Posts written by Lara Shepherd

Local botanist awarded the Allan Mere

Aciphylla lecomtei J.W.Dawson, collected 05 Mar 1978, Hector Mts., New Zealand. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (SP065502)

Retired Wellington botanist Dr John Dawson was presented the Allan Mere today. This award, administered by the New Zealand Botanical Society, recognises botanists who have made an outstanding contribution to New Zealand botany. John’s research as an academic at Victoria University of Wellington focused on the plant families Apiaceae (carrot family) and Myrtaceae (myrtle family). John wrote… Read more »

How to deal with human DNA contamination of your DNA sequencing: an example from a Malawian dance garment.

Dance garment, c. 1900, Malawi (Chewa culture), Photograph by Kate Whitley. Copyright Te Papa MA_I.374711

You’ve probably seen forensic scientists on TV taking swabs and fingerprints from crime scenes. They aren’t wearing labcoats, hairnets and gloves to look cool but to prevent them contaminating their forensic evidence with their own DNA. But how do scientists deal with items that are already contaminated with unwanted human DNA? I recently encountered this… Read more »

When do crops lose genetic variation? The case of rengarenga.

The delicate flowers of rengarenga with their multicoloured stamens.

The shift from hunting and gathering to cultivating crops and livestock was one of the most important developments in human history. But despite its significance, many questions still remain about how crops were first domesticated. One much debated question has been at what point during domestication is genetic diversity lost? Many modern crops have very… Read more »

Introducing Imber’s petrel: a new recently extinct seabird species for New Zealand

Holotype of Imber’s petrel. Sampling bones for DNA typically involves drilling holes or cutting chunks out of them. However, for this bone we were able to soak DNA out of the bone without damaging it.

New Zealand has a new species of seabird. Te Papa scientists recently described Imber’s petrel (Pterodroma imberi) from the Chatham Islands as a new species. A previous study that measured a large number of seabird bones from the Chatham Islands found three size categories.   The largest bones belong to the Magenta petrel/taiko (Pterodroma magentae)… Read more »

Te Papa’s new DNA lab is up and running.

Te Papa Botany curator Carlos Lehnebach looking at spider orchid DNA in the new lab.

Last week I performed the first DNA extraction in Te Papa’s brand new genetics laboratory. Our lab is the first genetics lab in a New Zealand museum and will allow Te Papa scientists to analyse the DNA of our unique plants and animals. Genetic information is increasingly being used to examine the relationships between species and help us… Read more »

Meet three new species of hagfish

Like something out of a horror movie the common hagfish (Eptatretus cirrhatus) bares its teeth. Photo: Carl Struthers. Copyright Te Papa

A new paper by Te Papa researchers and their colleagues from Massey University, NIWA and the Swedish Museum of Natural History, describes not one but THREE new species of hagfish. This increases the total number species found in New Zealand waters to eight. What are hagfish? These strange creatures, also called snot eels, lack jaws… Read more »

Last week Te Papa Botany curator Leon Perrie and I attended the Uawa BioBlitz in Tolaga Bay. Organized by the Allan Wilson Centre and Groundtruth, the BioBlitz was an intense 24 hours of species discovery. Scientists from a variety of organisations were joined by members of the local community, including kids from the Tolaga Bay… Read more »