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Applied Sciences students shine online at reptile research conference

Frogs, geckos and skinks might sound like ingredients for a witch’s potion, but they are also the subjects of fascinating research projects presented by our School of Environmental and Animal Sciences at the recent 18th Conference of SRARNZ (Society for Research for Amphibians and Reptiles in New Zealand).

Peter de LangeThe conference was planned in a part-virtual, part onsite format, livestreamed between three hubs, the national conference moved fully online due to last week’s COVID-19 lockdown. The new online format also gave organisers the opportunity to reduce the conference’s carbon footprint and support sustainability initiatives.

For the first time, Unitec co-hosted the SRARNZ conference, with the Auckland hub based on our Mt Albert campus and overseen by researcher Dr Marleen Baling. Unitec’s Associated Professor Peter de Lange was one of the invited speakers, and presented his mahi on the use of te reo Māori and ta re Moriori in taxonomy. His and his collaborator’s research was published in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology.

Three students in our bachelor of Applied Sciences programmes also presented their final year research proposals at the conference, supervised by Dr Marleen Baling.

Students Holly Goodman and Marcel Kerrigan are both working in collaboration with Auckland Zoo, with Holly’s proposal focused on investigating the endangered Archey’s frog’s ability to avoid predators using scent, while Marcel presented on the climbing ability of endangered Chesterfield skink.

Warren Anne Fajardo’s presentation detailed her upcoming work to document endoparasites of exotic lizards intercepted at the New Zealand border and to assess their potential threat to New Zealand wildlife, in collaboration with Ministry of Primary Industries and Bioresearches – co-supervised by Lecturer Kristina Naden.

These research projects seek to improve our understanding of, and ability to protect native amphibian and reptiles in New Zealand.

It was the first national conference for these ākonga and they received great feedback on their projects. They also used this great opportunity to network with other SRARNZ delegates from Department of Conservation, Auckland Council, Auckland Museum, Boffa Miskell, Wildland Consultants, Ecology NZ, AgReseach, Bioresearches, AECOM, Landcare Research, Wellington Zoo, Auckland Zoo, Massey University, University of Otago, and Victoria University of Wellington.

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