Thank you and farewell Dr Andrea Byrom

2020 sees us farewell a stalwart in the science sector including five years as Challenge Director at the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge.  Andrea is stepping down to spend more time with her retired partner, as well as focus on her board commitments, including the recently appointed role on the Environmental Protection Authority Board. Andrea is currently on governance groups for Predator Free Trust, Project Crimson and Frozen Ark. Trained as a scientist in wildlife population ecology, Andrea has held various science leadership roles at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research for over 20 years and was the inaugural recipient of the Te Tira Whakamātaki recognition award in 2019.

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TTW attends SERA 2021

Sera 2021 Darwin, Australia.

In May, TTW was invited to present at this year’s SERA (Society of Ecological Restoration Australasia) conference in Darwin Australia. This conference is one of the first in-person conferences to take place in Australia after COVID, and our first opportunity to travel across and reconnect with our Aboriginal whānau.

Research assistant, Marcus-Rongowhitiao Shadbolt presented his paper “Empowering the Indigenous voice in a graphical representation of Aotearoa’s bio-cultural heritage”. This project focuses on working with Kaumātua to preserve their local flora and fauna knowledge. This fit into the “Art in Restoration” session at SERA, which had representation from other researchers whose projects looked at how art, science and restoration are intertwined, and have been used together to protect and restore our environments.

Melanie Mark-Shadbolt, TTW CEO and co-founder, also presented a keynote on the third day titled “How Ngā Rākau Taketake, a research response to kauri dieback and myrtle rust, is anchored in Te Tiriti and mātauranga Māori”. Melanie spoke to participants about the experience of sharing decision making power with Māori in a research programme, and responsibilities associated with ensuring engagement at all levels with indigenous communities. Melanie encouraged non-indigenous participants to actively take measures to assist and engage indigenous colleagues, rather than simply consult with or extract from them.

Melanie asked participants to remember that our systems and practices, including science and policy, are fundamentally racist and come from racist and exclusive origins. This means by their very nature they hurt indigenous people and indigenous communities. She added that we as researchers and conservationists have a responsibility to minimize damage to indigenous people and communities from our work. The heart of Melanie’s presentation focused on how important indigenous knowledge and practice is to our world, given the crisis’ we face in climate change and resulting species loss. Melanie also noted that it would be foolish to ignore knowledge systems which are based on experiences of living in and engaging with local environments for years, and in Australia’s case 10,000 plus years.

This knowledge of living at place and with nature is going to be vital if we want to reverse the decline, as Ngā Rākau Taketake does. Mels presentation went straight to the core of many issues faced by indigenous people, racism, exploitation, exclusion, under resourcing etc., but also provided advice for non-indigenous researchers on how to support and work in partnership with their indigenous colleagues.

SERA 2021 was an engaging event to be a part of and TTW were honoured to have been invited to participate. As always we enjoy engaging with our Australian and Aboriginal colleagues. We also acknowledge the warm welcome into Larrakia country and the elders whom we engaged with while there, as well as elders past, present, and emerging. The heart of Melanie’s presentation focused on how important indigenous knowledge and practice is to our world, given the crises we face in climate change and species extinction.

Melanie Mark Shadbolt

TTW’s CEO and co-founder, Melanie Mark-Shadbolt, presenting via zoom to the SERA 2021 conference, challenging perceptions with her presentation entitled..

How Ngā Rākau Taketake, a research response to kauri dieback and myrtle rust, is anchored in Te Tiriti and mātauranga Māori.

TTW Research Assistant Marcus Rongowhitiao-Shadbolt

TTW Research Assistant Marcus Rongowhitiao-Shadbolt presenting his paper entitled..

Empowering the Indigenous voice in a graphical representation of Aotearoa’s bio-cultural heritage” 

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‘THE FUTURE OF SEEDS’

In December 2017, 23 kaitiaki were trained in seed conservation techniques by the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, Kew UK, the Australian Seed Bank Partnership, and Te Tira Whakamātaki (TTW).  From 2017-2019 TTW purchased and distributed nine seed drum kits valued at around $5,000 each. These, and other, events were in direct response to requests from whānau and hapū, via regional hui, to ensure Māori, Treaty and Wai 262 rights were being met in the collection, storage, and use of plant materials specifically seeds. 

Over the years you, as part of the wider TTW whānau, have suggested that TTW and Māori katoa do several things to ensure the safety of our taonga seeds and plant materials:

  1. Develop culturally appropriate protocols/policies for the future collection, storage, and use of seed and plant materials. 
  2. Develop protocols/policies for the management of seed and plant materials currently in collections. 
  3. Develop a Māori Seed Conservation Strategy for the future.
  4. Provide seed conservation techniques training and seed drum kits for every hapū.
So we want to hear from you.


We want to understand what YOU THINK Māori currently have, and need, in terms of seed conservation capability and infrastructure, especially as it relates to kauri dieback and myrtle rust.  We want to hear YOUR CONTRIBUTION what you feel would be an effective seed conservation strategy for all of Aotearoa New Zealand that reflects the rights of Māori and our taonga. 
 
If you want to be part of this conversation to ensure Aotearoa New Zealand’s taonga plants are secured from threats, including extinction, through seed conservation programmes that engage whānau, hapū and iwi who have the people, knowledge and awareness to protect our taonga flora then please let us know via either comms@ttw.nz or one of our social media platforms.

FULL ABSTRACT

HE KĀKANO WĀNANGA

SEED CONSERVATION: OUR PASSION AND HOW YOU CAN BE PART OF IT!

 

Seeds are vital for our survival, they provide half the calories consumed by humanity today, they helped humans to evolve and ‘civilisation’ to develop.

 

Although indigenous people, farmers, gardeners, and horticulturalists the world over have long collected seeds for their own uses, increasing environmental concerns have driven the rise of more organised seed-storing initiatives. The phenomenon of seed banking, which has emerged largely since the 1980s and developed rapidly around the world, is estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, to comprise around 1,750 individual gene banks worldwide (holding seeds, along with bulbs and tubers).

 

Scientists have largely agreed that selective breeding by farmers throughout the centuries has gradually reduced the genetic diversity contained within crop seeds, making wild crop relatives a vital and valuable source of genetic diversity. Additionally it is largely agreed that wild plants are also under threat, from logging, urbanisation, and climate change. This threat gave rise to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, also known as the Rio Earth Summit, and is reflected in the Convention on Biological Diversity, Article 9 which states contracting parties should: “take action where necessary for the conservation of biological diversity through the in situ conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats, as well as primitive cultivars and their wild relatives, and the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings, and implement ex situ measures, preferably in the source country.”

 

The call for ‘ex situ measures’ has been the catalyst for existing seed-banking initiatives to be strengthened and new operations to be set up. In 2008, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault opened on a remote Arctic island. This ‘doomsday vault’ acts as a backup for all agricultural seed collections around the world. It has the capacity to store 2.5 billion seeds at -18⁰C and holds seeds from Aotearoa New Zealand (approximately 1.6 million NZ seeds from 122 taxa (Nordgen, 2010))[1]. The need for such backup has already been demonstrated. In 1996, a flood following a typhoon in the Philippines left its national collection of crop seeds under water; two years later, Hurricane Mitch destroyed Hondura’s seed bank. In 2002, two stores holding seeds from Afghanistan’s native crops were destroyed by thieves wanting the plastic containers, and conflicts in Rwanda, Burundi, Iraqi and the Solomon Islands have also lead to the destruction of valuable seed stores.

 

Here in Aotearoa New Zealand we are in the midst of a biosecurity crisis that has seen seed collection and storage of Myrtaceae species intensified. The 2017 government-led response to the incursion of Myrtle Rust (austropuccinia psidii), a devastating plant pathogen with a host preference for culturally important plant species in the myrtle family, led to a government funded seed collection programme authorised under the Biosecurity Act. This programme was/is being led by DOC and is seen as an insurance policy of sorts. However in stating “while MPI and DOC are dealing with the initial outbreak, we need to plan to secure the long-term future of some taonga species by seed banking” (Department of Conservation, 2017), DOC admits the significance of this problem for all New Zealanders but also concedes particular relevance to Māori.

Unfortunately, despite numerous calls by Māori for engagement to ensure free, informed, and prior consent around the collection of these taonga seeds, there is little evidence that agencies involved have sought to engage in any meaningful way with the local Māori communities affected by myrtle rust. We are not saying that DOC, MPI, Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) or the New Zealand Indigenous Flora and Fauna Seed Bank (NZIFS) have not engaged with Māori communities, rather that it hasn’t been done in a meaningful way that is open, transparent and in alignment with Treaty of Waitangi responsibilities, or obligations under the Mataatua Declaration on Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

 

In August 2017, 15 kaitiaki from across the country gathered in Auckland to discuss seed conservation with NZIFSB representatives. Those discussions did not go well. In December 2017, 23 kaitiaki were trained in seed conservation techniques by the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, Kew UK, the Australian Seed Bank Partnership, and Te Tira Whakamātaki (TTW), and over 2017-2019 TTW purchased and distributed nine seed drum kits valued at around $5,000 each. These events were in direct response to requests from whānau and hapū, via regional hui, to ensure Māori, Treaty and Wai 262 rights were being met in the collection, storage, and use of plant materials specifically seeds.

 

Over the years our whānau, you, have suggested that TTW and Māori katoa do several things to ensure the safety of our taonga seeds and plant materials:

  1. Develop culturally appropriate protocols/policies for the future collection, storage, and use of seed and plant materials.
  2. Develop protocols/policies for the management of seed and plant materials currently in collections.
  3. Develop a Māori Seed Conservation Strategy for the future.
  4. Provide seed conservation techniques training and seed drum kits for every hapū.

 

Last year TTW secured funding to work on seed conservation specifically as it relates to kauri dieback and myrtle rust.  This year we will be running seed conservation conversations around the country to discuss all of the points above and more. We specifically want to understand what seed conservation capability and infrastructure Māori have and or want, to develop protocols for seed conservation especially as it relates to kauri dieback and myrtle rust, and develop a seed conservation strategy for all of Aotearoa New Zealand that reflects the rights of Māori and our taonga.

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Biosecurity champion brings Western science and te ao Māori together to tackle pests.

Biosecurity champion Tame Malcolm wants to elevate Māori traditional knowledge in science to help protect the environment from pests.

Embarking on a PhD this year, Malcolm plans to research anecdotal knowledge, gathered by word of mouth to help tackle some of New Zealand’s most pressing pest problems.

For example, when different plants are flowering in the bush, Māori will use different lures for trapping pests, he said.

“When kawa kawa is flowering we use cinnamon but when hangehange is flowering we use curry powder.”

Last year Malcolm won the emerging leader category at the New Zealand Biosecurity Awards, in recognition of his work helping Māori entities protect their environment and ensuring Māori have a say in how other agencies protect the environment.

“I was fortunate to be raised in te ao Māori, so when I hear others talk about ‘science’ and ‘mātauranga’ as two trains of thought, I am always of the opinion that they are one and the same. Our cultural and social values underpin our economy and I want to help others appreciate that.”

Hailing from Rotorua, Malcolm, of Te Arawa, has more than a decade’s experience in environmental management, spanning Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Canterbury and Marlborough.

Malcolm spent his childhood trapping and hunting with his father and developed a deep fascination with the bush, soaking up the names of plants and other knowledge passed down to him.

After studying for a degree in science at Waikato University, he went on to do work for the Department of Conservation culling goats and wallabies and increasing awareness of the invasive river weed didymo.

In 2010, he was helicoptered to far-flung areas of the North Island for 10 days at a time to reduce goat numbers.

“They are now eating so much of the forest that it’s dying back. Our control efforts were targeted at areas where their browsing threatens rare native plants or damages the forest understorey (the layer of vegetation beneath the main canopy),” he said.

Malcolm has worked with the Animal Health Board, focused on eradicating bovine tuberculosis in possum populations in North Canterbury and Marlborough, and has assisted Waikato Regional Council on marine biosecurity.

Now, he is combining his knowledge and love for the environment, science and biosecurity with te ao Māori.

Based at Tira Whakamātaki, a national charitable foundation, he supports Māori communities to protect their environment, advises Government agencies on biosecurity matters, and undertakes biosecurity research.

”We do work with government agencies, councils, the Animal Health Board and the Biological Heritage national science challenge, which involves investigating mātauranga – solutions for environmental issues using traditional knowledge,” he said.

Western science and traditional knowledge both sought to find answers to the same problems, but how they arrived at the answer could be different, he said.

”Sometimes the solutions sit in a sweet spot between the two. Sometimes te ao Māori had the solution but Western science has proven it. There are plenty of examples where the oral tradition might seem far-fetched but it’s got origins in truth.”

The bottom line for Malcolm was protecting the environment from the impact of pests, the most destructive of which were rats, closely followed by wallabies. However, there were only a handful of experts working on wallabies, he said.

In New Zealand there were two species of wallabies, one found in the Bay of Plenty area, and another in Canterbury and Otago.

Wallabies ate plants knee-high and below, and were a threat to new forest growth, he said.

“So it’s like a lawnmower has gone through. If you went to the bush where my iwi are from you’d be hard-pressed to find karamu, kawariki, and māhoe.”

In his PhD, Malcolm also wants to explore the use of controversial interventions such as 1080.

“A lot of people say 1080 and gene editing are against our tikanga. Poisons and automatic killings as well. But I want to know where and how that applies. There is a gap in our knowledge around that space. My PhD will explore te ao Māori views and values around pest control. ”

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Congratulations Marcus-Rongowhitiao Shadbolt

Our newest staff member, Research Assistant Marcus-Rongowhitiao Shadbolt, graduated from the University of Canterbury this month with a Bachelor of Science majoring in biological sciences and philosophy. 

Here, Marcus is pictured with his whānau at the ceremony.  Already working with our kaumātua and regional leaders, we are looking forward to seeing Marcus’ work in future.  Congratulations Marcus!

 

Marcus-Rongowhitiao Shadbolt’s biography

Marcus-Rongowhitiao Shadbolt is of Te Arawa, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Porou descent. Marcus has a Bachelor of Science Majoring in Biological sciences and Philosophy from the University of Canterbury.

Marcus is a recent University graduate who has a key interest in using both traditional scientific practices, as well as mātauranga Māori research practices. He has experience working alongside kaumātua as well as researchers at Canterbury and Lincoln Universities in the biosecurity, language and wider biological science space.

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Biosecurity is in Tame Malcolm’s nature

Press release from Ministry for Primary Industries – Manatū Ahu Matua

From culling wild goats to decimating invasive river weed, one Kiwi is combining his passion for the land with hard graft and te ao Māori.

Thomas (Tame) Malcolm is dubbed a biosecurity champion, and he has earned that description at just 33 years of age.

Hailing from Rotorua, Tame, of Te Arawa, has more than a decade’s experience in environmental management, spanning Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Canterbury and Marlborough.

His first experience with biosecurity was at the tender age of seven.

“My uncle gave me and my cousins some rocks and told us to keep the wallabies from eating the flowers on our nanny’s grave,” he says. So, during a tangi, Tame sat at the urupa until dark, tossing stones at the native Australian animals infamous for damaging New Zealand’s indigenous forests.

Ten years later, while studying towards a Bachelor of Science degree at Waikato University, Tame partook in a summer internship at the local Department of Conversation office.

Tame, then 20, was tasked with developing new tools for wallaby control – from trapping to bait – and increasing awareness of didymo, the invasive river weed, also known as rock snot, that attaches itself to rocks in our rivers and lakes to create dense benthic mats of many kilometres long.

Didymo, also known as rock snot, attaches itself to rocks in our rivers and lakes to create dense benthic mats of many kilometres long

In 2010, he went hunting for environmental gains further afield – quite literally – securing a job culling feral goats.

Tame, DOC rangers and a pack of trained conservation dogs were helicoptered to far-flung areas of the North Island for 10 days at a time with an invaluable task: to reduce the “exploding goat numbers”.

“Goats eat just about everything,” he says.

“They are now eating so much of the forest that it’s dying back. Our control efforts were targeted at areas where their browsing threatens rare native plants or damages the forest understorey.”

Tame has worked with the Animal Health Board, focused on eradicating Bovine tuberculosis in possum populations in North Canterbury and Marlborough, and has assisted Waikato Regional Council on marine biosecurity.

Anyone who knows the Malcolm whānau know biosecurity is in their nature.

Tame’s father is an avid hunter, his mother a nurse passionate about science, and his uncle and unties know the craft of caring for rare native forests.

Tame is combining his passion for all three facets – environment, science and biosecurity – with te ao Māori.

In recent years, he has been involved in a raft of projects to improve New Zealand’s biosecurity systems, and he’s done that in spades.

His efforts include supporting the control of invasive marine pests Sabella and Styela, contributing to biosecurity responses to granulated ambrosia beetle, myrtle rust and kauri dieback, while helping deny entry to the brown marmorated stink bug – a pest just the size of a 10-cent coin but with an insatiable appetite, feeding on up to 200 varieties of plant.

Tame has served as a member of the Bay of Plenty Conservation Board and the Royal Society of New Zealand, co-chair of the Predator Free Strategy Knowledge and Innovation Group, and supported the Biodiversity Strategy Māori Reference Group. He is an advocate for iwi and hapū.

Tame’s mahi has not gone unnoticed.

In October, he won the emerging leader category at the New Zealand Biosecurity Awards, in recognition of his work helping Māori entities protect their environment and ensuring Māori have a say in how other agencies protect the environment. And there is good motive for that, he says.

“Maintaining and elevating the Māori worldview in science and environmental protection is critical.

“I was fortunate to be raised in te ao Māori, so when I hear others talk about ‘science’ and ‘mātauranga’ as two trains of thought, I am always of the opinion that they are one and the same.

“Our cultural and social values underpin our economy – and I want to help others appreciate that.”

Penny Nelson, the head of Biosecurity New Zealand, was pleased to see Tame’s long-standing commitment to biosecurity formally acknowledged this year.

pennybiosecurity

“Biosecurity protects everything that shapes our way of life – the food we eat, our outdoor environments, and our unique biodiversity.

“Tame brings incredible foresight, determination and teamwork to this important mahi,” Nelson says.

Today Tame is based at Te Tira Whakamātaki – a national charitable foundation – where he supports Māori communities protect their environment, advises Government agencies on biosecurity matters, and undertakes biosecurity research.

Much as he loves his work, Tame says he “would like to be redundant” in the fight against unwanted pests and diseases.

“Biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility.

“Sure, it takes perseverance and teamwork in protecting our environment. But quite simply, our livelihood depends on it.”

Click here for the full interview

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Empowering Indigenous Voices

A publication by Marcus-Rongowhitiao Shadbolt (TTW Research Assistant) in partnership with our Kāhui member James (Tahae) Doherty

TTW’s newest Research Assistant, Marcus-Rongowhitiao Shadbolt co-authored his second published paper recently entitled ‘Empowering the Indigenous voice in a graphical representation of Aotearoa’s bio-cultural heritage (flora and fauna)‘.  Co-authors included many of the TTW team including Melanie Mark-Shadbolt, Jodanne Aitken, Drs Mariella Marzano and James Ataria and James (Jim) Tahae Doherty.  It was part of a TTW research project led bgy knowledge holders Kevin Prime, Tohe Ashby, Hemi Waiwai and James (Jim) Tahae Doherty.

ABSTRACT:  Aotearoa’s (New Zealand’s) biological heritage is in decline due to threats such as climate change and habitat destruction. Aotearoa’s biological heritage and the wider environment are critical to the Māori world view and culture and Māori have long advocated for greater engagement in efforts to reverse this decline. One negative outcome of localised declines in biological heritage is a concomitant loss of local Māori language (dialectical) terms. Compounding this is the growing use of standardised Māori terms that can displace local dialectical terms. This also runs the risk of losing the associated mātauranga (knowledge) that is inherent in the meaning of these local terms for their unique flora and fauna. Retaining this biocultural knowledge is considered important and could play a role in conservation efforts. This collaborative research addressed the concerns articulated by a Māori biological heritage expert about the loss of their own unique local Māori terms for flora and fauna.

The research explored ways to retain and empower local indigenous biocultural terms via the creation of a static visual educational resource for Tūhoe–Tuawhenua youth displaying the forest vegetation of their rohe (area that defines a tribe’s traditional mandate or authority). The plants in the final resource are identified by their local Māori term and their corresponding scientific name. Depicting ecological accuracy in the artwork was a specific requirement of the kaumātua and created some unique outcomes in how the artwork formed. The approaches employed in the paper and an analysis of the results and wider implementation are discussed. 

The full paper can be accessed here.
Photo: The complete panels without text produced by the artist, Ilze Pretorius, showing the lowest level of the Tuhoe–Tuawhenua forest.

 
James Ataria, Myra Doherty, James Tahae Doherty, Jodanne Aitken and Marcus-Rongowhitiao Shadbolt at Mataatua Marae in Te Urewera.
Marcus-Rongowhitiao Shadbolt, James Tahae Doherty, James Ataria and Jodanne Aitken at Mataatua Marae in Te Urewera.
(l-r) Marcus-Rongowhitiao Shadbolt, Jodanne Aitken, James Tahae Doherty and James Ataria in Ruatahuna.
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