However, Ian’s conservation pursuits don’t stop at observation. He’s been a fervent advocate for raising awareness about the devastating impact of plastic on seabirds, particularly Flesh footed shearwaters.Public lectures and magazine stories became his medium for sharing his knowledge. In 2005, he conducted groundbreaking scientific research shedding light on the widespread issue of plastic ingestion by Flesh-footed shearwater chicks. He was later joined by Dr. Jennifer Lavers and their ongoing work has provided a long-term study of this problem, which led to national programs to mitigate the threat of plastics in our oceans.
Perhaps one of the most significant conservation projects Ian initiated and championed was the eradication of rodents from Lord Howe Island in 2019. Mice, introduced in the 1850s, and rats, ashore from a shipwreck in 1918, posed the gravest threat to the island’s biodiversity. The project, which had been in planning for 17 years, involved a team of international experts and locals deploying bait stations, helicopters, and sniffer dogs. It’s an exemplary case of how human intervention can reverse the damage wrought by invasive species.
The positive effects of this eradication are already tangible. The island is witnessing a resurgence of landbirds, insects, and native species like the green stag beetles and butterflies, which had been suppressed by rodents. Many seedlings of native plants are forming carpets on the forest floor, where 4 years ago the seeds were all eaten by rats before they established.
The projects Ian initiated have snowballed, and with support from state and federal governments, The LHI Board have long term plans to eliminate alien plant species entirely, not merely control them. Abseilers scour remote cliffs, and helicopters airlift workers to areas that would otherwise take hours to reach. It’s a testament to the unwavering commitment of the island’s environmental unit.