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…

Goblins, orcs and Uruk Hai: taxonomy and Tolkien

Tolkien knew the value of naming. More than that, he knew the value of understanding and labeling diversity. Tolkien was not satisfied with simply mentioning pipeweed, he needed to mention several varieties (Longbottom Leaf, Old Toby, Southern Star), each with its own properties. I have commented on the subspecies of hobbits that…

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….

Codename COBRA: measuring and comparing diversity

One of the great discoveries of the last century was in the value of diversity, and biodiversity in particular. It is a lot easier to remove diversity than it is to maintain or improve it. Build a wall, chop down a forest patch, relax legislation and diversity will tend to…

What’s up with NZ sand dune habitats? Do a PhD and find out

Opportunity for PhD study: Quantifying ecosystem function in New Zealand sand dune habitats Understanding causes of variation in ecosystem function is critical for conserving and restoring ecosystems in the face of global change processes, such as climate change, land use change and species invasions. Key functions of sand dune ecosystems…

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…

Pack up you troubles: saving entire ecosystems from climate change by moving them

As the climate continues to change, entire ecosystems are becoming increasingly threatened by shifting abiotic conditions. Many communities of plants and animals that are part of these threatened ecosystems have a limited ability to disperse to more amenable habitats.  While climate change may make some sites uninhabitable for a given community, it…

Predafiles: how to solve the problem of pest mammals in NZ

Pest mammal control, in particular the use of 1080, has long been a hot topic in New Zealand. Feratox owner, Jeremy Kerr did an excellent job of reigniting the 1080 debate last year when he threatened to contaminate baby powder with the toxin. The media storm that followed highlighted the polarising nature…

Don’t disturb the New Zealanders: our effect on native plants

Although the 40-hour long flight to New Zealand was long and tiring, it took me no longer than an hour to be surprised by how many European plants there were in Christchurch. Some of my favorite plants from home flower were here in abundance. At the same time, it is…

Small pieces of marine species in seal faeces

It’s always intriguing discovering what people like to eat. Eating is a reasonably private process. Sure we can go out for meals with friends or grab a bite with colleagues but we are choosing from a restricted menu (and the food on offer is different to what you would have…