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Conservation biologist Dr. James Russell works throughout the world on remote islands and other sites to provide conservation solutions by applying a combination of scientific methods. For his work in island conservation he was awarded a 2014 Rutherford Discovery Fellowship, the 2012 New Zealand Prime Minister's Emerging Scientist prize and a 2011 Chinese Academy of Sciences Young International Scientist Fellowship.

Follow James on National Geographic blogs for regular updates on his own work or other exciting developments in island conservation.

Tetiaroa Society – The Brando

For the past five years I have worked on Tetiaroa atoll in French Polynesia – famous as the island hideaway of Marlon Brando. This week I was invited to the inaugural meeting of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Tetiaroa Society – a not for profit organisation established to oversee the conservation and sustainable use…

Allan Wilson Centre Meeting

Last week I participated in the annual meeting of the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology & Evolution. Allan Wilson was a Professor of Biochemistry at UC Berkeley who grew up on a small farm just down the road from me in New Zealand. He pioneered the use of molecular approaches to understand evolutionary change…

Mouse Impacts on Antipodes Island

Eradication of an invasive species from an island must be justified by strong evidence of their negative impacts on the ecosystem, and confidence that those impacts outweigh any unexpected surprise effects which might occur. For invasive rats and mice these impacts have been already well documented globally. In some cases impacts of mice may be…

A Winter of Mouse Eradications

This winter has seen New Zealand teams busy with mouse eradications across the country. In the Hauraki Gulf the University of Auckland and Auckland Council teamed up to eradicate introduced house mice (Mus musculus) from two neighbouring small islands; Moturekareka and Motuketekete, with the last bait being applied last weekend. At around 25 hectares each…

New Zealand’s Spokesbird Sirocco the Kākāpō

This week I met Sirocco the kākāpō, spokesbird for New Zealand conservation. The kākāpō are an emblematic species for New Zealand conservation, and typifying island conservation. The species displays all the hallmarks of island adaptation – flightlessness and gigantism, and on top of that being nocturnal and lek breeding. This certainly makes the species bizarre…

Over-Invasion of Invasive Species

With invasive species colonising more and more locations it is only a matter of time before two similar species come in to contact with one another. Looking at the existing literature it seems there are already many cases of this, such as in similar species of foxes, wasps, ants, crayfish and plants. Our work looking…

Western Mediterranean Island Conservation

I am visiting the Iberian Peninsula this week en route to the 14th Rodens et Spatium conference in Portugal. Today in Valencia I am looking out over the Western Mediterranean basin. This area is steeped in human history, including upon its hundreds of islands. Romans colonised these parts over 2,000 years ago, and like everywhere…

Island Biology Conference, Hawai’i

This week scientists from around the world are gathering at the University of Hawai’i for the world’s first Island Biology conference. The conference is named after the seminal 1974 book by Sherwin Carlquist, and will open with the Carlquist address. For the rest of the week hundreds of scientists will present their work and share…

50th Anniversary of Rodent Eradications

In 2014 New Zealand celebrates 50 years of rodent eradications, following the confirmation of successful eradication of Norway rats from Maria Island in 1964 by the Forest and Bird Protection Society with assistance from Don Merton, and a grant of 5 pounds from the Wildlife Service. At that time only 0.5% of New Zealand’s islands…

Public-Private Partnership Island Eradication

The New Zealand Department of Conservation has partnered with the owners of Great Mercury Island (1872 ha) to eradicate pests from the island this winter. The successful eradication of these pests from the island will further protect the neighbouring smaller Mercury Islands. Two of these have always been free of introduced predators and the remaining…

International Island Biodiversity Day

The 22nd of May is the International day for Biological Diversity, and this year the theme is Island Biodiversity. Islands house a disproportionate amount of the world’s biodiversity: although less than 5% of the world’s land area, they are home to over 20% of the planet’s terrestrial biodiversity, and in the last 500 years 80%…

Return of the Grey-Faced Petrel

Seabirds are the ecosystem drivers of islands, traversing the marine-terrestrial interface throughout their lives. In particular, they transport marine nutrients from the ocean to islands, which they ‘deposit’ while burrowing and nesting. These nutrient inputs have driven island ecosystems for thousands of years, and did not go unnoticed by our forefathers through such actions as…

Island Conservation in the Mozambique Channel

The April 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine has a fantastic photo-essay on two French islands of the Mozambique Channel: Europa and Bassas da India. The article describes the pristine marine environments around the islands along with some amazing dive shots. I was privileged enough to work on Europa Island throughout 2008, not on the…

Catastrophic Landslides on Antipodes Island

This recent Austral (southern hemisphere) summer a team of researchers continued their annual Antipodean albatross monitoring. The Antipodean wandering albatross (Diomedea antipodensis) is only found on Antipodes Island, and is a close relative of the Gibson’s wandering albatross found on nearby Adams Island. This monitoring work has been going on for 20 years and has…

Resurrecting the New Zealand Jesus Bird

The ‘Jesus bird’ is the unique name given to storm petrels, small seabirds of the family Hydrobatidae, for their characteristic ability to ‘walk’ on water. Storm petrels are remarkable creatures. With a body-weight about the same as a house sparrow, these seabirds can live for up to 30 years, and feed in the remote pelagic…