Our PhD student Jenn Sheppard is here, enrolled at Auckland and settling in well. It’s been all action since she arrived as we needed to finalise study designs and order equipment, plus jump through all the hoops regarding animal ethics.

Meetings have been held with supervisors and avian surgeons at Auckland University in order to finalise our approach. Jenn has been able to acquire a lot of equipment from Ducks Unlimited Canada which will save us thousands, the amount of advice and information we are getting through external supervisors and researchers has also been priceless.

jenn shepherd

Pictured: Jenn Sheppard

On that topic, we are looking at flying one of our external supervisors, Dr. Courtney Amundson, over here for one month at the beginning of the field season to help with surgeries and impart her knowledge on the project. She is going to present on some of her work from the US to Fish & Game staff. Courtney and our other external supervisor, Dr. Todd Arnold, are considered international experts in the field of mallard breeding ecology so it is exciting to have researchers of this calibre visiting NZ. Courtney’s publications can be viewed here.

We are also looking for two volunteers and have advertised both within NZ and overseas. The six month posting will require long winter days in the field so we need someone that isn’t going to quit when the going gets a bit tough. We have budgeted to pay for the volunteer’s accommodation and food. The placing would ideally suit a recent graduate looking for work experience.

It is now a matter of contacting landowners and Fish and Game clubs to finalise study sites and get further assistance, especially with nest searches. If anyone has contacts for good pointer dogs based in the Hamilton or Southland area, please let the staff know. We are looking for hunters that are willing to take their dogs around farms/wetlands and find and mark out nest sites, preferably without flushing the hens. We would need to do some limited training to ensure protocols are followed and teach participant how to candle eggs (a method used to determine stage of incubation).

Other than that, we are constructing a myriad of different traps to catch the ducks both prior to breeding and on the nests. We also need to develop a mobile surgery field centre, get trained and permitted to conduct anaesthesiology, and build truck mounted telemetry systems prior to deployment in June.

Report by Auckland Waikato Fish & Game southern gamebird manager David Klee.

To view the recent movements of monitored birds click on the image below (you will need Google Earth to view).

Argos mappingLast updated: October 7, 2013

Fish & Game investigates ducklings' fate - Stuff.co.nz

Click here to view a short video production detailing part of Fish & Game's Mallard Research.