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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 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.

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…

The Little Dodo of Samoa

The Mauritian dodo is the iconic emblem for both island conservation and extinction, sadly one of the birds lost from the Mascarene archipelago. One might often wonder how this strange bird could have originally been descended from a pigeon, but in Samoa we find the tooth-billed pigeon (Didunculus strigirostris), otherwise known as the little dodo,…

Winter in the Subantarctic: Antipodes Island

In July 2013 the New Zealand Department of Conservation and University of Auckland jointly led a mid-winter trip to Antipodes Island in the remote New Zealand subantarctic, with support from the National Geographic Society. Four scientists travelled on the 50 ft yacht ‘Tiama’ and researched the terrestrial ecology of the island in preparation for eradication…

Saving Birds from Extinction in the Mascarene Archipelago

This week I have returned to Reunion Island in the Mascarene archipelago (Western Indian Ocean) for a regional conference on landscape rat control to save birds at imminent risk of extinction. I haven’t been back to Reunion since I left nearly five years ago after working for a year on island conservation in the Mozambique…

How to Start a Subantarctic Expedition? With Quarantine

Nearly 100 years ago a shipwreck brought mice to the hard-to-reach Antipodes Islands just north of the Antarctic circle. Fast forward to today and the mice have devastated the island’s native species. National Geographic Grantee James Russell will embark on a four-week expedition, where the team will study the island’s natural resources to determine if…