Science Advisors

The Endangered Species Foundation has brought together some of New Zealand’s leading science and community representatives to act as an Advisory Group to the Board of Trustees. Their recommendations will help to develop our programmes and to prioritise which species or habitat protection projects receive funding and assistance. They will also provide advice on technical issues where required.

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Warren Chinn
Insects' representative

Warren Chinn, Insects representative Warren is currently Technical Advisor–Invertebrate Ecology for DOC in Christchurch. He has been providing DOC with invertebrate expertise since 2001. The majority of his work has been in species surveys of natural New Zealand ecosystems and species recovery projects.

Warren’s current areas of expertise include characterising invertebrate community ecology on the conservation estate and several island groups (the Kermadecs in particular). He also manages several species recovery projects. Warren is particularly interested in invertebrates that are large and flightless, as these tend to show the highest levels of speciation, and are also the most at threat of extinction from habitat loss and predation.

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John Innes
Birds' representative

John is a scientist with Landcare Research in Hamilton. He has worked with pest mammals (especially rats) and threatened fauna (especially birds), mainly in native forests, since the late 1970s. His early research involved diagnosing causes of declines of North Island kokako and reversing those declines. He has also worked with kaki (black stilt), kereru, pateke (brown teal), black-billed gulls, dabchicks, and tui; and is currently on the Kakapo and Kokako Recovery Groups.

John has published extensively on New Zealand rodents, especially ship rats, and has studied other pests including possums and magpies. His current research is on impacts of mice in fenced sanctuaries and on biodiversity outcomes of different major regimes of pest mammal management, including eco-sanctuaries. His research has frequently been collaborative with stakeholders, including conservation managers, regional councils and sanctuary practitioners.

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Colin O'Donnell
Birds' representative

Colin O’Donnell is Principal Science Advisor with the Department of Conservation’s Terrestrial Ecosystems and Species Unit based in Christchurch.  He has worked throughout New Zealand and overseas, primarily undertaking research on threatened species and ecosystems. Areas of research include the development of stoat and rat control techniques, and measuring response of threatened species to management in South Island forests, and more recently wetlands and alpine areas. He also spends time developing inventory and monitoring for some of our most cryptic species. 

Currently, Colin is working on projects focused on developing predator control methods and monitoring methods for mohua/yellowhead, kaka, long-tailed bats, bittern, fernbird, braided river birds, forest and alpine weta, lizards and rock wren. He is passionate about New Zealand bats and their conservation, and leads the NZ Bat Recovery Group and is the Oceania representative of the IUCN Bat Specialist Group.

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Dr Marieke Lettink
Reptiles' representative

Marieke is a self-employed ecologist with specialist expertise in herpetology (native lizards in particular). Her business, Fauna Finders, is based in Christchurch and provides professional advice to a range of clients including DOC, industry, iwi, councils, ecological consultancies, NGOs and landowners. She has produced more than 90 publications and management reports.

Marieke is a member of DOC’s Lizard Technical Advisory Group and the conservation status assessment panel for reptiles, council member of the Society for Research of Amphibians and Reptiles of New Zealand (SRARNZ), and the Canterbury Representative of the New Zealand Herpetological Society.

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David Mules
Community projects' representative

David is currently programme manager of Reconnecting Northland for WWF-NZ. Reconnecting Northland is a region-wide large landscape restoration programme - whenua ora, wai ora, tangata ora. David worked for DOC for 11 years as Community Relations Programme Manager, first in Dunedin and then in the Bay of Islands.

Previously a teacher and principal, David worked in mainly rural/Maori community schools in Northland, East Coast, Hawkes Bay, Golden Bay and West Coast. David has expertise in community and iwi/hapu based conservation projects; conservation/environmental planning, management and implementation; advocacy and education; building relationships between groups, communities, and their landscapes; and communication in both English/Pakeha and Te Reo/Maori cultural contexts.

Dr James Russell
Pest animals' representative

James is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Auckland School of Biological Sciences and Department of Statistics. He is an Associate Investigator in the Allan Wilson Centre and Associate Editor of the journal Biological Invasions. He has worked closely with DOC for ten years developing and testing tools to detect and monitor rodents at low densities, and keep islands rodent-free. His recent work focuses on environmental attitudes to pest management and tools, and scaling the application of eradication technologies to very large and inhabited islands.

His work in island conservation brings together diverse scientific approaches to solve contemporary conservation problems, such as achieving and maintaining pest-free status on islands, and restoring terrestrial animal communities. Results from this work have been used both for conservation and testing ecological theory, on islands around the world. James is currently on the advisory boards of Predator Free NZ Trust, Little Barrier Island (Hauturu) Supporters Trust and Tetiaroa Society (French Polynesia). He was the 2012 Prime Minister’s Emerging Scientist prize winner, and a 2013 National Geographic Explorer.

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Clayson Howell
Pest plants' representative

Clayson Howell is a weed ecologist who lives in Wellington and conducts research throughout New Zealand for the Department of Conservation. Clayson graduated with M.Sc. (hons) from The University of Canterbury in 1999.


He has worked on establishing nationally consistent databases, measuring success in weed eradication efforts, and recording the distribution of weeds. He is currently researching control and ecology of wilding conifers and is investigating methods for promoting native succession in established stands. His current interests are the application of remote tools to improve weed surveillance and delimitation, and using LiDAR to monitor vegetation change. 

Professor Phil Seddon
Conservation representative

Phil is a Professor of Zoology and Director of the Postgraduate Wildlife Management Programme at the University of Otago. Phil’s areas of expertise include reintroduction biology and application of conservation translocations; seabird ecology; pest species management; protected area management; and nature-based tourism impact mitigation.

Phil is currently also Chair of the Bird Section of the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Reintroduction Specialist Group; External member of the Black Stilt (Kaki) Recovery Group; Chair of the Yellow-eyed Penguin Consultative Group; Member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and member of the WCPA Task Force on Tourism; and International Editorial Board Member of Oryx-The International Journal of Conservation.

Dr Mike Thorsen
Conservation representative

Mike is a botanist and ecologist, and has over 20 years worldwide experience in conservation biology and the management of invasive species. He is currently a director of ERA Environment Solutions NZ Ltd, and has strong ties with the University of Otago. Mike is a founder and major driver of ESFNZ. Previously, he was a botanist for the Department of Conservation in Dunedin.

Bec Stanley
Plants and habitats' representative

Bec is currently the Curator of the Auckland Botanic Gardens. Previously she was Senior Advisor in Natural Heritage for the Auckland Council policy team; and Parks Ecologist for Auckland Regional Council, writing their revegetation strategy, threatened plant strategy and planning plant recovery projects. Bec has also worked for DOC as Auckland Conservancy Botanist.

Bec’s botanical interest lies with native forget-me-nots (Myosotis species) particularly Myosotis petiolata var. pansa, and threatened plants (particularly annual native herbs of the north which are highly threatened by exotic herbs). Her expertise is in threatened plant listing, survey, threat assessment, management techniques and monitoring; ecological significance criteria and assessment, and strategic planning for conservation recovery of plants.

John Barkla
Plants and habitats' representative

John was a botanist with the Department of Conservation for many years. Now he is a Partnerships Ranger for DOC in Dunedin. He has wide experience of plant conservation and habitat restoration from projects that span the Kermadec Islands to the Subantarctic. John is a member of the New Zealand Threat Classification Expert Panel (Vascular Plants) which periodically reviews the threat status of New Zealand’s vascular plants.

Lesley Douglas
Marine representative

Les is a marine scientist with Blue Planet Marine in Nelson. She has ten years' experience working with a variety of marine mammal species. Previously, Les worked in marine protection and advocacy for DOC in Dunedin. Les has considerable experience working with government agencies, particularly with the design, implementation and consultation associated with marine protected areas.

Dr Simon Childerhouse
Marine representative

Simon is currently Development Manager and Senior Marine Scientist with Blue Planet Marine in Nelson. He has worked as a marine mammal biologist for more than 20 years in NZ, Australia, Antarctica, USA, Canada and the South Pacific. His work has included research, leading and project managing large-scale international research projects, lecturing and teaching at various universities, representation of Australian and NZ Governments at international meetings, development of national and international policy and strategic documents, and delivering solutions to challenging marine conservation and resource-utilisation issues.

Previously, Simon worked for DOC as Senior Marine Mammal Researcher for 11 years and at the Australian Marine Mammal Centre as Research Partnerships Coordinator. He has been a member and attended the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission for the last 14 years and has represented both Australia and NZ, including as head of the NZ delegation for 8 years. Simon was also Chair of the Southern Ocean Whales sub-committee of the International Whaling Commission for three years.

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Professor Phil Bishop
Amphibians' representative

Phil is a Professor of Zoology and Director of the Ecology Degree Programme at the University of Otago. Phil’s areas of expertise include amphibian behavioural ecology and conservation, in particular amphibian translocations; amphibian diseases; and amphibian captive breeding.

Phil is currently also Co-Chair of the of the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Amphibian Specialist Group; Chief Scientist of the global Amphibian Survival Alliance, external advisor and member of the NZ Native Frog Recovery Group, and Associate Editor for the Journal of Herpetology.