Hope tool will help stop possums' return

Dunedin researcher Charlotte Patterson with an electronic map of the Dunedin area, including Otago Peninsula. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Dunedin researcher Charlotte Patterson with an electronic map of the Dunedin area, including Otago Peninsula. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Researcher Charlotte Patterson hopes a powerful new pest management tool will help protect Otago Peninsula against reinvasion once possums are largely eliminated there.

Ms Patterson is writing a University of Otago master of science thesis on applying this map-linked spatial tool to possum control in Dunedin, and works closely with the Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group.

''As possum eradication on the Otago Peninsula becomes a possibility, the next question to ask is how do we maintain this success and prevent possum reinvasion?'' she said.

Her work used an electronic ''spatial individual-based simulation model'' that created a network of interacting possums across the city landscape.

By using the geographic information system model, she aimed to explore various future control options in a buffer zone at the base of the peninsula, Ms Patterson said.

She hoped the information she gained, combined with the biodiversity group's on-the-ground knowledge, would help the group find ways ''to efficiently minimise possum reinvasion''.

Her primary supervisor, Associate Prof Yolanda van Heezik, of the Otago zoology department, said Ms Patterson had for the first time applied to a city area a powerful pest management tool developed by Landcare Research scientists.

Marcia Dale co-ordinates the biodiversity group's volunteer efforts to cut possum numbers in a crucial 700ha buffer area extending more than 1km on either side of the causeway across the Andersons Bay inlet.

At least 18,000 possums had been removed from the peninsula since 2011 and recently updated plans envisaged eradication there by 2023, Mrs Dale said.

This tool could help by simulating the results of alternative control methods, she said.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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