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Friday 26 August 2022 10:07am

Harriet - Image
Harriet student spent last summer investigating the use of drones in alpine lizard fieldwork.

For Harriet Wills the outcome of her summer studentship is a dream come true.

The Bachelor of Science (Ecology) student spent last summer investigating the use of drones in alpine lizard fieldwork alongside Dr Jo Monks and Carey Knox. Harriet's involvement in the project was thanks to the support of the Te Ngaru Paewhenua (Landward Wave) Scholarship and support from the Department of Conservation.

Her work has since been published in Drones as part of the Special Issue Drones for Biodiversity Conservation.

As part of the project she learned to fly a drone, was helicoptered to remote areas of Fiordland and spent her time working with endemic lizards around Central Otago and Fiordland. This experience “increased my love for Aotearoa's biodiversity and the world of ecology and conservation,” she says.

The study was the first of its kind in terms of evaluating approach distances of drones to lizards.

“This now gives us a potential method for studying lizards that cannot be accessed by humans on foot. The goal is for it to help in future conservation efforts for taonga species that would otherwise be difficult to monitor for conservation purposes.

“What's also very cool is that the work has just been published in a journal called Drones as part of the Special Issue on Drones for Biodiversity Conservation.”

Originally from the Kapiti Coast, Harriet relocated to Dunedin to study Zoology and Ecology at Otago.

Harriet says this opportunity has been crucial in helping her arrange her plans for the future.

“I would not have expected to have a published article before I even have a degree. It's definitely cool to see the whole process and how it works. I've loved the journey - which is a sign I'm going in the right direction.”

When Harriet completes her degree at the end of this year, she plans to take on the Wildlife Management Diploma.

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