Posts categorized as Biodiversity

Solomon Islands’ Expedition: the ferns

The frond underside of the weedy Pityrogramma calomelanos fern is coated in white powder. It can be knocked off to make fern patterns. Photos Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

During the recent expedition to central Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, my job was to document the ferns and lycophytes. This was at the invitation of Marika Tuiwawa (University of South Pacific) who led the expedition’s plant team. It built on my previous experience working with ferns in Fiji, New Caledonia, Australia, and New Zealand. (As… Read more »

Solomon Islands’ Expedition: the camp

Part of the main sleeping area at Valevahalo. “Beverley Hills” is on the ridge in the background, and the kitchen down the other side of that ridge. Photo Leon Perrie. (c) Te Papa.

Valevahalo was the main camp for our recent Solomon Islands’ expedition. Sited at about 800 m above sea level, it is deep in the jungle of the northern foothills of Guadalcanal’s Mount Popomanaseu. I was there for eight nights, with two additional nights at a satellite camp at the nearby Haviha River. For background on the expedition,… Read more »

Native re-vegetation & weed collecting in Wellington’s greenbelt

Tim Park, Wellington City Council Biodiversity Officer. Standing next to some well established wharangi (Melicope ternata) plantings on Mount Victoria. Image: Antony Kusabs, Te Papa.

I recently tagged along with Wellington City Council’s Environment Partnership Leader, Tim Park to visit some native re-vegetation sites in Wellington’s town belt. Why is Wellington City planting native plants? Wellington City Council has a policy of replacing pine forest with native plantings in the town belt as pine trees die or are toppled by… 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 »

Plant collecting in south Canterbury and Marlborough

On our first collecting day, we set a new elevation record for Te Papa’s new 4WD, with 1100 m on Mount Studholme near Waimate.  We smashed that with 1700 m on our last collecting day, on top of Marlborough’s Black Birch Range.  The snow-capped Tapuae-o-Uenuku of the Inland Kaikoura Range is the backdrop. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

An important function for Te Papa’s natural history collections is to document the plants and animals we have in New Zealand. What species are present, how can they be distinguished, and where do they occur? These questions need addressing before our biodiversity, both indigenous and exotic, can be managed in an informed manner. It is… 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 »

Bolstering local plant populations through propagation

Muehlenbeckia astonii SinclairHead 10_reduced

Increasing plant populations through propagation is one way to help threatened species.  Last week, Wellington City Council biodiversity staff collected cuttings and seed from several plant populations in the Te Kopahou area on the coast south of Wellington.  I tagged along. The targeted species Spectacular, steep habitat Wellington’s south coast is a spectacular landscape, and… Read more »

Today is World Habitat Day and this week is World Space Week. I’m observing both of these events by databasing bryophyte (moss and liverwort) botany specimens which are habitat for space travellers. Bryophytes are among the ‘preferred’ habitat for microscopic animals called tardigrades, otherwise known as waterbears or moss piglets.  Although, tardigrades aren’t that fussy about… Read more »