Changing How We Do Conservation By Scott Sambell, manager, Glenfern Sanctuary, Great Barrier Island.

GIS technology is changing how we do conservation, and I am so thankful to be able to take advantage of that.  Parker Jones, from GiC, originally got us onto the ArcGIS software for recording and analysing rodent activity back when he was working for Eagle. We spatially referenced all 820 monitoring stations and created a geo-database with ArcMap, and suddenly we could “see” what was really happening out there. It wasn’t long before we realised we didn’t have regular rodent incursions as we thought. We could see a resident population of kiore had slipped through the net and become averse to our existing biosecurity devices. Realising that we could become much more efficient using this technology, we retired our old waterproof notebooks and began using a field collection app for mobile phones, which then loaded the data directly to the ArcGIS database. Suddenly there was no more “can you please remember to hand in your notebook at the end of the day?” data entry lags and no more “whose notebook is this?” and “I can’t read what you’ve written here” to deal with.

When our GiC mentor Shane Pienaar got involved, he boosted it up to the next level. With the ArcCollector App that he put together, rather than email in our volunteers’ results or upload to Dropbox, field workers now just walk through the office on their way home, their phone connects the wifi, and their day’s work is automatically uploaded to the database. We can see the day’s results instantly, which makes a massive difference when response time is everything in biosecurity. Shane was also instrumental in getting our remote sensing system off the ground. At the predator-proof fence ends, which are so critical to the effectiveness of the biosecurity system, we have a series of traps and bait stations that “call in” when they have experienced activity. Thanks to Shane, we now have a system that sends us an email when we have caught a rat or feral cat, or simply something has dared to go in a bait station. This data also populates the geo-database so that the time recorded is not the next day when someone checked the trap, but the actual second that it happened. That kind of data is something we have never had before, and we are only just coming to terms with how valuable it is.

You can see more of the work that Glenfern Sanctuary is doing with GIS by visiting their ArcGIS Online homepage

A version of this story first appeared in Forest & Bird magazine in March 2017 ( You can find out more about Forest & Bird’s work at