Posts categorized as Biodiversity

Re-planting New Zealand

Karo (Pittosporum crassifolium), which is native to the northern North Island, smothering the locally-native Melicytus obovatus at Titahi Bay, Wellington.  Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

In regard to Bob Brockie’s recent article in the Dominion Post (24 June 2013, page A8), here is some rationale for viewpoints about plants that some commentators have teasingly called “eco-fascism”. Instead, they are logical expressions about the conservation of New Zealand’s biota and ecosystems, including their genetic integrity. For any effort claiming to be… Read more »

New Zealand plants abroad part 2: the troublemakers.

Cordyline australis on the Munro Trail, Lanai Island, Hawaii. Photo by Forest and Kim Starr (http://www.starrenvironmental.com/)

My previous blog featured New Zealand native plants that are cultivated overseas. However, some of our native plants, including many of the species I recently saw in UK gardens, have gone ‘rogue’ and are considered invasive species in some countries. For example our pohutukawa (New Zealand Christmas tree; Metrosideros excelsa) is invading parts of South… Read more »

For the love of birds

NZ Birds Online screenshot - Tiny forest birds

We have recently launched NZ Birds Online, an encyclopaedia of New Zealand birds. I have been involved in this project for 18 months, from the IT side of things, and it’s been an absolute pleasure all along! I’m an identification geek (among other geekily obsessions). If I have taken a photo of a fern, or… Read more »

Learn ferns in Wellington, 2

Are you interested in learning more about ferns, and in the Wellington region? The talk in March was so popular that Otari have asked me back for round two.  I’ll lead a walking-talk through the fernery at the wonderful Otari-Wilton’s Bush, Sunday 23rd June 2013, beginning 2pm from the Otari Information Centre. Interested in learning… Read more »

Ferns of Bristol’s stone walls

  • Maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes). Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.
  • Common polypody (Polypodium vulgare). Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.
  • Two forms of wall rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria). The plant on the right reminds me of New Zealand blanket fern. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd
  • The sori of Asplenium scolopendrium, said to look like centipede legs. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd

Whilst recently holidaying in Bristol in the UK I was amazed at the abundance and variety of ferns growing on the stone walls around the city.  The spleenwort or Asplenium ferns seem to be the most common ferns of this habitat. This genus also occurs in New Zealand and includes our hen and chickens fern. … Read more »

Compensating for ecological harm

Within the site of the proposed mine at Denniston.  Photo Leon Perrie. (c) Te Papa.

Economic development can have adverse effects on the natural environment. Nowadays, many developments involve mitigating negative effects or compensating for them by ‘trading’ a positive outcome in return for permission to proceed. But how effective are these compensatory efforts in New Zealand? Answer: oftentimes, not very, according to one of the talks at the recent… Read more »

Plant Conservation Conference and weedy native plants

Pittosporum crassifolium (karo) is native to the northern North Island. However, it has been widely cultivated, and is now spreading aggressively in many places. In Titahi Bay, karo threatens to displace locally-native species, including some of conservation significance. In the photo, karo is overtopping, and will eventually displace, the locally-native Melicytus obovatus. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa

I’m just back from the 2013 conference of the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network, where I presented a talk about weedy native plants. The programme of talks included updates on the conservation status of New Zealand’s plants, and the new system being implemented by the Department of Conservation to prioritise management of ecosystems and species…. Read more »

Behind the scenes: A week in the life of a natural history curator

  • A wing being prepared by Catherine for incorporation into the collection.
  • Alan with a shearwater skeleton prepared by Catherine.
  • Alan looking through Te Papa's prion skin collection.
  • Alan and Trish looking at birds eggs in Te Papa's collection. Te Papa has recently improved their storage method of these fragile items.

What does a Te Papa curator do? I spent last week following Te Papa’s terrestrial vertebrate curator Alan Tennyson to find out. Here are some of the main highlights:  Visitors Monday saw Alan meet with Trish Nugent-Lyne, a collection manager at Whanganui Regional Museum. Te Papa staff are helping Trish prepare an articulated dog skeleton… Read more »

How to DNA sex birds.

Sex chromosomes in birds and mammals.

The males and females of many bird species are difficult to distinguish by their appearance (peacocks are a notable exception). There are many situations where it is useful to know the sex of birds including captive breeding programmes, behavioural studies and even species delimitation in extinct taxa. DNA sexing provides a simple and quick way… Read more »