Conservation & Research Projects

Ngā Manu Nature Reserve supports research and conservation relating to New Zealand ecosystems. The Trust has a strong focus on preserving our native flora and fauna and our education and research projects support that focus.

We encourage any person involved in private, institutional or business research relevant to New Zealand native flora and fauna to contact us. Research projects are varied and those currently underway or carried out include:

Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus) Research

From head-starting young juvenile tuatara to begin new populations, to supporting research into territoriality and captive husbandry, and involvement of Ngā Manu staff in field research, the Trust has supported tuatara recovery and research in collaboration with Victoria University of Wellington since 1990. We also support Massey University’s Wildbase wildlife health centre with its student reptile studies. Examples of studies conducted include:

  • Circadian and ontogenetic changes in activity and anti-predator responses of captive juvenile tuatara by Marianna G. Terezow.
  • Aggression and competition for space and food in captive juvenile tuatara by Laura Luise Barbara Worner.
  • Conservation of tuatara: an evaluation of the survival and growth of artificially incubated, head-started juveniles, by Monica Alexandra Gruber.

Tūī Transmitters

Testing of a wing-loop transmitter harness on captive tūī. Ralph Powlesland and Hugh Robertson from DOC. trialed back-pack transmitters on tūī at Ngā Manu to aid future tūī monitoring and research.

Kererū (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) – Avian Urbanisation

‘How do kererū colonise an evolutionary novel landscape?’
Monica Awasthy, PhD Candidate, Ecology & Biodiversity, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington.

Kererū (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) Impact Injuries, Morphometerics, Moult and Plumage

A master’s study in conservation biology by Rachael Cousins.

Kea (Nestor notabilis) – Comparison of Kea 

Behaviour in walk-through and non-walk-through enclosures at captive wild animal facilities. An observational research study conducted at several zoos and wildlife reserves by Perry McCarney, during his final year of a BAppSci degree in Animal Management and Welfare at Unitec, Auckland. Data on behavioural time budgets and repertoires may provide insight towards welfare considerations or areas requiring further research. This study was financially assisted by the Kea Conservation Trust.

Wildlife Photography

An ongoing in-house project that researches methods to capture predation, nesting, feeding and general behaviour of native wildlife through photography. View Ngā Manu Nature Images.

Dactylanthus taylorii and the Short-Tailed Bat (Mystacina tuberculata)

A photographic documentation of Dactylanthus (commonly known as wood rose) and its close relationship with the short-tailed bat by David Mudge (Ngā Manu Trustee).

Green-Flowered Mistletoe (Ileostylus micranthus)

An in-house project aimed at re-establishing the native mistletoe within Ngā Manu Nature Reserve. Research on methods of seed attachment to host plants.

Pygmy Mistletoe (Korthalsella salicornioides)

Another in-house project following on from the success with the green flowered mistletoe Ileostylus micranthus re-establishment at Ngā Manu. Aimed at creating an insurance population of this locally threatened plant and to raise awareness of the threats to mistletoes.

Wetland Monitoring- Greater Wellington Regional Council

An ongoing monitoring of groundwater and wetland levels in the greater Ngā Manu area.

Pest Plant Species

A survey of pest plant species at Ngā Manu and recommendations for management by Claire Dowsett.

Invertebrates and Water Quality

A study at Ngā Manu by Tim Bailey.

Vegetation Monitoring Sites at Ngā Manu

Alexandra Croft completed a summer internship at Ngā Manu which involved plant identification and the establishment of long-term vegetation monitoring sites.

Swamp Maire and Tawa

Alastair Robertson (Massey University), Jenny Ladley and Dave Kelly (University of Canterbury) studied the importance of gut passage for seed germination of swamp maire (Syzygium maire) and tawa (Beilschmiedia tawa) in field trials at Ngā Manu. The research was part of a programme on bird-plant mutualisms funded by Landcare Research’s Sustaining and Restoring Biodiversity.


Looking at the habitat requirements for brown mudfish (Neochanna apoda), focusing on sites in the Kāpiti Coast and Manawatu areas. Ngā Manu is a prime example of natural brown mudfish habitat due to the native swamp forest, and so provides a good base for comparison to other sites, many of which have been extensively modified from this state. Also looking at interactions between brown mudfish and their native predator, short-fin eels, which often share the same habitat.

Fish Pass Design and Monitoring

A joint project between Mike Joy of Massey University and Ngā Manu Trust. It explored the development of more natural fish pass designs and surveyed the migratory fish into Ngā Manu wetlands.


The fragmentation of native environments, combined with recent peri-urban development, is changing mosquito habitats and providing new opportunities for exotic species. We have investigated the influences on activity of native and exotic mosquitoes in this area, and human exposures to biting nuisance and potential disease. Ngā Manu has been a core site for several projects. Dr Mary McIntyre at Otago University, Wellington has been involved with this research.