Flowers: a pretty effective way to control insect crop pests

Flowering plants play a primary role in nature. Not only do they provide additional food sources, such as nectar or pollen, to a diversity of animals (like insects, birds, and spiders), but they also provide shelter for those creatures. The decline of insect populations, recently documented in parts of the…

The Price is always right!

I like to think that I am smart enough for what I do. I’ve published over 100 papers, supervised over 70 postgrads, lectured in topics from evolutionary biology, phylogenetics and taxonomy, to philosophy of biology. Obviously, there are lots of smarter people around me but I like to think that…

Alien invasions in progress

“Globalization is a fact, because of technology, because of an integrated global supply chain, because of changes in transportation. And we are not going to be able to build a wall around that.” This quote by Barack Obama, has even more relevance today than it had ten years ago. It…

Snails meet technology

What’s the first thing you think of when someone says the word ‘animal’? Perhaps your initial thoughts were of a lion, or a bear, an eagle, or even a whale. What about invertebrates, like snails and insects? They seldom cross your mind. That’s a shame, as they are fascinating animals?…

C’mon guys, let’s get forest-fire wise!

Ever since I was a child, I have been a nervous wreck of a person. I guess, with time, and the responsibilities of growing up, the nervousness and anxiety got worse. However, I was lucky enough to recognize I had a problem and did something about it. I received help…

Let’s all become Ecologists

Climate change, deforestation and human development. We are living in a rapidly changing world and nature is responding to those changes. It is a crucial part of ecology, and science in general, to understand natural responses, in order to protect and conserve nature. Understanding usually involves several well-trained scientists spending…

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…

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…

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…