Subantarctic Island Quarantine

By Guest Work 05/07/2013


Dr James Russell is a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland, jointly appointed in the School of Biological Sciences and the Department of Statistics. He is blogging for National Geographic on an expedition to the subantractic islands, studying the impacts of shipwrecked mice and plans to eradicate them. Field Work is reposting some of his writing here with permission.

By Dr James Russell

The start of any New Zealand subantarctic island trip is quarantine. Thankfully it doesn’t take us 40 days. In this case every piece of equipment we intend to take is audited by a government inspector to check for stowaways, even as small as grass seeds. Yorkshire fog was both introduced to and eradicated from Antipodes Island by recent scientific expeditions. After everything is inspected and sealed up in 25 litre plastic pails it will be loaded on to our (relatively small) 50 ft yacht Tiama for the 3 day voyage. Our departure is timed to coincide precisely with the weather window predicted on Monday which will allow us to land on the north-eastern tip of this (relatively small) island.

Once there, and all the plastic pails have been lugged up the cliffs to the hut, we will begin our expedition true to study the terrestrial fauna of the island over winter to help plan the million dollar eradication of mice from the island in a future winter. In particular our expedition will focus on studying the density of mice on the island at this time, and the behaviour of endemic parakeet species such as the Antipodes Island parakeet found only on Antipodes Island.

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