Sir Rob Fenwick


Talk Time: Tuesday 22 November, 8.10am

Topic: A Predator-Free Future for New Zealand?

A former journalist and public relations consultant, Rob co-founded Living Earth Ltd, the country’s largest municipal composting business. Much of the focus of his career has been to encourage other business people to place environmental responsibility at the centre of their decision-making process. Once described as the busiest man in New Zealand, Rob chairs the Predator Free NZ Trust and Kiwis for Kiwi, which aims to reverse the decline in kiwi numbers. He also chairs the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge and the Fred Hollows Foundation, and was founding chairman of Ngati Whatua’s radio station, Mai FM. Rob spearheaded the campaign to save the Antarctic huts built by Ernest Shackleton and Robert Scott, chaired Antarctica New Zealand and established the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute, which funds scientists to gain a greater understanding of climate change.

Wendy Henwood

Wendy Henwood photo

Talk Time: Sunday 20 November, 1.20pm

Topic: Iwi Māori led approaches to restoration and enhancement of fresh water environments in the Far North (New Zealand)

Ko Te Rarawa te iwi, ko Ngāi Tupoto te hapü, ko Ngāi Tupoto ki Motukaraka te Marae. Wendy lives in Hokianga and works with the Whäriki Research group (Massey University). She has been actively involved in community environmental restoration in a number of rural Far North communities for many years.

Iwi Māori led approaches to restoration and enhancement of fresh water environments in the Far North (New Zealand)

Iwi Māori led approaches to environmental restoration are multi-faceted and extend far beyond excluding stock from waterways, riparian planting and pest control. The integrity and sustainability of lands, waters and forests are critical cultural, social, and economic determinants of indigenous wellbeing. Relationships between environments and people are intertwined in te ao Maori (the Maori world) and are at the core of any restoration approach.
Drawing on indigenous worldviews, values, knowledge and practices arising from independent, yet interconnected projects have transformative potential at local, national and global levels. Although applied in diverse ways in multiple communities, there are a number of shared approaches and features. Iwi see environmental enhancement and restoration as a catalyst for a range of other positive opportunities and outcomes; a platform for engagement and cultural development, for education and employment, and building knowledge to inform decision-making.
This presentation draws on my experiences with a number of locally based and driven environmental initiatives within multi-disciplinary teams of indigenous researchers working alongside the realities of community people on the ground. It aims to highlight the importance and management of networks and relationships, the broad collaborations that ensure an appropriate skill mix, understandings of the context and passion that bring people with a common vision together, the complexities and challenges involved in sustainable restoration, and the need to build intergeneration capacity and capability into every project.

Margaret D. Lowman


Talk Time: Sunday 20 November, 9.50am 

Topic: Citizens and Communities, Canopies and Conservation – innovation required for Mother Nature!

Nicknamed the “real-life Lorax” by National Geographic and “Einstein of the treetops” by Wall Street Journal, Meg Lowman pioneered the science of canopy ecology. Meg is affectionately called the mother of canopy research as one of the first scientists to explore this eighth continent. Her international network and passion for science have led her into leadership roles where she seeks best practices to solve environmental challenges and serves as a role model to women and minorities in science. At the California Academy of Sciences, Lowman has played a leadership role to integrate the priorities of sustainability and science communication into the existing research programs of the Institute of Biodiversity Science and Sustainability. Formerly a Professor at North Carolina State University and the founding director of North Carolina's innovative Nature Research Center (NRC), Lowman has served as a mentor to women and minorities in the workplace throughout her career. She has authored more than 125 peer-reviewed scientific publications, and her first book about her (mis)adventures as a woman in science, “Life in the Treetops,” received a cover review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. Working tirelessly on sustainability initiatives at home and abroad, “CanopyMeg” was a Fulbright Senior Specialist Scholar to both India and Ethiopia, mentoring women as part of her global outreach.

Citizens and Communities, Canopies and Conservation – innovation required for Mother Nature!

Despite enormous pending global environmental challenges, the next generation has a wealth of technology and expertise available to inspire solutions. Using a combination of new virtual technologies with conventional natural history observations, the integration of real and virtual nature offers innovative approaches to restoration ecology, conservation biology and community-based actions. How can citizens deploy this innovative new toolkit at the community level for ecosystem conservation and restoration? And can new technologies, such as crowd-sourcing and citizen science, achieve the rigor required to be included in the toolkit for scientific problem-solving and for education outreach? 

Through my lens of forest canopy research, I share some examples of success in engaging citizens and communities to inspire ecosystem restoration and conservation solutions. A new mobile app, called iNaturalist, has deployed a new generation of student field biology “detectives” to document natural history at a global scale. The simple distribution of Google Earth imagery has transformed the Ethiopian Coptic church priests into conservation leaders, saving the forests of an entire country. The application of drones has provided citizens and communities with visual images not only to inspire kids about STEM education, but also to police illegal logging, avert toxic waste activities in remote tropical forests, and protect boundaries for indigenous peoples. Through Earthwatch and Eco-Teach, teams of citizen scientists have collectively mapped rain forest canopy biodiversity and monitored endangered species. Conservation and restoration of the world’s forests (and other essential ecosystems) require action at both local and global scales using innovative new toolkits based on both virtual and real nature.

Alan Watson Featherstone

Alan Watson FeatherstoneTalk Time: Monday 21 November, 8.10am

Topic: Restoring the Caledonian Forest in Scotland

Alan Watson Featherstone is the Founder and Visionary of Trees for Life, a conservation charity working to restore the Caledonian Forest in the Highlands of Scotland. Since 1989, Trees for Life has planted over a million trees and has involved thousands of volunteers in its work. The charity has a 250 year vision for the restoration of the Caledonian Forest to a significant part of its former range, complete with the reintroduction of the ecosystem’s missing apex predators such as the Eurasian lynx and the wolf.

Alan regularly contributes articles to various professional and popular publications, and his photographs have appeared in publications such as Time magazine and Encyclopedia Britannica. He has given lectures at events and conferences in more than 20 countries, and was a plenary speaker at the SER 2015 conference in Manchester, England.

Through his work with Trees for Life, Alan has helped provide the inspiration for other ecological restoration projects in the Scottish Borders, on Dartmoor in England and for the creation of the Yendegaia National Park in Tierra del Fuego, Chile. He also founded the Restoring the Earth project, to promote the restoration of the planet’s degraded ecosystems as the most important task for humanity in the 21st century.

Alan has received a number of awards for his work, including the Spirit of Scotland Environment Award in 2012 and the RSPB Nature of Scotland Outstanding Contribution Award in 2013, whilst Trees for Life was recognised as the UK Conservation Project of the Year in 1991, and received the Millennium Marque Award in 2000, for demonstrating environmental excellence for the 21st century.

Restoring the Caledonian Forest in Scotland

At its maximum extent, the Caledonian Forest covered a large part of the Highlands of Scotland, but by the 20th century it had been reduced to scattered remnants consisting solely of old trees nearing the end of their lives, and covering a tiny fraction of the forest’s former range. Overgrazing by deer and sheep had prevented the growth of any new trees for about 200 years, leaving the ecosystem as fragments of ‘geriatric woodland’, missing many of its species and with key ecological processes no longer functional.

This presentation will focus on work that has taken place in the past 3 decades to address this problem, and to assist the ecological recovery of the forest and its associated species. Drawing on examples from the work of Trees for Life and other projects, it will elucidate three key elements involved in the rewilding of the Caledonian Forest and 13 principles used to guide the ecological restoration process. Accompanied by high quality photographs, the presentation will feature dramatic ‘before and after’ images that demonstrate the results that have been achieved, and which illustrate the positive trophic cascades that develop spontaneously as the forest ecosystem recovers.

It will also highlight the importance and necessity of other steps in the restoration process that have yet to be implemented, including the reinstatement of apex predators such as the Eurasian lynx and the wolf, and the re-establishment of critical ecological processes such as disturbance and natural succession.

The presentation will include a discussion of the key role that volunteers can play in the work of ecological restoration, and the wider societal benefits that can bring, which in Scotland includes contributing to the momentum for greater political self-determination. It will conclude with a brief summary of the relevance of the work for the restoration of degraded forest ecosystems elsewhere in the world, including New Zealand.

Myla Aronson MylaAronson

Talk time: Tuesday 22 November, 8.50am

Talk Topic: Biodiversity in the Concrete Jungle: Understanding Nature in Cities for a Resilient Future

Myla F.J. Aronson is a plant ecologist whose interests focus on the conservation, restoration, and maintenance of biodiversity in human dominated landscapes. She received her B.S. in Natural Resources from Cornell University and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She is currently the Associate Editor-in-Chief of the journal Ecological Restoration and a Research Scientist in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources at Rutgers University. She also co-directs, with Charles Nilon at the University of Missouri-Columbia, UrBioNet: A Global Network for Urban Biodiversity Research and Practice (http://urbionet.weebly.com/). Dr. Aronson’s research focuses on the patterns and drivers of biodiversity in urban landscapes, in particular to understand community assembly and biotic homogenization in cities at local, regional, and global scales. She also focuses on dynamics of species invasions and the ecological function of restored communities. Finally, she studies long-term change in intact and restored vegetation communities in urban and agricultural landscapes in order to better understand and manage plant community dynamics over time. Dr. Aronson has used the results from her research to direct decisions regarding the restoration and management of degraded habitats, such as wetlands and woodlands in New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Iowa. She is currently the chair of the Urban Ecosystem Ecology section of the Ecological Society of America and has served on the board of directors of the Friends of Hempstead Plains, the board of directors of the Long Island Native Plant Initiative, and the Fire Island National Seashore Science Advisory Team. In addition to her applied restoration work, she has taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at Rutgers University, Luther College, and Hofstra University. Website: https://mylaaronson.wordpress.com/.

Biodiversity in the Concrete Jungle: Understanding Nature in Cities for a Resilient Future

The majority of humanity now lives in urban areas, with this proportion expected to continue increasing for the foreseeable future. Because the majority of the world’s cities and towns are in areas of high biodiversity, the rapid urbanization of the world has a profound effect on global biodiversity. Although ecologists have made great strides in recent decades at documenting ecological relationships in urban areas, much remains unknown, and we still need to identify the major ecological factors, aside from habitat loss, behind the persistence or extinction of species and guilds of species in cities. Given this paucity of knowledge, there is an immediate need to facilitate collaborative, interdisciplinary research on the patterns and drivers of biodiversity in cities at multiple spatial scales. Here I take an interdisciplinary approach to discuss: 1) the status of biodiversity in the world’s cities and towns; 2) drivers of biodiversity in cities; and 3) city planning for biodiversity. While the world’s cities and towns are certainly hotspots of species loss, they are also surprisingly biodiverse, supporting native plant communities as well as threatened and endangered plant species. I introduce a conceptual framework for understanding the filtering processes that mold diversity of urban floras and faunas. Understanding the relative roles of abiotic, biotic, and anthropogenic filters that shape local communities will provide a deeper understanding of community assembly theory and lead to practices that ensure the future of sustainable and biodiverse cities. Finally, the ability of cities to preserve, conserve, and restore biodiversity relies on how cities plan for and manage ecological communities. While cities are centers of consumption and land use change, they represent a considerable opportunity for forwarding global sustainability and environmental goals. Understanding ecological processes in cities and towns is increasingly important and offers unique insights into the science of ecology. Furthermore, an understanding of the factors affecting biodiversity in cities is necessary to inform scientists, city planners, and managers to best conserve and restore urban biota.

Saul Cunningham saul pic use this one

Talk Time: Monday 21 November, 4.10pm

Talk Topic: Ecologists know that human welfare depends on nature, but what do the humans think?

Saul Cunningham’s research has covered many themes, including pollination biology and restoration ecology. Recently he has focused on the challenge of maintaining biodiversity in production landscapes. An Australian by birth, he did his PhD in the US but returned home and worked for CSIRO in Canberra for 17 years. He recently moved to the Australian National University to work in the Fenner School of Environment and Society. In 2015 he received the “Australian Ecological Research Award” from the Ecological Society of Australia.

Ecologists know that human welfare depends on nature, but what do the humans think?

Human welfare depends on the function of natural systems. This idea is paradigmatic to ecologists, and has been the focus of a growing branch of applied ecology. I examine the narrative of human dependence on nature by considering the literature on crop pollination by animals and its importance for feeding people. Making the connections between human welfare and natural systems is seen as a way to better motivate society to make better decisions, but the debate around crop pollination has been surprisingly contentious. There have been confusing messages, disagreements on the facts, an unfortunate focus on dire projections for the future and a lesser focus on solutions. Most of these problems arise not from poor science, but instead from poor communication of complex ideas, and differences in perspective, such as the deep disciplinary gap between agricultural scientists and ecologists. By understanding these problems we can improve the way we do our science and communicate our ideas. I argue that ecologists should continue to communicate the principle that human welfare depends on the function of natural systems, and discuss how we can do so in a way that is more genuinely connected to society’s needs, such as growing food. If we succeed, we will be changing an intellectually interesting conversation into a dialogue that influences how society interacts with nature.

Kingsley Dixondixon

Talk Time: Monday 21 November, 8.50am

Talk Topic: Beyond flag waving - raising the standard in ecological restoration



Ross Thompson 

Ross Thompson

Talk Time: Tuesday 22 November, 2.10pm

Talk Topic: Building a better mousetrap: restoration, remediation and re-engineering natural systems for resilience.

Professor Ross Thompson is Director, Chair of Water Science and an ARC Future Fellow in the Institute for Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra. Ross is a freshwater ecologist with interests in the study of biodiversity and the restoration of landscapes. His fundamental research is in food web ecology; seeking the rules that determine how natural communities assemble and persist. His applied research addresses the ways in which food webs can be influenced by anthropogenic factors including urbanisation, land clearance, pharmaceutical contamination, river flow diversion and restoration, and invasion. He has an active research program on aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem function in urban and rural landscapes. Ross has published more than 80 papers, 10 book chapters and more than 200 scientific reports. He sits on the Australian Research Council College of Experts and has recently stepped down from the NZ Marsden Panel. His work has strong links to government and industry, and Ross sits on a number of senior technical advisory panels for local, state and federal research programs.

Building a better mousetrap: restoration, remediation and re-engineering natural systems for resilience. 

The majority of the world’s ecosystems have been profoundly altered by human activities in ways that are essentially irreversible. Global population growth will place ever greater demands on ecosystems and the services that they provide. Using examples from waterway management in Australia, I will discuss the issue of how we manage ecosystems within the bounds of what society demands from them, and in the context of regional factors such as climate change, habitat fragmentation and species invasions. I will argue that restoration is most often an unrealistic goal, and that rebuilding and managing ecosystems for a range of values is the challenge that ecologists truly face. Using data from major environmental management interventions including landscape-scale revegetation, invasive animal control and environmental flow provision I will describe the challenges in restoring, remediating and re-engineering natural ecosystems.

Jacqueline Beggs 

Talk Time: Tuesday 22 November, 2.50pm

Talk Topic: Diversity Matters: drivers of community structure and function

Understanding how community structure and function responds to ongoing environmental change and species loss is vital if we are to mitigate impacts. Biological invasion is a key component of environmental change; reducing ecosystem services, constraining the maintenance of biological diversity and leading to homogenisation of global biodiversity.  Invasive species have been an important driver of changes to the structure and function of biological communities, particularly in isolated island ecosystems such as New Zealand. Although much of the focus in New Zealand has been on the impact of mammalian predators on vertebrates, there are other taxa and other processes that have also been influential in restructuring communities.  For example, introduced Vespula wasps have had a range of impacts at multiple trophic levels, such as predation of native prey, competition for food resources, disruption of pollination services, and altering nutrient cycling.  Land-use intensification has also been an important driver influencing community structure, such as restructuring insect pollinator communities. Understanding these influences is important when undertaking ecological restoration, although much less is known about managing and conserving invertebrate communities. What we do know is that invertebrates play key roles in a range of important ecosystem functions such as pollination, decomposition and providing food resources for other species.  I will examine the influence of environmental change on community structure and function, focussing on invertebrates.


Bethanie Walder

Talk Time: Monday 21 November, 4.50pm

Talk Topic: TBC



Laura Molles

Talk Topic: Tūī and tea parties: adventures in community-based conservation

My research combines basic-science and conservation-oriented work, and many of the projects I’ve worked on have involved collaboration with community-based groups. My deepest involvement in community-based conservation is as the science adviser for the Tūī Restoration Group, within the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust. This project was initiated by the community with the aim of restoring a breeding population of tūī on Banks Peninsula after a few decades’ absence. Tūī were reintroduced in 2009 and 2010, and the project continues to be run by a dedicated team of volunteers.

Community-based restoration and monitoring programs like the tūī project engage people in projects that are local, meaningful and inherently built around social interaction and mutual support. As numerous studies on citizen science have shown, volunteers often benefit personally from participating in such projects, and may also increase their general scientific literacy while making substantial contributions to science and conservation. From a scientist’s perspective, working with a community-based group also has many potential rewards. It’s fun and energising to work with enthusiastic volunteers, and it’s great to feel that your expertise is useful. Professionally, there’s a fantastic opportunity to collect so much more data than you could on your own. But like all relationships, this kind of partnership requires a lot of compromise and communication. Developing realistic methods for the collection, management and sharing of data, for example, can involve some trial-and-error. Finding the time and funding to play the role of supporting scientist, particularly for a long-term project, is also difficult. My journey with the tūī project has taught me a lot about being a real-world scientist; I’ll talk about the challenges and rewards of this experience.

Platinum Sponsor

Biological Heritage Logo platinum sponsorship

Gold Sponsor


Silver Sponsor

LW Logo Stacked

Bronze Sponsor

Niwa NZ Kessels Ecology
Wildlands Logo HCC logo Linear Colour Landcare Research

Student Day Sponsor


Field Trip Sponsor

Waipa Master logo

Pen/Pad Sponsor


admor with icons website ph

Auckland Council logo 38 304888

Science Open Day Sponsors

environment centre

NZ Landcare Trust Logo rgb

Twitter - Join the Conversation