Romeo and Juliweta: kissing cousins or rival families?

Romeo and Juliet. Star-crossed lovers from two feuding families. What makes this story so epic, and such a tragedy, is that the Capulet and Montague families are such bitter enemies. The star-crossed lovers have it all in front of them if they want love to triumph. They might ask themselves…

No Buzz, No Food, No Joke.

Decline of insect pollination and its economic effect on NZ crop production. Honey Bee in Apple Tree My earliest memory of wanting to become a scientist goes way back. I was only 8 years old when I imagined myself lying somewhere in the Amazon, observing the behaviour of small mammals…

About The Seal’s Latest Meals

Soon after their arrival, human settlers started to hunt the New Zealand fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri) from the islands’ shores and in its sounds. The pinnipeds were harvested for their meat by Maori, as well as by Europeans, who in addition found them quite useful for their fur (hence their…

Sitting on the Fence: Are Predator-Proof Fences a Solution to New Zealand’s Biodiversity Challenges?

Only about a third of New Zealanders are concerned about their country’s species, while most of the public believes that native animals and plants are in a good state. In a way, it does make sense to think that New Zealand’s biodiversity is doing well. The country has a rich…

Kicking up a stink for the beneficial re-use of biosolids

Just 5.5% of New Zealand soils have enough natural fertility for food production. Yet here in NZ, with our trademark ‘no.8 wire can-do’ attitude, you’ll find we manage to produce a very large amount of food. When you think about it though, that’s a hefty amount of no. 8 wire…

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…