7 November 2009
The team here is a close-knit one – it has to be when the entire world for us is this little island and the members of the black robin research team. Abi and Briggs went back to Chatham Island last week so now there are just four of us. We have almost no contact with the outside world, just a hello from the Department of Conservation each morning to make sure we are still alive and a one-way relationship with the weather forecast man on the radio – and he mainly sends gale warnings these days… sigh. You already know me but it is about time you met some of the team -
If Mel won lotto she would buy a seabird island to live on and work with birds whenever she wanted.
Hailing originally from Germany, she has been in New Zealand for nearly ten years, completing a PhD at Otago University and now postdoctoral research at the University of Canterbury.
Mel has studied Snares penguins on the Snares Islands, yellow-eyed penguins on the Otago peninsula, Adélie penguins in Antarctica, kittiwakes in Newfoundland and has tickled puffins on the Westman Islands in Iceland. Her interest in birds began before university though.
After finishing school she spent her gap year working with a bird conservation group in Germany (‘Naturschutzbund Deutschland’). Northern Germany was a great place for Mel to beceome a ‘birder,’ with a wetland near by where migrating geese, cranes and songbirds would stop to feed like crazy before heading across the Baltic to Sweden for the spring and summer. However, bird research was still not her first career choice. “I was convinced that I wanted to be a marine biologist studying whales and dolphins. I even went to Canada for the whales, but one day a friend pointed out that I seemed much more fascinated by birds – and she was right. I never looked back.”
These days Mel splits her time between the black robins here (she knows most of them by name) and Adélie penguins in the Antarctic – and she even swears that it is warmer in the Antarctic during summer than here on Rangatira in November!
To learn more how you follow in Mel's footsteps and become a biologist visit the University of Canterbury's School of Biological Sciences website.
Alison is Rangatira’s resident tea addict (with a record of 10 cups in one day) and the master tree-climber, but she is going cold turkey at the moment (from the tea not the tree-climbing)!
Ali comes from South Africa but she has lived in Christchurch for ten years and has studied at Canterbury and Victoria Universities. Since then she has volunteered seven months on Raoul Island, a nature reserve in the Kermadecs where she battled weeds in the jungle and camped out on a cliff to watch the humpback whales migrating south; spent a summer as a hut warden on Mt Angelus in Nelson Lakes National Park and worked at Coronet Peak skifield.
Out here, as well as tracking down all the really high-pitched chicks that the rest of us can’t hear, Ali is the one that really communes with the skuas: “They are like the rulers of the island. They know they are boss.” In return, the big skuas pretty much leave her alone – well, perhaps that is a slight exaggeration, but they do seem to dive bomb her a little bit less than the rest of us! She even has the photo to prove it: the stunning sunrise picture of Whaler’s Bay, with the skua staying put on the rocks at the start of this blog entry is by Alison).
The photo of Alison is by Melanie Massaro.