Canterbury PhD student using audio to lure predators

23 September 2021

Aotearoa’s brightest young minds are setting out to revolutionise pest management, helping efforts to eradicate possums, stoats and rats from New Zealand by 2050, including a University of Canterbury doctoral student using audio lures for predators.

  • Ben McEwen
thermal camera

Ben McEwen’s microphone and thermal camera set up. The microphone array is mounted on top of a thermal camera. The thermal camera is pointing at a speaker that plays an audio lure every hour and the microphone then listens for 60 seconds.

Supported by Predator Free 2050 Limited (PF2050 Ltd) and $2.4million in Jobs for Nature funding, six postgraduate researchers at four universities have been funded for diverse research topics.

Ben McEwen is a Computer Science PhD candidate at the University of Canterbury who has received $180,000(+GST) in funding to investigate and develop new predator-luring technology capable of autonomously identifying invasive predator species and monitoring their populations. He graduated last year with a BE(Hons) with First Class Honours specialising in Mechatronics Engineering.

He aims to investigate and develop new predator luring technology and develop a system that uses state-of-the-art visual and audio technology to identify predator species in real time, allowing populations to be estimated, and audible lures to be automatically selected, making trapping more effective. This system has the potential to significantly improve predator interaction rates with traps.

The recently launched PF2050 Ltd research strategy crystallises the outcomes for which breakthroughs are most needed to achieve the PF2050 goals, as well as championing the need for more support for and investment in the science that will most help us achieve them.

“Our work is certainly ambitious but is a critical step to secure New Zealand’s biodiversity. Despite decades of valuable and dedicated conservation efforts, step-changes are needed to achieve our goals. And to achieve those step-changes, New Zealand needs new science talent to drive the cutting-edge research needed,” PF2050 Ltd Science Director Dan Tompkins says.

“Building new science capability is critical for achieving all of New Zealand’s environmental goals, not just Predator Free. The investments made here will help establish these researchers’ careers, and their skills and accomplishments will be of immense value to New Zealand in the future.”

Predator Free 2050 Limited is a Crown-owned, charitable company established in 2016. It provides co-funding to enable predator control and eradication projects at large landscape scale, and drives the breakthrough science needed to underpin large-scale predator eradication. It plans to contribute around $13m towards breakthrough science during 2020-24, guided by its research strategy.

UC Communications team,, Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168

UC VC Oxford

UC VC invited to speak at Oxford University

As part of marking her university’s 150th anniversary, UC Tumu Whakarae | Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey has given a speech at Christ ...

Professor Ramakrishnan Mukundan and PhD candidate Andrew Davidson

Improving cancer diagnosis with AI

New research using digital imaging could transform the field of cancer diagnosis in Aotearoa New Zealand.