by Veronika Meduna
Katherine Clements recently completed a neurobiology degree at Harvard University, but then decided that she wanted to spend a year as a volunteer with the Department of Conservation, studying seabirds.
“I actually had a job lined up back in Boston to continue doing neuroscience research. I was going down this track into medicine and research but I really wanted to do something different before I committed myself to such a long haul.”
Having grown up in a small town on the Atlantic coast, Katherine was interested in seabirds. She applied for a travelling fellowship and when a selection committee member asked her what she would do if she could travel anywhere for ten months, she simply said she wanted to “migrate with the albatross”.
Last month, she joined the field team during the black petrel survey on Great Barrier Island. “Black petrels are the most at-risk seabird in New Zealand, predominantly due to fishery bycatch. As a result, it’s really important to monitor their populations and better understand their foraging distribution so that measures can be undertaken to minimize the interactions between fishing vessels and the birds.”
Katherine says she has combined fieldwork with office-based research, and has enjoyed her policy related work. “One of the biggest projects I’ve been working on is the development of a seabird framework. The hope is to bring together all relevant seabird research into a single database, so that we can easily identify where gaps in knowledge exist.”