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Eco-restoration a key focus for new centre

MEDIA RELEASE


16 June 2006

Eco-restoration a key focus for new Victoria centre

Exploring the diversity of the world’s flora and fauna—from the molecular level to the ecosystem—is the focus of a new collaborative research centre to be established at Victoria University of Wellington.

The Centre for Biodiversity & Restoration Ecology will be launched by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Tertiary Education, the Hon Dr Michael Cullen, in the University’s Hunter Council Chamber on Tuesday 20 June at 6pm.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Pat Walsh, said the Centre would confront major environmental and conservation issues facing New Zealand and the world.

“In the more than 1,500 years since humans first stepped ashore on New Zealand soil, they have wrought considerable devastation to its flora and fauna. In the last 200 years that pace has accelerated as a host of species from possums to stoats and rabbits have been introduced. It is estimated that at least 40 percent of the land and freshwater birds that were living here at that time have become extinct,” Professor Walsh said.

“But in recent years, researchers have tried to turn the tide, by attempting to undo the damage. Firstly on offshore islands, and now in facilities such as Wellington’s groundbreaking Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, the introduced predators and competitors for food have been removed and native species reintroduced.

“So while the Centre will undertake research into effective strategies for reintroducing native species, it will also examine, for example, issues surrounding the narrowing of the genetic pool for such endangered species or genetic measures to control introduced pests. And the research extends beyond New Zealand with researchers, for example, examining the fate of Africa’s black rhino.”

Professor Walsh said the Centre, led by Associate Professor Ben Bell, was well placed to build on the reputation of the School of Biological Sciences in biodiversity and ecological restoration.

“The School has an outstanding reputation for research into threatened native species such as New Zealand’s tuatara. The School also successfully negotiated a significant grant from the Tertiary Education Commission to launch a new Master of Science degree in eco-restoration in association with the Sanctuary and Massey University. It has also developed strong partnerships with researchers worldwide, including the San Diego Zoo and the University of Montana, with which it jointly teaches a course.”

The Centre for Biodiversity & Restoration Ecology is the ninth research centre to be launched at Victoria University since 2002.

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FACT SHEET

16 June 2006


Centre for Biodiversity & Restoration Ecology

The Centre for Biodiversity & Restoration Ecology is one of Victoria University’s applied research centres and is part of the School of Biological Sciences.

The Centre for Biodiversity & Restoration Ecology is the ninth research centre to be launched at Victoria University following the establishment of the MacDiarmid Institute for New Materials & Nanotechnology (now a Government-funded Centre of Research Excellence), the New Zealand Institute for Research on Ageing, the Crime & Justice Research Centre, the Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families, the Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research, the Centre for Biodiscovery, the Centre for Marine Environmental & Economics Research and the Centre for the Study of Leadership.

Projects underway in the Centre for Biodiversity & Restoration Ecology include research on invasive ants, examining biological aspects of climate change, monitoring the survival and genetic diversity of translocated species, international collaboration on the world’s herbivores, and long-term research on tuatara and native frogs.

The Centre embraces and promotes the existing research strengths within the School of Biological Sciences and is a focus for increased external research funding and for collaboration and exchange in biodiversity and restoration ecology research, both nationally and internationally. School staff have teaching or research collaborations in place with the Universities of Melbourne, New South Wales, Hawai’i, Montana and Wroclaw (Germany), as well as the San Diego Zoo.

The Centre’s Director is Associate Professor Ben Bell and its primary researchers are from the School of Biological Sciences. Core senior researchers include: Dr Murray Williams, Senior Lecturer and researcher in restoration ecology and conservation; Professor Charles Daugherty, who is a specialist on ecology, genetics and conservation; Professor Phil Garnock-Jones, a specialist in evolution and plant taxonomy; Professor Fred Allendorf, who undertakes research in ecology, genetics and conservation; Professor Ken McNatty, a specialist in reproductive biology; and Professor Alan Dixson, who undertakes research in reproductive biology and conservation. The Centre also includes researchers from the Schools of Earth Sciences, Mathematics, Statistics & Computer Science and History, Philosophy, Political Science & International Relations.


ENDS

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