Book collections and possum selection

Variety is the spice of life. That is certainly true of my life. I’ve always been drawn to variation. I can see it in my youth. I enjoyed comics in general but I preferred Warlord and 2000AD with their multiple series in each issue compared to those comics centred around a…

Fire and Shire

It is a strange old time that we are living through, with much of the world in a pandemic lockdown. In times of stress I have a safe space that I return to that has worked throughout my life. A trip to Middle-Earth is a great comfort to me. I…

The beetle that joined the stones

When it comes to clothes, I am a man of simple means. I don’t much like buying them. I tend to hang onto clothes and wear them for years, until entropy does it thing or washing powder stops doing its thing. New clothes generally come via my wife or as…

Zombies of Zealandia? A Halloween review of the Ghosts of Gondwana

(This review was published in the New Zealand Ecological Society newsletter no. 160, July 2017, pp 22-24)   Earlier this year I was in the Southern Alps with a first year field trip where we look at the geology of the region and what it tells us about the biological…

Caught in a trap? The surprising journey of the New Zealand trapdoor spider

Back in 2015, my supervisor (Adrian Paterson)wrote about how I used tethered beetles to collect trapdoor spiders (genus Cantuaria) without harming the beetles, spiders, or their habitat. I needed to collect those spiders for my PhD research into their biogeography (where they live), ecology (how they live), and conservation (if…

Ready to fire: flammability traits may allow manuka to dominate

Marley Hill, Port Hills, ablaze CC-By-NC Jon Sullivan Some of my strongest memories are associated with fire. There is the satisfaction of splitting and stockpiling wood for the winter. The excitement of giant bonfires on Guy Fawkes Night and at parties growing up (especially the massive one we had on our…

Explaining science: laypeople, layers of meaning and lazy writing

I would estimate that about half of my time as a University lecturer is in writing/reading science. The vast amount of this is either writing or reading articles by scientists written for scientists. Science writing values precision over clarity and a layperson has very little chance of easily following along….

When history is evolution: the seals of Banks Peninsula

Recently, I caught up with an old school friend. It seems a long time since we played aspects of the same character in the musical “I was a teenage Jekyll and Hyde” at South Otago High School. Brent has a successful career as a history teacher, publishing text books and generally…

Splitting up the beetles: Come together on Banks Peninsula?

I’ve always been a fan of the beetles. They are some of the most obvious insects in our environments as we grow up and they don’t seem to have the ‘ick’ factor for people, like flies and spiders do. I’ve also always been a fan of the Beatles. My parents…

Kate Bush and the mongoose: character displacement and release

When my sons look back on their childhoods they will likely remember many things. Lots of cricket. Great holidays in the Catlins full of boogie boards and board games. Our big old house that could hold as many friends as they cared to bring home. And too much Kate Bush. As…