There is an article in Saturday’s Otago Daily Times article titled “Yellow-eyed penguin support funding in crisis” which outlines a decrease in funding for the hoiho, or yellow eyed penguin from the Dunedin City Council and the Otago Regional Council. It brings up some really interesting points about the way that we are running conservation at the moment, and how we allocate funding to conservation projects.

Conservation biology has always been a crisis discipline, and we often compare it to emergency medicine because both are about making life or death decisions based on imperfect information. Conservation biology also borrows the…


Every year I hear grumbling on social media about Bird of the Year, and apologies from those running the accounts for spamming everyone’s feed with over-the-top bird enthusiasm. But, I reckon that the Bird of the Year is so incredibly important, and this is why:

For context, I’m currently studying non-human charisma (the it-factor of nature) and whether, in New Zealand, we put more money, time and effort into conserving the critters and plants that we find charismatic over the ones that we don’t. When I tell professional conservationists what I’m looking at they say something along the lines of…


People write that once the noise of kākāpō booming rang around Fiordland, in an effort to tell us how far we’ve fallen. Can you imagine that there were once enough of these gorgeous birds for their booming to be an annoyance? That noise is now the stuff of dreams.

I was there as the cook, as no one is ever going to hire my arthritic self as a field assistant. Not that I blame them, but I do mourn for the self that just wants to take to hills for months on end. Instead, I’m in the kitchen, which is…


10 years ago today, I was further east than anyone else in New Zealand, barring anyone fishing out at sea, watching the dawn rise. My workmates were asleep in the hut, and I know that no one was on the Fourty Fours that night. I was on Rangatira Island, also known as South East Island, sitting on a rock at my favourite place in the whole world — Whalers Bay. That summer I had fallen precipitously in love, with the island, with nature, and with conservation. …


It’s been a huge couple of weeks in New Zealand conservation, with Conservation Week, followed by the Great Kererū count and voting opens for Bird of the Year on October 1st. I find Bird of the Year fascinating, both because I am a giant bird-nerd, but also because I have a professional interest in what people like about the natural world.

My research looks at non-human charisma, that mysterious “it-factor” that makes us like a particular creature or plant more than another. And, I want to know whether non-human charisma is involved in conservation in New Zealand. I’m also keen…


Communicating conservation science in post flagship species New Zealand.

A flagship species is the creature chosen by a conservation organisation to represent that organisation. The most famous of these is the giant panda that was adopted by the WWF as their logo in the 1960s (1). There are various lists of features that a creature needs in order to be successful as a flagship species, but the two features that I will be focusing on today are that the animal has a positive cultural significance and is rare (2).

The unstated aim of using a flagship species for conservation is this: that, by protecting our charismatic flagship, we protect…

Sophie Fern

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