Champion of biodiversity

McCormick, left, currently works as a conservation assistant at Pest Free Howick.

Former Howick College student Ethan McCormick has continued his journey to becoming a champion for biodiversity.

McCormick said his interest in the environment started at an early age.

“I can distinctly remember poring over a New Zealand bird book by Dave Gunson as a five-year-old and after that I was hooked,” he said.

In 2018, McCormick started to really get involved in the environment.

He began setting rat, possum, and stoat traps in a little block of bush near where he lived.

“What you start to realise very quickly is how deeply interconnected everything is.”

He started to move into other areas like pest plant removal and native tree planting.

McCormick became the student trustee for the Envirogroup at Howick College and the ringleader of Mangemangeroa’s band of amateur pest exterminators, establishing the Howick College Trapping Programme.

He was a finalist in the 2020 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards.

Additionally, he competed in the 2020 Eureka Awards national finals and won a Department of Conversation Scholarship with his project Catching the Kauri Killer, a proposed new rapid test for Kauri Dieback.

He was one of 70 students to attend the 2020 Blake Inspire programme.

“What hit me pretty early on was the sheer scale of destruction that has occurred here. A huge number of species went extinct – many of which aren’t widely known.”

McCormick now works part-time at Pest Free Howick as a Conservation Assistant.

“I love how much it revolves around community and engaging with people,” he says.

“I have particularly enjoyed visiting local schools and talking with their students.”

He studies Envrionmental Science, Politics and History at the University of Auckland.

McCormick is piloting a pest free cadetship programme for Pest Free Howick at Somerville Intermediate, as “what I’ve come to realise is that inspiring others is key.”

“A big focus has been allowing students to appreciate the environment,” he said.

“If they see the big picture, they will ultimately be inspired to start with restoration in their own back yard.”

This has included a range of activities like bird surveys, plant identification and a guided night walk of the Mangemangeroa Reserve where they have spotted glow-worms.

“The second focus has been giving them practical skills to tackle pests, which they can then pass on to others.”

One goal that has stood out to McCormick, in relation to the future, is Predator Free 2050.

“The scale of this plan is phenomenal,” he says.

“It’s audacious ambitions like these that make you realise what’s possible.”