Nick’s Churchill Fellowship begins

On Wednesday 26th June at 8:15am, I embark on my Churchill Fellowship travels to explore world’s best practice for the translocation of aquatic species (namely small fishes and freshwater crayfish). This is thanks to the generosity of Henry Rischbeith and his family through the Richard Rischbieth Churchill Fellowship.

The Fellowship is timely, as translocations are a critical aspect of conservation of an increasing number of aquatic species in South Australia and beyond. Sustained reintroduction is now considered the only means of recovery for the Yarra Pygmy Perch, a small fish which is now considered extinct from the Murray-Darling Basin.

I will first spend a day travelling (Adelaide – Sydney – Dallas – San Jose, Costa Rica), then recovering and participating in IUCN Conservation Translocation Training at the picturesque Hotel Punta Islita; a fantastic model for sustainable tourism and local conservation. I will then visit prominent reintroduction examples in the USA:

  • Albuquerque – purpose-built facilities for conservation of the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow, including the Los Lunas Silvery Minnow Refugium
  • Portland – where the Oregon Chub has become one of the few fish species to be removed from the US threatened species list
  • Pittsburgh and West Liberty (in West Virginia) – freshwater crayfish conservation
  • New York – Bronx Zoo to learn of a novel aquatic reintroduction program for the Eastern Hellbender

Just a few of the species that will feature in Nick’s fellowship trip; (left) Rio Grande Silvery Minnow (Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service), (middle) White-clawed Crayfish (Photo: Animal Corner), and (right) Eastern Hellbender (Photo: Ohio Amphibians).

I’ll also take on the challenge of walking from the top of Manhattan to the bottom at Battery Park; not Fellowship related but this 21-km walk will be one of the most unusual I have done.

Then I travel to the UK to learn about White-clawed Crayfish conservation. First at the Bristol Zoo where a captive breeding program is underway, and then in various field locations across Somerset and Wales (and hopefully Ireland). I will also learn about efforts to conserve the Lemur Leaf Frog, which is being captively-bred at the Bristol Zoo.  I will finish my Churchill travels by flying to Stockholm and making my way to the European International Association of Astacology (IAA) Gotland conference at the Uppsala University in Visby on the island of Gotland. I am also keen to explore rewilding examples that may be relevant to Australia.

After this 9.5 week adventure, I will then have a long rest!

I hope to learn how others are tackling similar problems, as well as pass on my experiences. At the end, I hope to demonstrate that translocations are a viable pathway to the recovery of some species; but that perhaps we need to commit to translocation of more species, and more often to achieve recovery.  I hope to meet many inspiring people that are equally committed to the conservation of aquatic species.

What I don’t hope to experience is jet-lag, food poisoning, lost luggage and any other travel troubles!

I can’t wait! Regular updates will be provided on my twitter. To learn more about Churchill Fellowships, visit Churchill Trust website.



Nick Whiterod