Bay of Islands students help with CSI-style rat tracking project
Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication.
IntroductionBay of Islands school children have been taking part in a scientific experiment which is directly helping Project Island Song’s vision to restore the islands of the eastern Bay of Islands (Ipipiri).
Date: 02 June 2010
Bay of Islands school children have been taking part in a scientific experiment which is directly helping Project Island Song’s vision to restore the islands of the eastern Bay of Islands (Ipipiri).
Mikayla Gorrie and Jack Wager
(Russell School) with rat tracking tunnel
Pupils from Opua, Springbank, Russell and Paihia have been working alongside the Department of Conservation’s Bay of Islands Area office in a science experiment with national implications.
DOC Community Relations Ranger, Helen Ough Dealy says: “Over the summer, when three male Norway rats were caught on Urupukapuka Island, one of the questions we asked was ‘Where did they come from?’
“University of Auckland holds a national database of DNA from island rats including samples from rats from Ipipiri before they were eradicated in winter 2009. When we compared the first of these recent rats with the database we found it wasn’t closely related to the previous island rats at all. To be sure of this rat’s origin we decided to collect some more Bay of Islands rat DNA samples.”
Mikayla Gorrie places a rat tracking
tunnel on Russell Wharf
A rat DNA lesson was created which involved Year 7/8 pupils making tracking tunnels (to see what animals were around their school-grounds), identifying the tracks left behind, then setting rat traps where rat tracks had been seen.
Rats were caught at Opua and Paihia Schools. They are now being DNA-analysed by Dr. Rachel Fewster of University of Auckland’s Statistics Department and the results will be added to their national DNA database.
Helen says: “Carrying out this rat DNA lesson with local schools is helping Project Island Song in a number of ways: students are learning about pest control and Project Island Song as well as the importance of checking gear and boats before leaving the mainland; some of the gaps in University of Auckland’s rat DNA database are being filled in and we are a little closer to determining where those rats came from. This means that we can look at more targeted ways of controlling rats in those particular areas.”
William Fuller, Russell School Principal says: “I was impressed by how much knowledge the children already had about Project Island Song. It was interesting to see the level of ownership they felt and their motivation to look at rat control in their own place.”
Guardians of the Bay of Islands Inc. Chair, Fleur Corbett says: “It’s really encouraging to see the level of interest in Project Island Song among local students. I’m sure we are starting to see a very real awareness amongst locals about the need to check gear and boats before going from the mainland and visiting the pest-free islands.”
Comments from some of the pupils taking part
Kaleb Knapping (Yr 7 Paihia School)
“I think that this lesson was awesome and DOC totally rocks for saving all the birds on Urupukapuka Island.”
Cyrus Napier (Paihia School)
“I think that this experiment is good because we can keep the bay pest-free so that we can keep birds alive and I liked the bit when the rat trap snapped the pencil!”
Jordan Boakes (Paihia School)
“It was cool when we made the tracking tunnels because I found snails and we saw mice footprints.”
Summer Frost (Yr 8 Paihia School)
“It was extremely informative and very exciting to see the results. I learnt lots of information about rats and their role in our environment.”