High-tech pest management solutions

  • James Russell traps mice on Antipodes Island

    James Russell traps mice on Antipodes Island

  • Possum in briar. Image - Andrea Byrom

    Possum in briar. Image - Andrea Byrom

  • Stoat. Image - Andrea Byrom

    Stoat. Image - Andrea Byrom

  • Radio-collared rat. Image - Andrea Byrom

    Radio-collared rat. Image - Andrea Byrom

This research team is helping to develop targeted, next-generation, socially acceptable and cost-effective new technologies to achieve landscape-scale freedom from rats, stoats and possums.

The ability to cost-effectively keep these pests that threaten our biodiversity at zero density will be transformational for New Zealand conservation. This BioHeritage Challenge project, led by Dr James Russell of the University of Auckland, supports the scaling up of current efforts to eradicate pests by accelerating the provision of improved tools, methodologies and strategies for mammal pest control.

In line with the Challenge’s strategic goal to partner with relevant international groups in high-impact areas, project partner Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research has signed up with international consortium GBIRd (Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents), assisted by extra funding from the Challenge.

There is also a formal national collaboration between this project, Predator Free 2050 and Genomics Aotearoa, with a research focus on the population genomics of New Zealand rats and science strategy for a Predator Free New Zealand.

These collaborations are helping the project team to complete a comprehensive report on the status of new pest control tools that are close to market in New Zealand. The report will facilitate stakeholder engagement, encourage early adoption and leverage private sector investment.

A bioethics panel is being facilitated as part of the project, with the cross-section of representatives working on an independent report on the social, cultural and ethical issues relating to a predator free New Zealand. The report will incorporate Māori perspectives towards modern pest control initiatives.

Articles about this research have been published in high-impact publications such as TREE and PLOS Biology, and the project will also feature in a NetFlix documentary due to be screened mid-2019.

The project contributes to the BioHeritage Challenge’s goal of mitigating threats posed by weeds, pests, plant pathogens and other drivers of global environmental change.

BioHeritage’s role is to break down barriers between organisations and individual scientists by coordinating and focusing the research of top scientists from our 18 Challenge Parties. This project is being driven by Challenge Party the University of Auckland.

Garvey, P. M., A. S. Glen, M. N. Clout, S. V. Wyse, M. Nichols, and R. P. Pech. 2017. Exploiting interspecific olfactory communication to monitor predators, Ecological Applications, 27: 389-402. https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1483

Gemmell, N. J., and D. M. Tompkins. 2017. Gene drives and rodent control: response to Piaggio et al, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 32: 314-15. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2017.03.005

Glen, A. S., M. C. Latham, D. Anderson, C. Leckie, R. Niemiec, R. P. Pech, and A. E. Byrom. 2017. Landholder participation in regional-scale control of invasive predators: an adaptable landscape model, Biological Invasions, 19: 329-38. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-016-1282-3

Kopf, R. K., D. G. Nimmo, P. Humphries, L. J. Baumgartner, M. Bode, N. R. Bond, A. E. Byrom, J. Cucherousset, R. P. Keller, A. J. King, H. M. McGinness, P. B. Moyle, and J. D. Olden. 2017. Confronting the risks of large-scale invasive species control, Nature Ecology & Amp; Evolution, 1: 0172. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0172

Latham, A. D. M., B. Warburton, A. E. Byrom, and R. P. Pech. 2017. The ecology and management of mammal invasions in forests, Biological Invasions, 19: 3121-39. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-017-1421-5

Parkes, J. P., A. E. Byrom, and K. A. Edge. 2017. Eradicating mammals on New Zealand island reserves: what is left to do? New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 41: 263-70. https://doi.org/10.20417/nzjecol.41.25

Parkes, J. P., G. Nugent, D. M. Forsyth, A. E. Byrom, R. P. Pech, B. Warburton, and D. Choquenot. 2017. Past, present and two potential futures for managing New Zealand’s mammalian pests, New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 41: 151-61. https://doi.org/10.20417/nzjecol.41.1

Rouco, C., R. De Torre-Ceijas, D. Martin-Collado, and A. E. Byrom. 2017. New Zealand shouldn't ignore feral cats, Bioscience, 67: 685-85. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix068

Russell, J. C., and T.M. Blackburn. 2017 The rise of invasive species denialism. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 32 (1), 3-6 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2016.10.012

Russell, J. C., and T. M. Blackburn. 2017.  Invasive alien species: denialism, disagreement, definitions, and dialogue, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 32: 312-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2017.02.005

Russell, J. C., and M.C. Stanley. 2018. An overview of introduced predator management in inhabited landscapes. Pacific Conservation Biology. , -. http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/PC18013

Parke EC, Russell, JC. Ethical responsibilities in invasion biology. 2018 The Ecological Citizen 2(1): epub-013. http://www.ecologicalcitizen.net/article.php?t=ethical-responsibilities-invasion-biology

Sub-projects

Bioethics Panel

Moving any new control measures from the lab to the landscape will be as much of a social…

I smell you: a super-lure for stoats

The development of new super lures, where attraction is provoked by hard-wired competitive and predator-assessment behaviour, could provide…

Tailoring specific lethal control agents

Using genome mining for species-specific toxicants we will transform possum control in NZ, enabling large-scale use of toxins…

What's new


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James Russell traps mice on Antipodes Island.
Protecting biodiversity earns award

5 July 2018 - Whats new

Congratulations to BioHeritage Project Leader James Russell who has received a Society for Conservation Biology​ Oceania section distinguished…

Possum, rat,and stoat.
Editing Our Genes: Pest Control

26 October 2017 - Whats new

Kim Hill is joined by bioethicist Josephine Johnston, Dr Andrea Byrom, Kevin Hackwell, and Jan Hania as they…

Possum, rat,and stoat.
Ethics Panel

22 September 2017 - Whats new

How do we address the ethical questions raised by the new technologies being explored to achieve the aim…

Stoat NZ Herald
Q&A: Predator-free NZ's tricky ethical issues

19 September 2017 - Whats new

We know that New Zealand's new target of wiping out pest predators by 2050 will demand more money,…

The brush-tailed possum may be cute, but the invader is posing a serious threat to New Zealand’s native species. Image - Tobias Bernhard Raff/Minden Pictures
New Zealand aims to eradicate invasive predators, but winning public support may be big challenge

10 July 2017 - Whats new

April Reese, July 10 2017. Experts say achieving PFNZ will require new technologies—such as deadlier toxins and possibly…

Great Mercury Island. Image - James Russell
The battle for our islands

11 January 2017 - Whats new

Science reporter Jamie Morton talks to Auckland University conservation ecologist Dr James Russell about the ongoing battle to…

Maggie Barry. Image - New Zealand Parliament
Predator Free 2050 Ltd board appointed

1 December 2016 - Whats new

Great to see Predator Free 2050 board announced! Looking forward to providing research strategy to make it happen.…

Rat at bird nest. Image © Nga Manu
Predator Free NZ - ambitious and under-funded

29 July 2016 - Whats new

Alison Ballance, Our Changing World, Thursday 28 July 2016. The Government’s has announced ambitous plans to make New…

Farmland, part of the area included in the Cape to City project. Image - Richard Brimmer
New Money a Game-Changer for New Zealand’s Biodiversity

25 July 2016 - Whats new

“The significant new investment in pest eradication, announced at Zealandia in Wellington today by Prime Minister John Key,…


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