- Dr Araceli Samaniego
Preparing for winter
Guest blog by Dr Araceli Samaniego (Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research)
I enjoy, and I feel I need to, eat spicy food. I’m Mexican. The trouble is, living in New Zealand, that my friends don’t trust me anymore when I say ‘it is not too spicy’. We just have different scales of spiciness. The same happens, in reverse, when we are discussing how cold the day is. ‘Just a bit nippy’, coming from a southern kiwi or a northern European, means ‘freezing’ for my tropical body. They are still in shorts when I already have my puffy jacket on.
Still, my preferences have never stopped me from going on an alpine adventure. I just accept that I need to pack 3 times more layers than the rest of the group. So, packing for ‘not super cold’ Gough was a serious process for me. I do island work pretty much every year, but mostly in the tropics and subtropics. I have a good selection of super light, sun-protective field clothing; now I needed exactly the opposite. It was fun researching the options for warm, flexible, heavy duty garments —we’ll be on island for 3 months with no opportunity to resupply.
Tropics v alpine adventure.
Right: Banco Chinchorro, Mexico
(J.A. Soriano / GECI archive)
Above: Mt Tongariro, New Zealand
I got what my budget allowed, including thick winter socks that I always wanted but could never justify before. Each sock takes about the same volume as my tropical island jumper. I think (hope) I now have enough layers to spend the winter on Gough. Then I realised a dark winter (as in short, cloudy days) is another thing I’m not used to, and there is no clothing for that. I’ve brought chocolate, sure thing, but I think the best resilience strategy is friendship and motivation. If that’s the case I’m in a lucky position. The team members I already know are fantastic beings, and I have many reasons to believe the rest of the team is as good as water —water being more valuable than gold these days. As for motivation, knowing that we can turn the tide of environmental destruction if we implement this project right, is what keep us moving. The opportunity of making a corner of the world a better place is worth the wait and the cold. I’m sure the gracious birds, as well as the warmth of laughter and the sheen of progress, will keep our souls cosy.
Araceli Samaniego is a conservation biologist with almost 20 years of experience, always combining biodiversity conservation projects and applied research. She started as a project manager in Mexico, her home country, where she led numerous conservation projects on islands, including 12 rodent eradications—all successful. Her career quickly expanded internationally, and she has made contributions to projects in Australia, Belize, Canada, Fiji, French Polynesia and the USA, among others.
Araceli recently joined Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research (MWLR), New Zealand’s Crown Research Institute for the country’s land environment, and a partner in the Gough Island Restoration Programme. She is the Technical Advisor for the mouse eradication operation on Gough. MWLR undertakes research into New Zealand’s unique biodiversity, biosecurity, land resources and soils, and environmental issues including climate change and carbon emissions. MWLR works with numerous institutions, nationally and internationally, to create impactful, relevant and useful research.
This year the RSPB and its partners will try to eradicate the house mice on Gough and make it a seabird paradise once again. The project was originally scheduled to go ahead in 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic meant the RSPB and the Tristan da Cunha government had to abandon these plans and airlift the team home. With the delays the project now has a significant funding deficit.
If you would like to help close this funding gap, you can donate directly to the restoration project at https://www.rspb.org.uk/join-and-donate/donate/appeals/gough-island/
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Acknowledgement The Gough Island Restoration Programme is being carried out by the RSPB in partnership with Tristan da Cunha, BirdLife South Africa, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (South Africa), the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Island Conservation, Conservación de Islas, Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research and BirdLife International. The programme is part-funded by the RSPB, the UK Government, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and other generous individuals and organisations.