A lousy chat about the Chathams

As a lecturer you spend a lot of time talking to people. With a bit of practice most lecturers can easily fill 50 minutes with facts, figures and opinions. I enjoy talking to students (and enjoy it more when they talk back!). One thing that is a little novel is…

Buoyant moas and overweight explorers

The Third Combined meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Entomological Societies Conference has just concluded here at Lincoln University. Four days of good talks and plenaries. About 200 participants, of whom about a third were postgraduate students, made for much excellent discussion. I was involved in the opening symposium…

The origin of the Chatham Islands’ flora

The Chatham Island archipelago lies over 800 km to the east of mainland New Zealand. There are two major islands, Chatham and Pitt, and several smaller islands. Humans have lived on the islands for a few hundred years. There is a good level of diversity of species in the archipelago….

Questioning the drowning

One of the contentious debates in New Zealand biogeography (the science of explaining the geographical distribution of species) is about what happened at the end of the Oligocene period (24-21 million years ago). We have known for a long time that most of New Zealand’s current land area was underwater…

Talking about the drowning

I had the unnerving experience of watching myself give a conference presentation yesterday. In February I attended the BioEd Darwin 200 conference held in Christchurch, New Zealand and gave a talk in the teaching evolution symposium entitled “Drowning Zealandia, flying moa, ancient mammals: teaching the controversies from current New Zealand…

The oceanic islands of continental New Zealand

It would seem like a no-brainer to suggest that New Zealand is made up of a group of oceanic islands. After all, New Zealand IS a group of islands set in, what can only be described as ocean; with plenty of it in all directions. However, most descriptions about the…

The fall and rise of New Zealand

There are two things that we know for certain about the geological history of New Zealand. First, the land area that is now modern New Zealand was part of Gondwanaland until about 83 million years ago. Second, modern New Zealand is isolated from other large landmasses by thousands of kilometres…

The different meanings of ‘Gondwanan’

Tuatara, leiopelmatid frogs, weta (Orthoptera), peripatus (Onychophora), southern beech (Nothofagus) and kauri (Agathis australis) and other New Zealand species are often referred to as Gondwanan taxa. What does this mean? Gondwanaland was a large landmass made up of the southern continents that slowly broke apart through Jurassic and Cretaceous time….