Life story

Life Story: Kerry-Jayne Wilson, Renowned Ornithologist and Passionate Conservationist

OBITUARY:

Kerry-Jayne Wilson was an ecologist, natural historian, and author who dedicated her life to conserving the natural world and connecting people with science and wilderness.

Wilson met his first penguin when he was 8 years old during a family visit to Sandymount on the Otago Peninsula. The beautiful hoiho, yellow-eyed penguin, fascinated her and from that moment an innate desire for adventure converged with what became a lifelong curiosity for wildlife and wilderness. Wilson died on March 29, 2022 after being diagnosed with kidney cancer.

Born in Dunedin, Wilson was often brought in to investigate harbor tidal margins near her home in Waverley. As a teenager, then in Hamilton, she had decided to become an Antarctic biologist. Landlocked in the Waikato, she turned to underground exploration.

She was fearless and went on expeditions to many known and new underground caves and waterways. At 18, she was a founding member of the Canterbury Caving Group and served as its first president from 1968 to 1970. She played a leading role in the early descents and explorations of Xanadu Cave and other caves in the area of Bullock Creek.

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Wilson saw his first penguin when he was 8 years old, sparking a passion for life.

Provided

Wilson saw his first penguin when he was 8 years old, sparking a passion for life.

Wilson pursued her interest in the natural world at the University of Canterbury, where in 1970 leading petrel scientist Dr John Warham sent her to the Snares Islands as an undergraduate field assistant . She immersed herself in the rich and enigmatic world of ocean seabirds and their remote and wild islands. The experience set the compass for his life’s work.

Faithful to a duty of conservation and observation, she has become an accomplished researcher and teacher. In all her activities, even on daily walks, she chronicled the world around her with meticulous care. Her office was a library of field notebooks and bird counts, the last one opened next to her computer the day her health finally failed her.

She fulfilled her ambition to spend time on every continent and to study in both Antarctica and the Arctic. Her interests have taken her to countless destinations, often on brave solo expeditions to remote places. Between 1975 and 1977, she worked alone in very isolated communities in Newfoundland, recording the distribution of Canadian seabirds.

Wilson watches the burrows on the west coast.

Provided

Wilson watches the burrows on the west coast.

From 1977 to 1979, she surveyed Adélie penguin populations at Cape Bird and joined the International Survey of Antarctic seabirds. For a brief period, she and her colleague were the only radio link between McMurdo Base and the Air New Zealand crash site on Mount Erebus.

She joined the Antarctic Seabird Survey in the Ross Sea and Southern Ocean between 1981 and 1986. The extensive biological datasets she and later colleagues compiled each year – first through fieldwork and then aerial photography – help us understand how climate change is affecting seabirds and the Antarctic ecosystem. .

In 1986, Lincoln University appointed her to lecture on ecology, which she did until 2009, when the Student Association celebrated her talents with its Green Award for Excellence. in Teaching and Support.

Wilson worked tirelessly for the West Coast Penguin Trust, which she co-founded.

Provided

Wilson worked tirelessly for the West Coast Penguin Trust, which she co-founded.

Wilson has overseen research projects from mountains to oceans, throughout New Zealand and overseas. She has supervised students and other projects in Germany, Malaysia, Sarawak, Cook Islands, Colombia, Mongolia and the United States. She was the developer of Lincoln University and the director of its masters in international nature conservation.

She has been heavily involved in community-led conservation with the iwi-led Kaupapa Kereru Project of the Banks Peninsula, the Ōtamahua Quail Island Restoration Project, and Kiwi Conservation.

In 2006, she co-founded the West Coast Penguin Trust and served as its first President and Director of Research.

Trust director Inger Perkins said Wilson was a leader, guide, inspiration and scientist.

Wilson at the opening of the Punakaiki Penguins Fence.

Sarah-Jane O’Connor / Stuff

Wilson at the opening of the Punakaiki Penguins Fence.

She insisted on evidence-based approaches and was part of everything the trust did, from remote fieldwork in the middle of the night to retrieving data loggers from penguins, providing expert advice. for resource consent hearings and all day-to-day decisions. and intermediate operations.

Under his leadership, the trust expanded its role from blue penguins/kororā to Fiordland crested penguins/tawaki, Westland petrels/taiko and other threatened seabirds.

“As a leading expert on seabirds, Kerry-Jayne’s knowledge and wisdom enabled us to advise and advocate with authority, earning respect and appreciation,” Perkins said.

Wilson’s achievements have been recognized over the years, including the Robert Falla Memorial Award from the Ornithological Society of New Zealand, presented at the Oamaru Penguin Symposium in 2012.

Wilson receives a New Zealand Order of Merit from Dame Patsy Reddy in 2019. Her award was for her services to seabird conservation.

Provided

Wilson receives a New Zealand Order of Merit from Dame Patsy Reddy in 2019. Her award was for her services to seabird conservation.

She was also made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to seabird conservation awarded in 2019. She was proud of the achievement but too modest to allow the trust to use the letters after her name.

“She leaves a gaping hole for the West Coast Penguin Trust but also a superb legacy, a legacy that we will do all we can to respect and uphold,” Perkins said.

Wilson has translated his science for the public through books, including Flight of the Huia – his impressive review of New Zealand’s natural heritage, which was a finalist at the 2005 Montana Book Awards.

Wilson retired to live in Charleston near West Coast shearwaters, Westland black petrels, penguins and seals.

This photo was taken when Wilson was a finalist at the Montana Book Awards for his book Flight of the Huia.

NCC

This photo was taken when Wilson was a finalist at the Montana Book Awards for his book Flight of the Huia.

Her friends said the living room of her colorful house on the sand dunes resembled the deck of a ship, while the light and moods of the Tasman Sea were her constant companions.

“She greeted visitors with wine and conversation,” they said in a joint statement.

“Her wry observations on life and her liberating talent for the right words to defeat nonsense enlivened many meals. It was a place worthy of a tireless and generous leader, a woman of fiercely self-reliant courage, whose unceasing concern for wilderness was inseparable from an intuitive concern for his community and its future quality of life.

Sources: Ria Brejaart, Euan Kennedy, Jonathan Palmer, Robert McNab, Inger Perkins and Mike Rodgers.


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