Playing favourites – using calls to save the kokako from extinction

Moving to a new city can be a stressful yet exciting situation. Whether you move for a job, to learn a new language or just to get a fresh new start, you are facing a life-changing experience. For wildlife, moving permanently from one location to another can be a life-saving…

Raising chicks: Why invest, when there is no test?

Although house chores are usually shared among those living together, the concept of women being responsible for a tidy house and everybody’s full tummies is still present in our societies. The same applies to raising children, as women are often, once again, expected to invest more time with their kids…

Plane and simple: your travel is ruining the planet

The glaciers are melting; polar bears are starving; and many small islands are slowly drowning. “Quickly book this flight to Iceland before the snow disappears completely, you don’t want to miss out on the beautiful glaciers there”, a voice whispers in my ear. “You are selfish”, another voice comes to…

On triumphant penguins and tennis players

I have been a sports-fan all my life. One of my biggest passions is tennis. As a child I played tennis in a small tennis club in Germany. When I think back to this time, many special “tennis sounds” come to my mind. Tennis is a very auditory sport. Close…

For every season, tern, turn

Nothing is permanent. As an evolutionary biologist I am very used to the concept of change, especially slow change over long periods. As an animal behaviour scientist I am used to the concept for very rapid change over short periods. Some of my career has been spent in reconciling the…

How we used the leopard’s spots

Humans love to tell stories about the things that they see around them. All cultures have creation stories about why the world is the way it is. At a personal level we like to think that there is a narrative to our lives. No one really likes the thought that…

The elephant in the room

Many things affect our lives. Only some of these things get the notice that they deserve. We tend to fixate on the big, flashy events, while other linked events, just as important, are overlooked. One big and flashy event in my life was the Canterbury Quakes. The 7.1 quake of September…

Taking pictures of cats… for science (honest!)

I’m sure, when the internet was in its infancy, that nobody thought a major use would be for sharing photos and videos of cats. Cats have covevolved with humans for thousands of years. If we ever needed an example of how much they control that interaction then this flood of…

Black-fronted terns, Potemkin villages and Catherine the Great

As an evolutionary biologist I am interested in the history of life and how it got to this wild, crazy biodiverse natural world. I am also interested in history in the more usual sense, how we got to this wild, crazy and diverse human world. Sometimes these interests intersect. Another…

The leopard, the which? and the wardrobe

There are very few lions in New Zealand. Or leopards. Or tigers. In fact, the only big cats that we have are, well, big cats. Once, when I was about 10, three circus lions escaped in the small town of Lawrence, not far from where I grew up. Or you…