In a hole in the ground there lived a … spider

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit­hole, and that…

How to stop, the elephant in your crop

Elephants have long fascinated me. I think it goes back to tv series from the early/mid 1970s called ‘Elephant Boy‘. This was a Australian/ English/ German production that was filmed in Sri Lanka and loosely based on the book ‘Toomai, the elephant boy‘ by Rudyard Kipling. I don’t remember a…

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…

Ecology by the numbers

It is probably safe to say that the job description of an ecologist in 2016 is quite different from that of an ecologist back in the 1970’s or 1980’s. Our work today involves computer programs and fancy technology, some of which make our work much easier. But some appear to make…

Spatial variation, Ithilien and the Old Forest

A strength of Tolkien was that he put so much effort into creating an amazingly detailed secondary world. He did this by adding as much realism, often ecological, as he could to the mix. Despite the presence of dragons, trolls and hobbits there is an overwhelming feeling that Middle-earth is a…

Treeline: living on the edge

There is a magical moment that occurs after slogging your way up mountains through tangled and dense forest and bush. First, you notice more light in front, a few steps later, a noticeable reduction in tree height and then, often between one step and the next, you are out of the bush and…

Big predators hunt faster

At high school I was a member of the ATC (Air Training Corp). We would meet each week at the Balclutha Primary School Hall where we would learn drill, information about planes and information about wilderness survival and first aid. Every fourth week we would go to the small-bore rifle…

Our favourite plants, next generation’s weeds?

New Zealand’s agricultural, horticultural, and forestry industries are battling an increasing number of weed species that reduce their productivity. Similarly, wildlands in New Zealand, like in many parts of the world, are coming under increasing pressure from invasive plants (weeds) that harm native biodiversity. Ecologists are working hard to try…