National Geographic
Menu

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 the 2012 New Zealand Prime Minister's Emerging Scientist prize and was a 2011 Chinese Academy of Sciences Young International Scientist.

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

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…

Keeping Island Biodiversity Afloat

Islands are rightfully a major focus of conservation investment. Some of the world’s most endangered species have been moved to islands, where they can be more easily monitored and are safe from threats. Invasive species can be completely removed from islands using precision eradication operations, allowing the original inhabitants of islands to flourish once again.…

Seabirds Drive Invertebrate Communities

Scientists in New Zealand have recently revealed the diversity of invertebrates living on an island which has never been invaded by mammalian predators, and a surprising association with seabirds. Adams Island is the southern island in the Auckland Islands group. Whereas the main Auckland Island has been invaded by mice, cats and pigs, during a…

Twenty Five Years Reconstructing an Island Ecosystem

Islands are delicate ecosystems. Although less than 5% of the world’s land area, they are home to over 20% of the planet’s terrestrial biodiversity. In the last 500 years 80% of vertebrate extinctions have been on islands. Restoring an island ecosystem to its original state requires first unpacking the ecosystem of invasive species such as…

Eradication Success Rapidly Confirmed

Completely eradicating pests from an island is a major conservation achievement, such as the recently announced eradication of goats from 15,380 ha Aldabra atoll. However, reliably confirming the absence of a species is difficult, bringing to mind the famous mantra ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’. So how do eradication managers finally confirm…

Mouse Invasion in New Zealand!

While we are working to clear Antipodes Island of mice, I recently learnt that one of New Zealand’s most important Nature Reserves, Maud Island, has been invaded by mice. Maud Island is a 318 hectare island in the beautiful Marlborough Sounds of the South Island of New Zealand. In late October 2013 biosecurity surveillance on…