Meet the Boffa Miskell ecology team: Georgia Cummings

Since joining Boffa Miskell five years ago, ecologist Georgia Cummings has surveyed and monitored flora and fauna in forest, coastal, wetland and agricultural systems, and worked on projects as diverse as wind farms, wetland restoration, residential subdivisions, large infrastructure projects and urban parks.

Based in our Auckland office, Georgia is a chiropterologist (studies bats). She’s had research papers published in the Journal of Mammalogy (2015) and the Journal of Zoology (2015) and is the recipient of a 2017 Boffa Miskell research grant to develop an artificial bat roost habitat.

We asked Georgia what she finds so intriguing about these little-known and often-misunderstood creatures.

“Bats are the only land mammals in New Zealand, so they’re pretty special in that context. Short-tailed bats, which I studied for my MSc, are particularly interesting as they are genetically unique, being the only species remaining globally in the Mystacinidaefamily.

“They also provide important pollination services in our forest ecosystems and are one of two bat species in the world (the other being the vampire bat) that can walk on the ground. Call me a geek but I find these things interesting!

“New Zealand bats are very cryptic and many people aren’t actually aware that we have two species of bat here in New Zealand. Raising awareness of our bats and educating people about their unique ecology is a key step towards increasing people’s appreciation of these cool little creatures.

“It’s been great to be able to make our own disciplines more aware of bats, as well as inputting to our clients’ projects. Our landscape architects are particularly interested to understand how they might improve bat habitat and protect bats in both urban and rural areas where we have projects.”

Georgia says that wanting to work in the outdoors was one of the reasons she studied biology, and that getting to do fieldwork in far-flung parts of the country is her favourite part of the job. But business travel for an ecologist rarely involves five-star accommodation.

“The most memorable moment would have to be surveying for Archey’s frogs in the Coromandel Ranges during a tropical cyclone. Specifically, the moment of getting back to our campsite on the helipad at about two in the morning to find my tent had turned into a paddling pool. It’s not the first time I’ve ended up sharing a tent with (fellow ecologist) Kat Muchna in less than ideal conditions!”

When she’s not working, writing research papers or working on her bat roost project, Georgia says you can find her surfing, tramping, playing basketball or “enjoying good New Zealand beer”

18 January 2018