New book harnesses the work scientists are doing to protect our wetlands


Karen Denyer, Mayor of Waipā District Council Jim Mylchreest and Monica Peters at the Life in the Shallows book launch. Photo/Kate Durie

Life in the slums by Karen Denyer and Monica Peters is a fundraiser for the National Wetland Trust – all proceeds from book sales go to the National Wetland Trust to continue its work in wetland advocacy.

Rich and diverse but often unloved, Aotearoa’s wetlands are the most vulnerable
of our ecosystems. Only a tiny fraction of their original extent remains and we continue to lose this vital habitat.

The race is on to learn more about them while we still can. This highly illustrated book presents and explores the wetlands of Aotearoa through the work and experiences of our principal researchers.

The book profiles and heroes our wetland scientists – living, recent past and ancestral experts and the wonders of wetlands they have discovered. The book has no particular reading order and the authors have classified it by first names of scientists in alphabetical order.

There are interviews and contributions from over 20 of New Zealand’s leading wetland scientists, with the aim of inspiring the next generation of researchers to discuss their findings on how wetland habitats work and what’s going on there. lives.

There is a wide range of topics from how wetlands are formed to building a new wetland, discovering and naming new species and how scientists do field research and find solutions to problems caused by climate change, pollution, pests and people.

Life in the slums provides inspiration and information for those interested in conserving and restoring wetlands from iwi communities and groups, councils, farmers and students.

It shows the reader where the wetlands are in order to visit them all around New Zealand, with descriptions of the wealth of birds, insects and plants that can be found there. It also highlights some of the innovative ways we can protect and restore them.

There are some great wetland photos that are donated by amazing and generous New Zealand professional and amateur photographers.

Life in the lowlands also explores the deep cultural and spiritual significance they have for Māori, and the collaboration of Mātauranga Māori and Western science to continue to improve our understanding of these special places.

Karen says, “This book is fun to read and we’ve worked hard not to make it a dry subject.”

Author Karen has worked as an ecological consultant for over 20 years, primarily in the field of wetland ecology. She has also been involved for many years in environmental education and has written a number of publications. She has been Chief Executive of the National Wetland Trust since 2008.

“When Tracey Borgfeldt, associate editor at Massey University Press, approached me in 2020 asking if I was ready to write a book on wetlands, I knew I wanted to do it, but it seemed like a really big job and I don’t have ‘I don’t think I can do it myself.

“It was then that I immediately thought of Monica, who is a great communicator and we had collaborated well in the past, so this was another great project that we worked on together,” says Karen.

Monica holds a PhD from the University of Waikato in Ecology of Community Environmental Groups and is currently Co-Chair of the Citizen Science Association of Aotearoa, New Zealand. Her experience includes practical conservation, research, science communication, international development and fine arts.

“The scientists we interviewed for this book are people we’ve known for a long time, but we hadn’t had the opportunity to sit down and talk in depth about the research they do – and find out what is hilarious – or disturbing things that happen while they’re out in the field. It was a great insight into their lives,” Monica says.

She added that they “wanted to show scientists as ordinary people and not as people hiding in labs, with weird quirks, big glasses and coats. We wanted to destroy that stereotype.”

Waipā District Council Mayor Jim Mylchreest says “a book like this is essential for Waipā”.

“For years the council has worked to protect the wetlands we have left.”

He thinks it’s important to encourage the public to support wetlands in order to get rid of the age-old belief that wetlands are unpleasant places that need to be drained and are not appreciated.

“Wetlands are part of our history. With the threats posed to us by climate change, they are playing an increasingly important role in slowing the flow of water,” says Jim.

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