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Ornithologist to receive honorary doctorate

16 November 2007

Leading ornithologist to receive honorary doctorate

One of New Zealand’s most prolific contributors to ornithological science, Christopher JR Robertson, will receive an honorary Doctorate of Science at Victoria University’s graduation ceremony in Wellington on December 12.

A former student, and President of the University's Students' Association in 1965, Mr Robertson's career in ornithology and conservation has spanned more than 40 years. After working for the National Museum of New Zealand, the New Zealand Wildlife Service and the Department of Conservation, Mr Robertson ‘retired’ in 2000 to set up his publishing company, Wild Press Ltd, at the former Officers’ Mess at Shelley Bay Air Force Base.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Pat Walsh, says Mr Robertson is a man of tremendous energy, ability and drive, who has made – and continues to make – an outstanding contribution to New Zealand ornithology and conservation.

“Christopher’s practical study of New Zealand’s birds and techniques for their conservation has left New Zealand’s body of knowledge on its birdlife much wealthier. He is a uniquely talented individual with an inspirational passion for what he does,” Professor Walsh.says.

Mr Robertson has authored or edited more than a dozen books on ornithology, including the Readers Digest Book of New Zealand Birds and the first ‘pocket books’ on New Zealand birds that remain some of the most widely distributed books on the subject.

He was pivotal to the publication of the internationally-acclaimed Atlas of Bird Distribution in New Zealand 1999-2004, launched at Government House in August this year. For the Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Mr Robertson led the collation and analysis of more than 1.5 million records to develop a unique resource on New Zealand’s birds. He is currently directing the development of an online version for publication in 2008.

An acknowledged international leader in seabird ecology, Mr Robertson has been a major contributor to international efforts to minimise seabird by-catch by southern ocean fishers. He has a 30+ year association with the Taiaroa Head albatross colony near Dunedin, continues to run long-term studies on the Chatham albatrosses, and contributes to conservation and management work on albatrosses on New Zealand’s southern islands.

He managed the bird-banding record scheme, an essential tool for the study of birds by amateurs and professionals, formulated techniques still in use today for the assessment of bird habitat requirements on braided rivers to meet the critical scrutiny of New Zealand environment courts and was instrumental in bringing the prestigious International Ornithological Congress to New Zealand in 1990.


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