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Call for Kiwis to get behind ‘Operation Duck Pond’


IMMEDIATE RELEASE 3/9/2014

Call for Kiwis to get behind ‘Operation Duck Pond’

Volunteers around the country have begun counting waterfowl on their local ponds – as part of a new ‘citizen science’ project dubbed Operation Duck Pond.

Fish & Game NZ has launched the project that aims to determine what pond habitat features provide the best breeding for mallard ducks and other species of waterfowl.

The organisation is appealing for New Zealanders around the country to join the project, pointing out it will not only help highly valued introduced species, but native birds too.

“With about 90% of New Zealand’s wetland lost over the past 150 years, there’s a need to look at the role ponds play in the conservation of water birds,” project coordinator Nathan Burkepile says.

He says ‘citizen science’ is a U.S. term where local people, non-scientists, help in scientific work such as birds counts. “This is a great opportunity to be part of a fun project for anyone from a high school science student, to a primary school pupil helped by their family or teachers.

“We’re keen to hear from a wide range of people, including youngsters. Kids – depending on your age you may need to line up support from mum and dad, a friend or relation.”

Mr Burkepile says Fish & Game hopes that farmers and landowners, especially folk who hunt, take up the opportunity to help the organisation in actively managing these ponds.

We’ve had a great response to the small amount of information we’ve already released, mainly via Facebook. “People seem keen to help – and we have some volunteers – but we need to get our numbers up.”

The project gives them a unique opportunity to get involved and make a real hands-on contribution towards efforts to manage waterfowl and maintain or grow their populations.

Mr Burkepile emphasises: “You don’t have to be a scientist!” All volunteers will be given a set of simple instructions on how to go about the monitoring, a manual telling them how to run the survey, “which means everyone round the country will tackle the project the same way, and volunteers will be able gather the best data possible.”

Those taking part will be helping sustain New Zealand’s wildlife – both introduced and native bird species. “If you’re a university student studying biology or zoology, or a high school student planning to study those subjects, this is for you.”

Volunteers will gain some valuable experience of observation and research methods, “and of course, it’ll look good on your CV.”

Operation Duck Pond involves establishing a network of people to closely monitor ponds across New Zealand beginning in September 2014 and running as a continual project to gather long-term data.

“There are ponds right across the landscape used for various purposes including stock watering, irrigation, stormwater capture, waterfowl habitat and, of course, scenic, aesthetic values.”

Mr Burkepile says that volunteers don’t need to own land with a pond to take part. “You can ask a landowner who lives nearby if you can monitor their ponds. If you’re a hunter who focuses on a particular pond, we encourage you to use that one.”

The volunteers will start by filling out a ‘pond characteristics’ datasheet, and will then be asked to count waterfowl four times over a four month period beginning in September.

Mr Burkepile says while Fish & Game has spent many years researching mallard numbers, there’s little scientific information on what role these ponds of various sizes play in New Zealand’s waterfowl populations.

“By mobilising this ‘people power’ we can potentially collect a large amount of data from a wide area without crippling costs.”

The study is a small part of a major mallard research strategy that Fish & Game has launched, aiming to spend $300,000 over coming years on a variety of studies and programmes to improve waterfowl management and hunting opportunities.

Fish & Game is urging anyone who wants to join Operation Duck Pond to contact:

pondstudy@fishandgame.org.nz

Or visit Fish & Game’s duck research pages:

http://www.fishandgame.org.nz/mallard-duck-research

Or Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Operation-Duck-Pond/677991852233814


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