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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - New Zealand

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New Zealand
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racheljoykelley



Registered: December 2012
City/Town/Province: Harrisonburg
Posts: 1
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“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” These true and resounding words were spoken by Gary Snyder, an American poet and environmental activist. The metaphor of the earth as home was vital in my decision to pursue an education based around environmental sustainability, where I could help keep my “home” beautiful for generations to come. Eastern Mennonite University, the place I have called home for the past three years, was the true place to pursue such a goal. Sustainability is woven into the curriculum on multiple levels and the University practices many “green” things such as high energy efficiency dorms, composting, and campus-wide recycling. My education at this University has given me a valuable and unique basis for living and learning sustainably.
The reason I chose to do an Apprentice Ecologist project on behalf of the Nicodemus Wilderness Project was because it perfectly intertwined with my semester abroad cross-cultural experience. I spent the Fall semester of 2012 in New Zealand on an educational trip that was highly ecology-centered. New Zealand is a unique place to study the environment because it possesses elements of island ecology that are very different from the United States. The two main, ecology-related issues on the Island are removal of invasive species and reintroduction of native plants and birds. Invasive mammals such as rats, stoats, possums and weasels destroy wildlife and kill the native birds, causing the extinction and endangerment of countless animals. Without the reintroduction of the native plants and trees, the New Zealand bush will not be able to support the remaining birds and animals for long. My volunteer work was directly related to these two issues.
The first project effort was planting native trees on a stretch of land by the sea in Kaikora, New Zealand. The group planted over a hundred trees including remu, kauri, manuka, kanuka and cabbage trees. The planting of these trees will protect the erosion of the land in the future, as well as providing a home for the native birds. It will also restore the integrity of the country, reminding people what the original New Zealand may have looked like. The community will benefit from these plants because they surround a community bike path. People will be able to experience the new plant life along with their families, pets, and anyone else who enjoys the trail. I also had personal benefit from this replanting project. It astounds me to think that many of the trees planted will outlive me and go on to better the earth, even after I am gone from it. Having an impact like this on the natural environment of New Zealand was an honor and an invaluable experience.
The second project effort was made to protect the endangered kiwi bird. The kiwi bird is an icon of New Zealand and is endangered because of the presence of invasive mammals and lack of protected environments. Members of the team spent several days walking a trap line that targeted these invasive mammals (stoats, rats, possums, etc.) These traps are designed to keep out birds and other animals that aren’t harmful, only targeting the unwanted animals. Creating predator-free environments like this make it possible to re-introduce kiwi birds into the wild after being raised in captivity. I attended a kiwi release in Rotarua, New Zealand, where the Department of Conservation released a baby kiwi into a predator-free reserve. Witnessing an event like this was also a powerful experience. The public is so supportive of reintroducing the native wildlife and it was a privilege to be a part of this event.
During my semester in New Zealand, I gained a wealth of knowledge about ecology, specifically island ecology. The efforts to preserve the native animals and bush are inspiring and something I hope to bring back to the United States. To be educated in this manner is invaluable and I could not be prouder of the effect I had on the New Zealand environment. I will continue to use my ecological knowledge in my education and my lifestyle in general. May the Nicodemus Wilderness Project be inspired by my story and help me to continue my passion and education in the future.
· Date: December 20, 2012 · Views: 2075 · File size: 17.1kb, 121.7kb · : 720 x 960 ·
Hours Volunteered: 300
Volunteers: 20
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 19 to 22
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 50
Native Trees Planted: 120
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