Students selected as Blake DOC Ambassadors

04 December 2015
Rachel Cooper

A current student and a recent graduate from the University of Auckland will be playing their part this summer in enhancing biodiversity of native species in the Hawke’s Bay region and protecting native species such as the whio and the great spotted kiwi in Kahurangi National Park.

Rachel Cooper, a current student of the University of Auckland, and Natalie de Burgh, a recent graduate, have both been chosen as Blake DOC Ambassadors to work alongside some of New Zealand’s leading scientists on projects aiming to find answers to some of our most important environmental questions.

The ambassadorships, awarded by Sir Peter Blake Trust in partnership with Antarctica New Zealand, the Antarctic Heritage Trust, NIWA and the Department of Conservation (DOC) are up to 14 this year, eight more than last year.

Rachel, who is currently studying Environmental Science and Geography at the University of Auckland, is one of two Blake DOC Ambassadors who have been chosen to work on the large-scale city to cape ecological restoration project in Hawke’s Bay, along with Alice Ward-Allen, a graduate from the University of Otago.

Natalie de Burgh

At the University of Auckland Rachel was selected to be part of the three-year science scholars’ programme. She also devoted time and energy raising $10,000 for a Sherpa friend in Nepal who was affected by the 2014 earthquake, and is now raising funds for Shree Nepal Primary School, which was destroyed in the earthquake.

On this project she will be monitoring and setting trap and bait stations, feeding Kaka, preparing petrel nest boxes and monitoring native birds and reptiles.

Rachel says she feels very privileged to have received the Blake DOC Award. “I’m excited about working with DOC,” she says, and I’m looking forward to learning more about the environment, gaining a new set of skills and working with knowledgable people who share the same passions as me.”

Natalie de Burgh, who has just completed a Bachelor of Science majoring in Ecology at the University of Auckland, will be working as a Blake DOC Ambassador on the Flora Stream Restoration Project in Kahurangi National Park, along with Emily McCarthy, a graduate from Victoria University.

Their work will include snail monitoring, stoat trapping, kiwi telemetry, and monitoring of footprint-tracking tunnels.This project includes a large stoat control operation to protect native species.

Says Natalie: “This is a really special opportunity to spend time in Kahurangi National Park with cheeky little kea and the world’s rarest duck, while directly contributing to conservation … Part of a Blake Ambassadorship is an advocacy role, and I hope to bring the conservation message to schools and communities."

Natalie is a volunteer for Tiritiri Matangi Island, Motutapu Restoration Trust and Cape Sanctuary.