How we used the leopard’s spots

Humans love to tell stories about the things that they see around them. All cultures have creation stories about why the world is the way it is. At a personal level we like to think that there is a narrative to our lives. No one really likes the thought that…

The elephant in the room

Many things affect our lives. Only some of these things get the notice that they deserve. We tend to fixate on the big, flashy events, while other linked events, just as important, are overlooked. One big and flashy event in my life was the Canterbury Quakes. The 7.1 quake of September…

Taking pictures of cats… for science (honest!)

I’m sure, when the internet was in its infancy, that nobody thought a major use would be for sharing photos and videos of cats. Cats have covevolved with humans for thousands of years. If we ever needed an example of how much they control that interaction then this flood of…

Black-fronted terns, Potemkin villages and Catherine the Great

As an evolutionary biologist I am interested in the history of life and how it got to this wild, crazy biodiverse natural world. I am also interested in history in the more usual sense, how we got to this wild, crazy and diverse human world. Sometimes these interests intersect. Another…

Heavy metal remediation: Defusing the ticking chemical bomb

“Conflict” Picture made by San Jose Think about these questions: 1. Do you understand what is meant by heavy metal pollution?2. Do you know which heavy metals cause pollution? 3. Do you know which methods can control and reduce heavy metal pollution? 4. Have you ever had a heavy metal…

A threat to our mighty atmospheric guardians

For my generation, Climate change is a deep and consistent fear of an unavoidable doom. Every day we hear reports of melting icecaps, critters going extinct and magical sea creatures washing up on shore with plastic in their stomachs. For a fledgling female scientist like myself, climate change means more…

Baiting for Phytophthora species

White-baiting is a common pastime in Canterbury waterways. Fishing for the small delicacy requires a fine meshed net and a lot of patience. Lincoln University MSc student, Ashika Prasad, is fishing for even smaller creatures, fungal-like microorganisms called Phytophthora that, like whitebait, swim in our waterways.  Phytophthora are notorious plant…

Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle threatens palms in the Pacific Region

Coconut is an important crop in Pacific societies. They serve as a source of oil, fiber, food and timber. It is also an important small-holder crop that contributes to food security, improved nutrition, employment and income generation. Production of coconut is affected by the introduction of an invasive pest, the…

Insects gather, and now our watch begins

Above: Dacrycarpus dacrydioides, Lowland Kahikatea in the Riccarton Bush forest remnant. Jon Sullivan (CC BY-NC 2.0) With the final season of Game of Thrones recently completed, it is only fitting for this blog post to be inspired by the greatest TV show of all time (no bias intended). Although attempting to squeeze…

Helping Moths and Butterflies

Moths and butterflies belong to insect order Lepidoptera, which means scaly wing in Greek. This order contains more than 350,000 known species worldwide. They are grouped into about 39 superfamilies depending on forms, behaviours and environment. Only 16 superfamilies are found in New Zealand. 35 out 120 families occur naturally…