1080 back in the public eye
The use and safety of 1080 for pest control has re-entered public discussion in recent weeks.
DOC Ecosystems Principal Science Advisor Colin O'Donnell said a major benefit of using 1080 was controlling pests so that native populations of birds, bats, invertebrates and even freshwater fish could recover.
"These threatened species are heading towards extinction, often declining at rates of >5% per annum, unless predators are controlled effectively."
"For example, >50% of breeding female mohua and >80% of breeding female kaka are killed in areas without predator control; only 15% of rock wren nests survive, and annual survival of long-tailed bats is as low as 30% when there is no predator control," O'Donnell said.
"Such predation rates are unsustainable."
University of Auckland conservation biologist Associate Professor James Russell said there were ongoing refinements to make pest control solutions more species-specific, efficient and cost-effective.
"When deciding what pest control tool to use managers must optimise efficiency (does it kill enough pests to restore biodiversity), humaneness (does it do so humanely), and cost (is it affordable).
"Currently, aerially-delivered 1080 is the optimal tool for mammalian predator pest control over most of New Zealand (costing $12 – $16 per hectare, being relatively humane, and achieving conservation goals)."
University of Otago's Professor Neil Gemmell said there were a range of alternatives being explored, including species-specific toxins, a Trojan Female method of introducing infertility into populations, and gene drives, which he said was still a work in progress.
"Work in insects will lead the way, and may be ready for trials within the next year or so internationally. However, work in mammals will lag a long way behind."
"If we are serious about Predator Free 2050 and wish genetic technologies to be part of the solution we need to step up the conversations, increase our investment, and start planning out what the workflow for this project would look like over the next decade plus.
"This is the New Zealand version of the Space Race and we need commitment and resource aplenty if we are to achieve it. It can be done, but whether we have the resolve to resource this appropriately and see this through to completion remains uncertain. "
The SMC asked experts to comment on the use of 1080 in New Zealand.
"It’s so important for the results of all clinical trials and fundamental science research to be published...
information is missing because it hasn’t been published it
can have massive consequences for medicine and human health,
from time and money being wasted doing studies that were
never going to work, to patients receiving useless or even
University of Auckland's Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles on why suppressing publications of clinical studies is unethical.
Report on low emissions
The Productivity Commission has completed its report into transitioning to a low-emissions economy.
The final report, released this week, recommended
a suite of policy reforms to help drive the transition,
including a ‘feebate’ scheme to increase the uptake of
electric vehicles and introducing emissions standards for
Victoria University of Wellington’s Professor Adrian Macey told Newshub that he agreed with the Commission that New Zealand needed to make urgent changes in regard to transport. “What the commission is saying is we need to shift to electric cars much more quickly,” he said.
“The other point is that New Zealanders hold onto their cars way longer than most countries, so you’ve got emission locked in if you’re buying a car now and hold onto it for 15, 20 years. That’s not going to help.”
Climate Change Minister James Shaw said the report highlighted many areas the Government was already working on, such as establishing an independent Climate Commission. The Government would respond to the report’s 173 findings and 78 recommendations “over the coming months”, he said.
The Science Media Centre gathered expert commentary on the draft report when it was released in April.
Round 3: Sci journo
The winners of the third round of the Aotearoa New Zealand Science Journalism Fund have been announced, with recipients receiving over $17,000 in new grants to cover science topics for a range of media outlets.
range from a Te Ao Māori perspective on predator control,
to innovative multimedia and digital interactives on
Antarctica and greenhouse gases, to the scientific
discoveries of everyday New Zealanders.
All of the projects will made available following publication under Creative Commons licence. Previously funded projects can be found here.
“It's been great to see a range of new applicants bringing forward innovative new ideas,” said the fund’s founder Dr Rebecca Priestley. “We are seeing a real impact from this initiative, with 16 high quality science journalism projects seeded in the first year across 10 media outlets.
"Looking to the future, we plan to transition to an annual funding round in response to media industry feedback, with an emphasis on providing greater flexibility for applicants across a range of topics."
Check out the full list of funded projects.
Upcoming SAVVY workshops
The Science Media Centre has several workshops coming up in October and November.
In October, our half-day video workshops will visit Christchurch and Dunedin. Produced in collaboration with Baz Caitcheon, the workshops focus on giving scientists the tools and skills to communicate their research in short videos aimed at an online audience.
The workshops are free to attend, but
limited to 15 places. This is a competitive application
process – the best applicants will be selected based on
the video concepts outlined in the application