At WSP Opus, we have many remarkable people one of them is Graduate Ecologist, Caitlin Dodunski working at our Hamilton office. Caitlin Works in the Environmental Sciences team and her role is quite unique.
Caitlin works closely with New Zealand’s endangered species, the long-tailed bat. Her work allows WSP Opus to understand and protect our native wildlife.
How did you choose your field of study?
Growing up, I always wanted to work in the conservation of native wildlife and that's why I decided to study a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and Ecology. At one point I did sway towards Medical Lab Science, but I realised that meant a lot of time spent indoors; I realised that I was much more interested (and passionate) about animal behaviour and wildlife.
However, I would have never envisioned myself working with bats!
What’s a typical week like for you?
My typical week in the summer includes deploying acoustic bat monitors as part of annual monitoring to meet consent conditions for the Waikato Expressway including Hamilton, Huntly and Cambridge sections.
I also carry out behavioural monitoring of Long-tailed bats using a thermal imaging camera to assess any impacts of the construction of the expressway on their behaviour. This means a lot of night work as the bats are active after dusk.
In the winter my week includes data analysis collected from the acoustic monitors over the summer and writing the relative monitoring reports.
Another big part of my job is to make sure that no bats are roosting in trees before they get cut down for construction of the road. I do this by assessing individual trees for roosting potential, as well as acoustic monitoring and watching the tree at dusk and dawn to see if bats are roosting within them.
What’s your biggest achievement to date?
Probably when I completed my first bat monitoring report (I'm much better at 'doing' than writing!). Also becoming a fully-fledged Ecologist after being Graduate for 3 years.
What’s about a career highlight?
The people I have met working for WSP Opus has been my highlight, we have an awesome group of young professionals that regularly catch up for both social and technical events.
Also, the first time I finally saw a bat after working with them for over two years was very exciting, we got to trap them out the back of Piopio to handle and band them. It made me appreciate that the work I have been doing is for a good cause.
What motto do you live by?
Don’t take life too seriously.
The pekapeka-tou-roa (long tailed-bat) are found only in New Zealand, where they have been isolated from other species for millennia.
Unfortunately, the pekapeka-tou-roa has the highest national threat ranking and is listed as an endangered species.
In a wildlife surveying exercise, WSP Opus has developed thermal imaging technology to collect high-quality data on how bats use their surrounding landscape plus, how they cope with surrounding large infrastructure.
Ultimately, our work will allow our environmental and research teams to understand and protect New Zealand's native species.