rotorua Tauranga district to understand - What drew the user to this area - Did the experience match their expectations? - Does the user have a cultural connection to the area? - What would have made the experience more enjoyable?


Safety Beacons - increasing the usage

ID: 1182
Work area: Recreation,Tourism,Historic
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place:

Question

What are the behaviour, process and price changes that occurred for the likes of ski helmets and life-jackets?-How to get greater use of safety beacons for outdoor recreation?

Description

I would like to see some research in the SAR space – specifically beacons and how we get greater use. A comment was made the other day by a Mountain Safety employee that it was a shame ‘we have no land equivalent to life jackets’, yet if I look back to the 80’s life-jackets were ‘uncool’ and costly. However just like helmets for skiing, now you are almost ostracised for not having one. (I appreciate there is also a legislation angle, but of course that is not the case with helmets). I would like a study to look at how we change opinion of beacons value?. How we make them more affordable? How we make them the norm for even short distance runners and walkers, not just back country hikers and mountaineering. What are the behaviour, process and price changes that occurred for the likes of ski helmets and life-jackets?


Future weeds: Environmental weeds and climate change.

ID: 1183
Work area: Threats
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Can be done in Wellington - Close to supervisor.

Question

Of the newly naturalised plants in New Zealand, which species pose the greatest threat of becoming environmental weeds under likely climate scenarios?

Description

New Zealand has more naturalised exotic plants than native. New taxa are naturalising at least 30 per year. But, responses to new naturalisations have been ad-hoc. MPI has led a programme of standardising Regional Pest Management Plans, but there is little support to assist decision makers in deciding which new naturalisations should be targeted for exclusion and or eradication. We urgently need to understand which species represent the greatest potential as future environmental weeds, including climate change scenarios. This project would collate native and established range and trait data for new plant naturalisations and modell potential distributions using Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios. There is considerable conservation benefit as predictions could be used to support species-led programmes at national (DOC or MPI -led) or regional (DOC or Regional councils). This work would also support Actions in DOC's climate Change Adaptation Plan.


Freshwater invertebrates

ID: 1193
Work area: Freshwater
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Timing dependent

Question

Sampling of the 28 freshwater invertebrate taxa

Description

Targeted sampling of the 28 freshwater invertebrate taxa currently ‘streamed for management’ to help inform associated conservation actions. Sampling could focus on those that are susceptible during the summer scholarship period.


River restoration research

ID: 1196
Work area: Freshwater
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: One of Waipoua, Arahura, Hoteo, Maharangi, Rangitata, Lower Waitaki, Waikanae, Te Hoiere (Pelorus), Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui).

Question

What can we learn from our elders about how the river used to be?

Description

The Department is embarking on a programme to restore 14 river catchments in partnership with others. The programme is still in its infancy. Our intention is that we will work collaboratively with regional councils, iwi and the community to identify a particular vision, objectives and actions that can be undertaken to restore the ecological integrity and resilience of the catchment. The catchments that we are starting with are: Waipoua, Arahura, Hoteo, Maharangi, Rangitata, Lower Waitaki, Waikanae, Te Hoiere (Pelorus), Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui). Research projects would need to be discussed with our iwi partners, but a possible research question for each of these catchments is: What can we learn from our elders about how the river used to be? This research would again be of a social science in nature, and again, with input from a social scientist to design a methodology, would involve gathering information from older people living or with past connections to the catchment and analysing that information to provide information on what a vision for catchment restoration might look like.


River restoration research

ID: 1197
Work area: Freshwater
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: One of Waipoua, Arahura, Hoteo, Maharangi, Rangitata, Lower Waitaki, Waikanae, Te Hoiere (Pelorus), Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui).

Question

What can we learn from our young people about what the river could be?

Description

The Department is embarking on a programme to restore 14 river catchments in partnership with others. The programme is still in its infancy. Our intention is that we will work collaboratively with regional councils, iwi and the community to identify a particular vision, objectives and actions that can be undertaken to restore the ecological integrity and resilience of the catchment. The catchments that we are starting with are: Waipoua, Arahura, Hoteo, Maharangi, Rangitata, Lower Waitaki, Waikanae, Te Hoiere (Pelorus), Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui). Research projects would need to be discussed with our iwi partners, but a possible research question for each of these catchments is: What can we learn from our young people about what the river could be? Again, another piece of social science research to gather information from young people, through either focus groups, school visits or interviews to gather information again to help craft a future vision for catchment restoration.


River restoration research

ID: 1198
Work area: Freshwater
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: One of Waipoua, Arahura, Hoteo, Maharangi, Rangitata, Lower Waitaki, Waikanae, Te Hoiere (Pelorus), Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui).

Question

What is the habitat in this catchment like for longfin eel/tuna and where are the opportunities for tuna habitat restoration?

Description

The Department is embarking on a programme to restore 14 river catchments in partnership with others. The programme is still in its infancy. Our intention is that we will work collaboratively with regional councils, iwi and the community to identify a particular vision, objectives and actions that can be undertaken to restore the ecological integrity and resilience of the catchment. The catchments that we are starting with are: Waipoua, Arahura, Hoteo, Maharangi, Rangitata, Lower Waitaki, Waikanae, Te Hoiere (Pelorus), Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui). Research projects would need to be discussed with our iwi partners, but a possible research question for each of these catchments is: What is the habitat in this catchment like for longfin eel/tuna and where are the opportunities for tuna habitat restoration? This would involve working with a freshwater technical advisor to apply the tuna habitat assessment work developed by Cawthron, which classifies section of river into a traffic light system depending on how good the habitat is for tuna, to a portion of the catchment.


Pest fish research

ID: 1199
Work area: Freshwater
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place:

Question

Can a Gambusia trap could be designed that could be used to target a low population of gambusia during winter?

Description

Gambusia are a pest fish that adversely impact on our freshwater biodiversity. There are limited tools available to monitor/control/eradicate them. Their populations reduce in number over winter but the current tool for eradicating them (rotenone, a fish poison) requires warm water to work effectively, so we are curious to see whether a trap could be designed that could be used to target a low population of gambusia during winter to perhaps eliminate the last fish remaining, reduce the number available to start the summer population or be used to monitor the effectiveness of control operations. Gambusia can live and breed in a wide variety of habitats, but they are attracted to warm water, so if a trap could be built that uses a solar panel to warm the water, attract the fish, and then somehow trap or kill them we would be onto a winner. We would need a creative mechanical or electrical engineering student to design a protype to test this idea.


Analysis of historic incursion response data

ID: 1201
Work area: Threats
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Bay of Islands (Kerikeri)

Question

• Temporal and spatial hotspot mapping of rodent incursions on Ipipiri pest-free archipelago • First assessment of relationship between location of animal captures and local environmental factors

Description

The are seven pest-free islands in the EBOI archipelago that make up the Project Island Song island sanctuary. These islands have been pest-free for 10 years through the combined efforts of the Guardians of the Bay of Islands community group, local hapu and the Department of Conservation (DOC). DOC’s role has been to eradicate pests from these islands and maintain their pest-free status. This involves working with stakeholders and project partners to reduce the risk of incursions resulting from inadequate biosecurity measures. It also involves coordinating the incursion response on the islands. The BOI office is leading in this field and has generated data on incursion catch rates over a 10 year period. This data could provide important insights into the relationship between catch rates and local environmental factors. Undertaking this research in the Bay of Islands may go some way to helping the Department meet the following 2025 Stretch Goals: • 90% of New Zealanders’ lives are enriched through connection to our nature and heritage. • 90% of visitors rate their experiences on public conservation lands and waters as exceptional. • 90% of New Zealanders think the impacts of visitors on public conservation lands and waters are very well managed. • Whânau, hapû and iwi are able to practise their responsibilities as kaitiaki of natural and cultural resources on public conservation lands and waters. • 50% of New Zealand’s natural ecosystems are benefiting from pest management. • 90% of our threatened species across New Zealand’s ecosystems are managed to enhance their populations.


Land-based monitoring of bottlenose dolphin in the Bay of Islands

ID: 1202
Work area: Marine
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Bay of Islands (Kerikeri) - Field work in Russell, Bay of Islands

Question

1. Define bottlenose dolphin group behaviour in core habitat areas 2. Quantify bottlenose dolphin group behavioural response to varying levels and types of vessel traffic in core habitat areas 3. Document bottlenose dolphin spatial and temporal use of core habitat ‘no interaction’ zones under the current DOC marine mammal permit regime

Description

Understanding animal behaviour and the pressures faced within their environment is vital in informing conservation management. The Bay of Islands, Northland, New Zealand is a critical habitat for the nationally endangered bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). Management of this species is a priority for the Department of Conservation as a result of a strong body of scientific evidence documenting local population decline and high calf mortality. Additionally, vessel interactions with bottlenose dolphins in the Bay of Islands are having significant detrimental effects on critical dolphin behaviours. The Department of Conservation seeks to use land survey theodolites (surveyor’s transits) to non-invasively study bottlenose dolphin behaviours in core habitat areas. The effect of interaction with vessel traffic on those behaviours will also be incorporated. Survey theodolites will be a powerful tool for science and management of the Bay of Islands bottlenose dolphin population. The proposed research fits within the larger Bay of Islands bottlenose dolphin monitoring program and benefits from the combined efforts of local hapu, the Department of Conservation (DOC) and research contractors. Undertaking the proposed data collection and analysis in the Bay of Islands may go some way to helping the Department meet the following 2025 Stretch Goals: 1. 90% of New Zealanders think the impacts of visitors on public conservation lands and waters are very well managed. 2. 90% of our threatened species across New Zealand’s ecosystems are managed to enhance their populations. 3. Whânau, hapû and iwi are able to practise their responsibilities as kaitiaki of natural and cultural resources on public conservation lands and waters.


Tourism Pressure

ID: 1203
Work area: Recreation,Tourism,Historic
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Three Bay of Islands key visitor sites - Manginangina Kauri Walk, Flagstaff Hill (Te Maiki) and Otehei Bay (Urupukapuka Island).

Question

What is the impact of tourism pressure at three key sites in the Bay of Islands and how could an assessment of this help with future planning.

Description

DOC already acknowledges that the majority of international holiday visitors come to New Zealand to connect with our natural places. (Stretch Goal x). Any current and future potential tourism pressure points need to be assessed and ways of ameliorating these, considered. The Bay of Islands is a favoured destination for national and international tourists. The Paihia i-site can receive information requests from over 350,000 visitors a year. In recent years tourism pressure points situated on public conservation land, including Manginangina Kauri Walk, Flagstaff Hill (Te Maiki) and Otehei Bay (Urupukapuka Island) have been identified by local DOC staff and concessionaires with guiding permits to these sites. These places come under increased visitor number and associated traffic (vehicle and vessel) pressure during the summer season and particularly on days when cruise ships visit the Bay of Islands. An objective data-supported assessment of the visitor pressure issues at these sites would help with future planning and future-proofing any anticipated growth in tourism numbers. Particular management tools that could be supported include: site carrying capacity, Conservation Management Strategy updates and integrated management plans. Proposal is for a 3rd year tourism/marketing university student to carry out an investigation into Bay of Islands tourism pressures. A report using data collected to highlight possible solutions would be produced and presented. The research would address tourism pressure points and This project would be in three phases: 1. Project design 2. Data collection - behavioural observations, visitor number counts and intercept surveys of concessionaire (and other tourism operators at site) as well as visitors carried out at three tourism sites. 3. Data analysis, report writing and presentation of findings.


Lure preference testing on Norway rats to improve the effectiveness of pest surveillance on pest free islands

ID: 1205
Work area: Threats
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: A research facility that can hold wild caught Norway rats in captivity temporarily.

Question

Are in-shell macadamias an equally effective lure in tunnels and trap boxes as Pic's Peanut Butter for Norway rats?

Description

The issue for pest free islands is finding a lure for tracking tunnels and traps that is attractive to rodents but unattractive to non-target species., so that the lure remains effective for longer periods of time. currently Pic's peanut butter is a recommended lure, but this has the disadvantage of also being palatable to birds, lizards and invertebrates. where birds have become used to looking for peanut butter, the lure may no longer be present in tracking tunnels by night fall, reducing the attractiveness of the tunnels to rodents. Invertebrate and lizard consumption of peanut butter slower but also occurring. another potential risk is that non-targets that have become attracted to peanut butter may be lured into DOC200 trap boxes, increasing the non target by-catch and decreasing the effectiveness of the trap system. In shell macadamia nuts have been suggested as a lure highly palatable to rodents, that very few other animals have ability to gain acess to. the relative palatability to rodents of in-shell macadamias compared with pics penut butter is unkonown. the department does not want to recommend in-shell macadamias unless they can be shown to be as attractive to Norway rats as Pic's peanut butter. Norway rats are the chosen rodent species because they are the commonest rodent invader of pest free islands and cautious of pest surveillance


Assessment of Visitor Information Provision

ID: 1206
Work area: Recreation,Tourism,Historic
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: I-sites at Paihia and Whangarei in Northland

Question

How well does the current visitor information at i-sites and other key information points meet the needs of the visiting public

Description

The provision of up-to-date, comprehensive DOC visitor information in both the Bay of Islands and Whangarei areas has been lacking since the closure of the Russell and Whangarei DOC Visitor Centres. Brochure updating has also contributed to a poor visitor experience in this part of the North. In association with the tourism pressures on particular Bay of Islands sites, is the potential installation of a DOC information kiosk at each of the Paihia and Whangarei i-sites over the summer of 2019-2020. The installation is intended as a trial period; data collection and analysis of how well this information kiosk meets the needs of the visiting public, as well as that of the i-site staff needs to be undertaken. Proposal is for 3rd year tourism/marketing university student to carry out an investigation into Bay of Islands visitor information provision. A report using data collected to highlight possible solutions would be produced and presented. The research would address DOC information kiosks in the Whangarei and Paihia i-sites. This project would be in three phases: 1. Project design 2. Data collection - behavioural observations, visitor number counts and intercept surveys of i-site staff and visitors at the Paihia and Whangarei i-sites. 3. Data analysis, report writing and presentation of findings.


Understanding the predator pressure of rats on Powelliphanta “Egmont” on Mt. Taranaki

ID: 1208
Work area: Terrestrial
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Mt. Taranaki

Question

Are rats an ongoing pressure on Powelliphanta 'Egmont' on Mt. Taranaki?

Description

In 2014, the first evidence of rat predation of Powelliphanta “Egmont” was discovered, indicating that predation may now be an issue for the already scarce population of landsnail. Repeating the surveys undertaken in the past within the Pouikai and Kokowai populations on Mt. Taranaki will increase our understanding of: 1. Whether rat predation is a new and constant pressure or whether a temporary predation phase occurred (which is possible if a rat irruption was triggered by a mast event) 2. If evidence of predation still present, whether it occurs at both sites 3. The potential impact of predation (which we would have to glean from proportion of intact vs predated shells). This will involve searching predominantly under litter and fronds of Gahnia xanthocarpa in subalpine scrub and shrubland on Mt. Taranaki. It would also be useful to further investigate distribution of the snails where we haven’t searched before.


Effective trapping of Norway rats while minimising risk of tuatara by-catch for pest surveillance on pest free islands

ID: 1212
Work area: Threats
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: A site that holds captive tuatara such as a zoo or research facility (eg Victoria University). A site that can hold wild-caught Norway rats temporarily in captivity (eg Lincoln University).

Question

Do current modifications to standard DOC200 box designs to exclude tuatara meet the 2 criteria of encouraging Norway rats inside while effectively excluding tuatara?

Description

Managers of pest-free islands with a tuatara population face a dilemma. Best practice for catching Norway rats that may arrive requires the use of DOC200 traps, and the standard designs for trap boxes to exclude non target species have not been effective at excluding tuatara. Various local modifications to trap boxes have been implemented in an effort to reduce tuatara by-catch but no testing has been done to assess these modifications for their ability to catch Norway rats while also effectively excluding tuatara. Trials need to be done on the various trap box modifications to see which modifications meet the 2 criteria of (1) encouraging Norway rats inside while (2) effectively excluding tuatara. Pest free islands that have tuatara and risk of Norway rats include: Tiritiri Matangi, Motuihe (Akld region), Matiu-Somes (Wellington region)


Understanding the depth of practice of teachers leading conservation education teaching and learning

ID: 1223
Work area: Recreation,Tourism,Historic
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Field work and co-supervisor based in Taupo.

Question

Why are they teachers using conservation for cross curriculum teaching and learning? What are the benefits for teachers? For learners? How is this experience different from teachers who are not?

Description

The DOC education strategy prioritises supporting teachers as conservation champions in the classroom. What can we learn from these teachers that will inform how we communicate with and support others to follow?


Census of falcon/karearea in the Wakatipu Basin

ID: 1240
Work area: Terrestrial
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Glenorchy and the wider Wakatipu basin.

Question

Establish a baseline for the population of falcon/karearea in the Wakatipu basin.

Description

As part of the KareareaSafe programme an agreement has been drawn up with Aurora Energy to find solutions to the risk of karearea being electrocuted on powerlines managed by Aurora Energy. This has begun with the retrofitting of a modified design to the transformer box in some Glenorchy sites. Electrocution on distribution lines has been proven to have a significant impact on the survival of karearea in the Marlborough region and it is highly likely that electrocution is a factor that limits populations of this threatened species nationwide. The risk is especially high in open areas where power poles provide the most convenient perching opportunity in a landscape devoid of trees. Power transformers are an ideal resting spot for karearea that tend to perch on an object prior to swooping down to catch prey. In order to establish the success of this work an assessment of the baseline population is needed.


Proximal dispersal within the Barrel & Grate (saloon-door style) boot cleaning stations.

ID: 1243
Work area: Threats
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place:

Question

 

Description

The intended research work on the Mark 2 station internal cleanliness will assist DOC to assess whether the recent and proposed modifications to the Mark 1 cleaning stations achieve the required hygiene outcomes. HO – That the percentage of Oospores found inside Mark II cleaning stations including the ground plane and up to a height of 0.5 metre of the walls is statistically significant, in terms of containing proximal dispersal of the Oospore during the required 3-step DOC cleaning procedure.


Pre-cleaning behaviours of Track Users

ID: 1246
Work area: Threats
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place:

Question

 

Description

This research work will look at whether wider public messaging (Social media, Track Ambassadors, signage etc) about cleaning footwear at home (arriving at DOC sites clean) is required, and will give DOC numbers and qualitative information regarding the soiled state of footwear (ie: by rating boots which have and have not been cleaned). This study may indicate the demographic to target, to get greater compliance with the accepted hygiene protocols. HO - That most Track users arrive at DOC cleaning stations (both Barrel & Grate and Mark II stations) with boots of cleanliness between 3 – 5 on the Likert Scale (Dirty to Extremely Dirty), as qualitatively measured from the footwear of track users prior to using a DOC cleaning station, when either entering or departing a Track.


Australasian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus) stable isotope analyses on contemporary and historical feather samples to investigate trophic enrichment factor changes over time.

ID: 1247
Work area: Terrestrial
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place:

Question

How have trophic enrichment factors changed over time within the populations of Australasian bittern in New Zealand? Are stable isotope analyses a viable pathway to increase our understanding of starvation concerns within the bittern populations?

Description

Australasian bitterns are classified as Nationally Critical in New Zealand and composed of around 1000 individuals in the wild. Their habitats have been severely degraded by human land-use effectors and pressures, reducing wetlands in New Zealand by >90%. The recovery and management of the underlying issues is a top priority in order to reverse the declining bittern populations nationwide. Recent discoveries have revealed that starvation and malnutrition is a growing concern within the bittern populations. Individuals are often found below optimal body conditions and this will have an ongoing effect to breeding successes and population growth. Due to the very cryptic nature of bitterns it is difficult to assess the dietary extent and foraging behaviours across single wetland habitats let alone across extensive networks. 1) Stable isotope analyses can provide an avenue to assess historical and contemporary differences in the enrichment of 'food'. In this case, of nitrogen and carbon isotopes.These isotopic enrichments can reflect the prey-types in habitats that bitterns forage within. 2) The emphasis of this work will be to investigate how food sources have changed over time. Given the amount of land-use change that has occurred in the last 100 years we hope to start assessing how preferential prey of bitterns has changed across New Zealand. Further, to identify the drivers of starvation and begin to understand how to reverse them. 3) These preliminary investigations can then inform us on how we can better prioritise habitats for fresh-water recovery initiatives that benefit bitterns in future. Thus, establish which regions may be affecting bittern prey accessibility and quality the most. This summer scholarship would be presented as a pilot study to begin analysing current feather collections and to assess the viability of this process. There is increasing scope within this project to include other bird species, such as crakes and freshwater prey-species, to improve our resolutions of the Australasian bittern food webs. This could provide a quantitative assessment of our national wetland habitats where bitterns forage that would present a 'fingerprint' of quality that DOC could respond to more appropriately and efficiently.


Understanding threats to forest ringlet butterflies, Dodonidia helmsii.

ID: 1250
Work area: Threats
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: We are aware of a good population of Forest ringlets within Nelson Lakes National part with all life stages present during February 2020 that could be used as a study site.

Question

Are introduced social wasps contributing to the decline of Dodonidia helmsii in beech forests?

Description

Forest ringlet butterflies (Dodonidia helmsii) are a rare New Zealand endemic species and the only member of the genus Dodonidia. They are a forest butterfly often associated with beech forests and their common food plants Gahnia spp. and Chionochloa spp. Forest ringlets are in decline nationally with local extinctions in some areas. There are many threats that could be contributing to the decline of this species including damage to host plants by pigs, predation from rodents and introduced birds, habitat loss and climate change. One threat that is thought to play a major part in the decline in this species is predation by social wasps and to a lesser extent parasitism by introduced parasitoid wasps. Introduced social wasps become a problem during the warm summer months as they feed on the honey dew produced by the beech scale insects. As wasp numbers increase, they compete with other invertebrates and birds for the honey dew and predate on invertebrates as they move from the sugar food source to protein. As the habitat of the butterflies and wasps overlap it is predicted that wasps are feeding on the eggs and larvae of the forest ringlets. We are interested in finding out more about the ecology of this species in Nelson Lakes National Park and whether introduced social wasps are the main threat to this species. A large area of wasp control is already under taken each summer in the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project and it would benefit us knowing that this baiting could protect vulnerable insect species.


Quantifying forest dieback in New Zealand forests using ground data and remotely sensed imagery

ID: 1253
Work area: Terrestrial
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: One North Island site (Coromandel Ranges?) and one South Island site (Wilberforce Valley?).

Question

Can crown mortality be quantified using satellite and/or aerial imagery and changes temporal changes measured?

Description

Tree crown dieback and mortality occurs in New Zealand forests as a result of multiple natural and human-caused factors including wind damage, drought, the effects of mammalian pest herbivores, and native and exotic insects and pathogens. The Department of Conservation is interested in tracking the amounts and distributions of crown dieback and mortality, and particularly how these respond to mammal pest control in areas where mammalian browsers have had an impact on canopy vegetation. Further, it is likely that some of these direct effects on canopy dieback are exacerbated by climate warming, causing increased summer drought conditions. This summer scholarship will involve using UAV, aerial and/or satellite imagery and image analysis to quantify dieback in selected study areas in the North and South Island. The work will also include visits to sites to obtain UAV-based imagery and to collect field data to validate the image analysis work.


Using satellite imagery and image analysis to assess human impacts on Public Conservation Land

ID: 1254
Work area: Recreation,Tourism,Historic
Status: Available
University: not assigned
Place: Inner Hauraki Gulf Islands.

Question

Can the patterns of human use and/or activity around offshore islands in the Hauraki Gulf be quantified using aerial imaging platforms?

Description

New Zealanders use lakes and offshore island areas within the public conservation estate for boating-related and other forms of recreation. The Department of Conservation is interested in quantifying and monitoring the relative numbers of users, and their use patterns, in these conservation areas. This summer scholarship will make use of readily available aerial and satellite imagery, collected through time, to monitor human activities, such as the number of boats, for a selection of highly used areas. Image processing methods will be developed and applied to detect, extract, and quantify these types of features and to estimate usage numbers and patterns.


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