Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Adrift Lab

Recent stories

Jenn Lavers, The Lord Howe Island Signal

In April, the Adrift Lab team returned to Lord Howe Island – for Dr Jenn, 2023 marks her 17th year working with Flesh-footed Shearwaters, while Drs Alex Bond (Bird Curator, Natural History Museum, London) and Megan Grant have enjoyed more than five field seasons on the Island. Working alongside us was Dr Jack Auty and PhD candidate, Alix de Jersey, from the UTAS School of Medicine – their knowledge of health systems was invaluable to designing innovative experiments that improve our understanding of how ingested plastic impacts the Islands seabirds. Last but certainly not least, we were joined by Traditional Custodian and renowned artist, Jennell Reynolds – she and Jenn work for the Tjaltjraak Indigenous Ranger program based in Esperance, Western Australia. Over the coming weeks, Jennell will create a one-of-a-kind Aboriginal artwork inspired by the shearwaters (the Wudjari name is Yowli).

While Lord Howe Island is the world’s single largest population of Flesh-footed Shearwaters, this same iconic species also breeds throughout the Recherche Archipelago off the coast of Esperance. The Recherche is incredible – 105 islands spread over 250 km not quite halfway between Perth and Adelaide. In fact, Perth is the nearest major city, more than 9-hour drive to the west! While the same seabird might exist in both places, the habitats could not be more different! When Jennell and Jenn are counting birds in the Recherche, they’re completely exposed to the bright sunlight as there’s no tree canopy – instead, the burrows are tucked away in thick tussock grass. On the few islands where there are trees, highly venomous snakes drop out of them, so…you could say we’re pretty darn relieved that isn’t the case here on Lord Howe!

As our team expands their work across Australia, the methods and techniques we’ve learned on Lord Howe are now being put to good work. Lord Howe Island has been an amazing opportunity for the entire team to come together, brainstorm ideas and learn from one another, including from the local community. Our heart-filled thanks to the LHI Board, Marine Parks and the many individuals who generously donated time and skill over such a long time!

The Lord Howe Island Signal 31 May 2023

This article appeared in The Lord Howe Island Signal, 31 May 2023.


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