Popping the seal: The fall and rise of the New Zealand fur seal population

One of my favorite places is the Catlins, a wild area of dripping bush, rugged southerlies, untouched beaches, and abundant wildlife in the far south-east South Island. There are some great spots within the Catlins, but the one I go back to time after time is The Nuggets. This area is a peninsula…

Caught in a trap? The surprising journey of the New Zealand trapdoor spider

Back in 2015, my supervisor (Adrian Paterson)wrote about how I used tethered beetles to collect trapdoor spiders (genus Cantuaria) without harming the beetles, spiders, or their habitat. I needed to collect those spiders for my PhD research into their biogeography (where they live), ecology (how they live), and conservation (if…

Ready to fire: flammability traits may allow manuka to dominate

Marley Hill, Port Hills, ablaze CC-By-NC Jon Sullivan Some of my strongest memories are associated with fire. There is the satisfaction of splitting and stockpiling wood for the winter. The excitement of giant bonfires on Guy Fawkes Night and at parties growing up (especially the massive one we had on our…

Goblins, orcs and Uruk Hai: taxonomy and Tolkien

Tolkien knew the value of naming. More than that, he knew the value of understanding and labeling diversity. Tolkien was not satisfied with simply mentioning pipeweed, he needed to mention several varieties (Longbottom Leaf, Old Toby, Southern Star), each with its own properties. I have commented on the subspecies of hobbits that…

Explaining science: laypeople, layers of meaning and lazy writing

I would estimate that about half of my time as a University lecturer is in writing/reading science. The vast amount of this is either writing or reading articles by scientists written for scientists. Science writing values precision over clarity and a layperson has very little chance of easily following along….

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…

Will they tern up?

Courtney Hamblin is doing a Master of Science at Lincoln University. Here she tells us about her current research. We have all experienced that moment of anxiety and anticipation: you have organised an event or party and you nervously await the arrival of your first guests. You know people have…

Darwin and the Sandwalk: performance-based research

One thing that Darwin didn’t have to contend with, being independently wealthy, was research income. In New Zealand we are going into the last phase of the current cycle where every few years all scientists are assessed. Through this assessment research funding is apportioned to our research institutions from the…

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…

Darwin and the Sandwalk: Presidents

The more things change…. I doubt that the world of 1855 Britain was as concerned with the USA presidency as we all are today. But if they were then the then current President Franklin Pierce (usually counted as one of the worst presidents) was doing things that were very concerning…