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Clarkson recognised for wetland restoration

PROTECTING ECOSYSTEMS: Minister of Conservation Kiri Allan presented Dr Beverley Clarkson with the Loder Cup in Hamilton last month. Picture supplied by the Department of Conservation

After constant Covid-19 delays, renowned conservation award the Loder Cup was awarded to wetland expert Dr Beverley Clarkson last month.

Gisborne born and bred, Dr Clarkson is now based in Hamilton and works as a plant ecologist specialising in wetland functioning and restoration for Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research.

She is recognised for her advocacy for the conservation of New Zealand’s wetlands and has co-authored numerous publications on wetland care and restoration.

“Wetlands are special places. If you want to see things other than the standard species in the forests, you need to visit these places,” Dr Clarkson said.

With an interest in plants and the outdoors, she set off for the University of Waikato, completing a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in plant ecology and botany in 1974.

“On Sunday afternoons my parents would take me on trips into the bush and we would wander around enjoying nature.

“I also remember learning quite a bit about botany from my mum, and used to go on botanical excursions with my father who was a keen amateur botanist, and that’s how I picked up the interest.”

Dr Clarkson said her university days helped her learn more about plants in terms of identification, going on field trips, and memorising Latin plant names.

She also learned about wetlands during her studies, which introduced her to different species of plants that only survived in those conditions, such as the carnivorous sundew plant.

Dr Clarkson’s early work focused on the autecology of indigenous plant species threatened with extinction, to inform protection and management of remaining populations.

Most of this research was undertaken in close collaboration with the Department of Conservation and her husband Dr Bruce Clarkson, who won the Loder Cup in 2006 for his contributions to restoring native plant communities in New Zealand.

Since 1996, she has grown the terrestrial wetland research programme to one comprising multi-providers and stakeholders such as Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, University of Waikato, and DoC.

The programme was instrumental in helping to protect and restore ecosystem functioning and biodiversity conditions in New Zealand wetlands.

From her many accomplishments and hats she has worn over the decades, there were two significant highlights.

“The first was getting our research on wetlands into the Government’s Essential Freshwater Reforms 2020 document.

“The second would be the publication of three wetland handbooks, which talk about its preservation from a technical and iwi perspective.”

Dr Clarkson said with more than 90 percent of wetlands being drained or filled in the last 150 years, there was a need to secure more funding for its conservation.

“All types of organisations, whether it be science or matauranga Māori experts, should join the effort as we all need to work together,” she said.

“Dr Clarkson encapsulated the objective of the Loder Cup and, without a doubt, has made a tangible difference to the health of our wetlands,” conservation minister Kiri Allan said.

“We thank Beverley for her integrity and passion.”