Meet the Endurance team…Max Buxton

Max on Enderby Island

I am a Master’s student in the department of botany at Otago University, with Dr Janice Lord (Botany) and Dr Barbara Anderson (Landcare) as my supervisors.

In short, my thesis is regarding the role of moths as pollinators on mainland New Zealand but also in the Subantarctic. I undertake this task with systematic moth trapping, through a range of habitats where possible, to document not only moth-plant interactions (which plants may be pollinated by moths based on pollen on moth bodies) but I also document how the moth community changes to things like habitat type, floral availability and elevation.

I am motivated by the natural environment, and continually aim to promote its conservation. I also aim to raise awareness for many things that are often overlooked, under appreciated and sometimes even forgotten – unfortunately moths often fall into all of these categories. I am also extremely driven by adventure and truly ‘wild’ experiences.

My passion for the Subantarctic really took off after my first visit in December 2014 – first hand experience of a sea lion running at you and roaring is something that just has to be experienced. With each subsequent visit, my appreciation and awe of these islands grows.

Moth trap on Mt. Cardrona near Wanaka

Moth trap on Mt. Cardrona near Wanaka

The purpose of our work on the Antipodes is to collect data to quantify the effect of removing the mice on the invertebrate community. Moths make ideal candidates for ecological monitoring for many reasons. Firstly, they have the sort of life style “live fast and die young” that responds to environmental change quickly. Secondly, they tend to be good dispersers; mostly they fly which means they get around quickly. Thirdly, moths occupy a “sweet spot” within the ecosystem with close links to species above and below them in the food chain. They are one of the main food sources for both mice and many native birds. They are also closely linked to plants using both leaves (caterpillars) and nectar (adults) as a food source and as potential pollinators (something we also hope to show from this trip).

We are looking at the relative abundances of the moths (community structure). We need to collect these data ahead of the mouse eradication program so that they provide a baseline against which we can assess, and importantly quantify, the effect that the Mouse eradication has on the moth community.

The baseline data will describe the current state of the moth community on the main Antipodes Island in the presences of Mice. The baseline data from the offshore (Mice Free) islands describes the current state of the moth community in the absence of mice. This controls for any differences between the current (pre-eradication) and future (post-eradication) moth communities that are not attributable to the mouse eradication, such as weather patterns or climate change.

After the mouse eradication we will re-sample the moth community and see how the removal of the mice has changed the moth community. Using standardized trapping methods means that the sampling is not affected by who does the trapping. By trapping before and after on both the main Antipodes Island and the mice free offshore islands, we can show that any changes we find in the moth community are due to the removal of the mice and not just a chance result of seasonal variation. This will provide quantitative evidence showing just how valuable mice eradication programs are.


Max will be going down on the next trip to Antipodes…Read more Operation Endurance

Citizens science project