Curious Campbell – An Introduction to Campbell Island, New Zealand

Exciting news, I am writing an interactive e-book! It’s all set to be finished by Thursday. Because I am impatient and a sucker for procrastination, I thought I would share a sneak peak!

Let me know what you think so far in the comments below! It’s going to be a while until the e-book is published, but I hope that it will be available on the Apple store by early 2013.


Meet my New Website About the Campbell Island Teal!

It’s that time of the year again, the annual Bird of the Year contest is upon us and I am campaigning for a bird that I blogged about and then fell in love with, the Campbell Island Teal. To celebrate, and try to get some votes, I have launched a brand new website that you can check out.

I’ve told my friends, my family, and my followers to vote for this duck, and people keep asking me why they should vote for the Campbell Island teal. It’s a good question and while I always encourage people to vote for the bird that they hold most dear to them, not enough people know this bird exists! The Campbell Island Teal story is not well-known and so how can people hold it dear to them if they have never even heard of it?

My main objective of this campaign is to raise awareness and that’s why I decided to create an informative website that introduces the world to this tough little duck. It’s all about the Campbell Island teal and has all sorts of information. From basic behaviour, to videos, to the story of how it was saved from the brink of extinction. I hope you will go and take a look. I want all of Aotearoa to know about this little duck, where it lives, and its neighbouring island. Because I think the Sub-Antarctic Islands are the coolest place in the world (no, literally, they’re quite cold) and I want everyone else to think so too!

So… Without further adieu, let me introduce my new website (click the picture to go to it)…

Enjoy, and feel free to let me know what you think.

P.S. You can vote for the Campbell Island Teal in the Bird of the Year competition right HERE!


Facing up to the Future of Conservation with Forest & Bird.

This weekend I went to Wellington for the Forest and Bird Conference (called Face up to the Future) where I was on a youth panel called the Nature of Tomorrow.

I started off by making it known just how much I love the Sub-Antarctic Islands. That’s a lot, in case you happen to be the most oblivious person known to man.

Our host, Te Radar asked the audience if they knew where the Sub-Antarctic Islands and a surprisingly small number of people raised their hands (I assumed that I would be preaching to the converted). When asked if they had worked on, been to, or knew about any of the issues going on in the region, there were even fewer.

What made the weekend especially interesting was chatting to a few of the people who are currently involved with (or running) the Our Far South campaign. When he’s not hosting youth discussion panels, making award-winning documentaries, or being an all-round funny guy, Te Radar is a spokesperson for the Our Far South campaign. He’s currently working on a documentary set for release on the 3rd of July, which I cannot wait to see!

Sarah Wilcox & Te Radar on Campbell Island during the Our Far South expedition.

The Sub-Antarctic islands were just a fragment of the thought-provoking discussion we had. The diversity of the panel meant that we were able to touch on a range of subjects such as environmental politics, shark-finning, predator control, water quality, societies dependence on coal, and even the ever-so-controversial theme of intergenerational justice.

And the fun didn’t stop there. The next day we were able to sit in on the rest of the conference where everything from the (always controversial) politics of conservation to Nicola Toki’s talk about Sir Paul Callaghan’s vision for a predator-free New Zealand was covered.

All in all it was an awe-inspiring experience that has set me up for months of energy to ‘get-up-and-go-save-New-Zealand’s-wild-places-and-creatures’. The one thing I find myself questioning is complacency and its relationship to social media. I can’t help but wonder if our generation think that by sharing a post they are saving the world and have found myself questioning myself on how we can get actual involvement from youth rather than clicks.

In saying that, I highly recommend having a look at the twitter feed from the conference, it’s got great quotes, summaries, and general responses to some of the thought-provoking speakers and the conference in general. If you couldn’t make it, you can at least feel like you were there. And if you could, you can refresh your memory of some of the key issues that were raised!

There’s also this article by the lovely Isosbel Ewing that gives a nice summary of what went on at the youth panel discussion.

Look out for this article on the conference in the latest Forest and Bird members magazine.

Thanks a bunch, Forest and Bird! It was great. Just try and stop me from coming along next time!


The Toughest Little Duck in the World.

Campbell Island is home to the toughest little flightless duck in the world. The Campbell Island teal has fought to survive in its cold and windy island environment. It’s the rarest duck in the world and there was a time when we thought it to be extinct altogether.

The Campbell Island teal is one of just a few species of duck that is flightless and semi-nocturnal. It evolved these features because it had no land-based predators to compete with and why waste energy flying when you don’t need to.

The Campbell Island teal (Photo: WIkimedia)

The toughest little duck in the world didn’t cope well to the introduction of Norway rats from sealing and whaling ships in the early 1800’s. By the time naturalists arrived on the island in 1840, there wasn’t a land bird in sight.

After several supposed sightings but no live specimens, hope began to fade and it was assumed that the Campbell Island teal was extinct. However, in 1975, visiting conservationists Christopher Robertson and Rodney Russ could hardly believe their eyes when they pulled a female Campbell Island teal from behind a moving tussock on Dent Island.

Dent Island, the last remaining strong-hold of the Campbell Island Teal (Photo: DOC)

The Department of Conservation moved quickly to remove some of the birds to a predator-free sanctuary in Pukaha Mount Bruce. They took 3 males and 1 female and attempted the first ever Campbell Island teal captive breeding programme.

Initially, the breeding programme failed and so they returned to Dent Island in 1984 where they captured another 4 males and 3 females. In 1994, the world was over-joyed to see the first captive-raised ducklings and hope was quickly restored in the conservation of the Campbell Island teal.

Campbell Island Teal (Photo: Bill Morris)

In 2000, the captive breeding population had gone from 11 adult birds to a total of 60 birds. A number of these birds were quickly re-located to Codfish Island (Whenua Hou) off the coast of Stewart Island to act as a “back-up population” in case disease threatened the group.

The Codfish Island population didn’t last long, and 50 birds were re-located back to Campbell Island in 2004 after rats were eradicated in 2001. Another 55 were released in 2005, and 54 in 2006, which boosted to total estimated wild population number to 159.

Perseverance Harbour, Campbell Island (Photo: Kimberley Collins)

The eradication of rats from Campbell Island saw vegetation, wildlife, and invertebrates flourish and in 2006, the first island-born ducklings were observed on the island. Conservationists finally had the evidence they needed to see that all their hard work had paid off in saving a tough little flightless duck from extinction.

This inspiring story is one of many on Campbell Island, stay tuned to find out more about the ambitious rat eradication programme and the return of the Campbell Island snipe…

Sailing the Sub-Antarctics

Once upon a time I somehow convinced the good people at Heritage Expeditions to let me travel on their ship, the Spirit of Enderby. We were bound for the Sub-Antarctic Islands, a region so wild that only the bravest of souls have endured the arduous journey to their shores.

I could have done the typical “kiwi O.E.” and gone to the homeland to yell at the Queen from the street outside Buckingham Palace, or joined the London haka on Waitangi Day. But no, I chose to spend 26 days island hopping in the Southern Ocean, one of the most wild and isolated environments in the world.

There’s something a little more satisfying about doing a one-person haka for a colony of 60,000 penguins. I can’t say exactly what it is, but the look of appreciation on their little black and white faces is like no other I have seen in my life. They’re great listeners, penguins. And they don’t mind my socially awkward remarks or the fact that I will tell my life story to anything with a face (inanimate objects included).

My audience of 60,000 Royal Penguins on Macquarie Island. (Photo: Kimberley Collins)

The hardest crowd to please is definitely the pinnipeds. While the fur seals are fairly relaxed and much like the stoners of the seal world, the New Zealand sea lions I met were a whole other kettle of fish. They’re like grumpy old men. Make a noise louder than a whisper and they’ll bang on the wall and should flibber-jabber remarks that only someone who was born in the 1800’s could understand. And by that I mean they will challenge you.

When a New Zealand sea lion challenges you, you’re not supposed to run. The idea is to appear bigger than him. A stick can come in handy, and I was told by a researcher on Campbell Island to stand still, be tall, and hold a stick high above my head. If that doesn’t work, the general idea is to kick the sea lion in the face and run away, although I don’t think many have resorted to that method just yet. Most scientists would rather get bitten than live with the knowledge that they kicked an endangered species in the face.

The hunk of burning love that challenged me on Enderby Island. (Photo: Kimberley Collins)

So you can see why I am slightly neurotic about the region. There are stories to be told and adventures to be had and that’s why I have chosen to blog about the Sub-Antarctic Islands. Not to convince you that they are a valuable and irreplaceable ecosystem that deserve every New Zealanders undying attention (you should have received that memo at birth), but to tell you the stories that make the Sub-Antarctic stand out from the crowd and unlike any environment in the world. Bear with me, there are only so many adjectives that one can use to describe this region.


Welcome to my blog. As a part of my Master’s Degree in Science Communication, I am required to write a blog on a scientific subject. I’ve chosen the Sub-Antarctic Islands as my topic, and will attempt to write about relevant and interesting scientific research that is happening in the region.

Stay tuned for my first posts and feel free to follow me on Twitter, or Google Reader.

Southern Royal Albatross pair on Campbell Island. (Photo: Kimberley Collins)