Developing Performance Contexts: Ecology Insights

A brief post to note a remarkable Science Show program on Radio National.

When humans first set foot in New Zealand almost a thousand years ago, they encountered a rich fauna of reptiles and flightless birds. These first human visitors, and visitors and settlers since brought with them rats, cats, mice, rabbits and stoats which feasted on the local fauna, or degraded the environment, driving many original species to extinction. But luckily, a few small offshore islands remain undisturbed. Now scientists are using these islands as ecological lifeboats, as a source supplying birds and reptiles back to the mainland.

If you do not have time to listen to the podcast have a look at the transcript.

I think it contains some great insights for those who are looking to develop long term, sustainable performance cultures (ecologies). I think the power of the insights is that they come from outside the literature on performance.

They include:

  • The role research and development plays in charting ecological change.
  • The good fortune in having made a strategic decision over 120 years ago to preserve island habitats.
  • The early adoption of GPS and GIS to map and deliver pest eradication schemes.
  • The use of forensic science to map the risk of invasive species and develop probabilistic models of behaviour of these species.
  • The development of biosecurity procedures to safeguard sanctuaries including training procedures for detection dogs.
  • The use of triple bottom line measures to evaluate the effectiveness of island sanctuaries. (David Towns observed that “So we’re trying to interest some theoretical economists in this kind of thing and we are rather hopeful that there will be other people also that we can drag into this kind of a debate because the value of biodiversity as an ecosystem service to people has never been worked out. A good way to calculate it has never been defined. We desperately need to have it because to make the planet inhabitable we need to show people what their biodiversity is worth to them.“)
  • New Zealand shares its expertise on eradication of pests.

The program concluded with a discussion of the development of a mainland sanctuary, Tawharanui Open Sanctuary at Tawharanui Regional Park. It is a pest-proof sanctuary protected by a fence. Tawharanui exemplifies all the lessons learned on the islands and I was immensely impressed by the intense attention to detail in the creation, management and development of a mainland sanctuary.

I left the program thinking of the enormous synergies between the ecologies of sanctuaries and the environments we seek to create to enhance performance.

Photo Credit

Moulting Gentoo Penguin Macquarie Island

And the sky opened up to breath us in

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