Tree guards and weed mats: is protection worth the cost?

Back when I started as a fresh-faced lecturer at Lincoln University in the mid 90s I contributed to a third year class called Wildlife Management.  Graham Hickling was the main lecturer and provided the heft of wildlife management. He had lots of hands-on experience in working with possums, stoats, rabbits…

Can a micro-organism help replace fossil fuels with biofuels?

The world we are living in is so dynamic and vibrant. Let’s imagine for a while. What if the world suddenly runs out of coal, gas and oil. It is not hard to predict that the vehicle tanks would become dry, airplanes would be grounded, many industrial processes would be halted,…

A range of different ferns

The fern is emblematic of New Zealand, appearing on most of our national sports teams and as a default for our nonofficial flag. The fern seems like a good choice to represent the people and places on our shaky islands. Ferns are unassuming, green and not flashy, getting their ecosystems…

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…

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…

What’s up with alpine tussock grasslands? Do a PhD and find out!

A great deal of our ecological understanding of community patterns and processes is based on ‘snap-shot’ and short-term datasets. Research using long-term and time series data shows that community datasets collected over longer periods of time can be critical for predicting change. We are looking to recruit one or more…

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…

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…

Habitat invasion in the Southern Alps: why no forest-orcs in Middle-earth?

I guess I was always destined to spend my life in evolution and ecology. I distinctly remember from an early age, as I read through The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, worrying about the orcs. Not whether they are scary and nasty, that was a given, but rather how they…

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…