Zombies of Zealandia? A Halloween review of the Ghosts of Gondwana

(This review was published in the New Zealand Ecological Society newsletter no. 160, July 2017, pp 22-24)   Earlier this year I was in the Southern Alps with a first year field trip where we look at the geology of the region and what it tells us about the biological…

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…

When history is evolution: the seals of Banks Peninsula

Recently, I caught up with an old school friend. It seems a long time since we played aspects of the same character in the musical “I was a teenage Jekyll and Hyde” at South Otago High School. Brent has a successful career as a history teacher, publishing text books and generally…

Caring for the invaders: How bad are botanic gardens for nature conservation?

What Granny loves to have flowering colourfully in her front-yard, might drive conservation biologists into despair. But why should they be so concerned? Isn’t a plant a plant, a flower a flower, the more colourful, the better? Conservation biologists put plants into two different categories: native and non-native. The non-native species…

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…

Kate Bush and the mongoose: character displacement and release

When my sons look back on their childhoods they will likely remember many things. Lots of cricket. Great holidays in the Catlins full of boogie boards and board games. Our big old house that could hold as many friends as they cared to bring home. And too much Kate Bush. As…

Concerning hobbits and NZ grass grub

   I’ve suggested before that The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien is a great way to prepare a young person for a career in biogeography. I would go further and suggest that The Lord of the Rings is a great way to prepare someone for ecology and evolution…

Staying with your relatives at the beach

Most years of my life I have spent the summer holidays staying at a beach. Usually the beach is at Kaka Point, a great sandy beach at the northern end of the Catlins in southern South Island. New Zealand has an enormous coastline full of beaches, most  further north and…

Humans help aliens invade!

Alien species are also known as invasive species. They can be any kind of organism that is not native to an ecosystem, which causes harm to the environment, the economy, human health or conservation and biodiversity. When an alien species is introduced to an ecosystem it may not have any natural predators…