Wondering about wandering possums: Understanding possum movement will save our livestock

New Zealand is home to many introduced species, some of which pose threats to the native flora and fauna. One such “invader” is the brushtail possum, a cat-sized and nocturnal marsupial introduced into New Zealand during the Nineteenth Century, for the fur industry. Possums have big impacts not only on the…

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…

Thinking caps, gumboots & restoration: more questions than answers

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be on an Ecology ELLS (European Life Sciences) course run by Lincoln University. The course looks at “how restoration of plant communities can be used to resolve land degradation and contamination issues, through re-integrating biodiversity into human-modified ecosystems.” (ECOL697). This intensive two and a half…

Nothing to see here: the case of the disappearing katipo

 Mislaid. We’ve all done it. We all have things that we know that we had once but can no longer find. From a stray sock to our hopes and dreams, life is full of lost things. Sometimes things are just gone. The broken vase, the wrecked lamp, the old decrepit chair…

Ecology by the numbers

It is probably safe to say that the job description of an ecologist in 2016 is quite different from that of an ecologist back in the 1970’s or 1980’s. Our work today involves computer programs and fancy technology, some of which make our work much easier. But some appear to make…

Fishing for possum DNA

“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” is a reasonably  well known quote from Theodosius Dobzhansky. It makes the point that we never really understand biology until we see it through an evolutionary filter. In recent years we could play with this quote and say “Everything in biology can make…

Overseer: modelling nitrogen losses from farmland

Estimating the loss of nutrients from various land uses, and in particular intensive farming land uses, is very topical. The recently amended National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management now requires regional councils to set water quality limits for water bodies based on the value the local community feel the water…

The things we leave behind

Sometimes I wonder what people would be able to deduce about me from looking at my office. If someone came in snooping I’m sure that they would get some understanding of me, even if I was absent, simply by looking at what I leave behind. Of course there are some…

Counting Katipo and the known unknowns

Former US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld made the following observation: “because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things that we know that we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But…