Posts categorized as Research

Myosotis hunting in the deep south

  • Here I am making a research collection of Myosotis rakiura for the museum from Curio Bay, December 2016 (SP105593). Photo by John Barkla.
  • A little mud won't stop us finding the forget-me-nots... Although it might slow us down a bit. Here I am up to my knees in mud on the way to Doughboy Hut, Stewart Island! December 2016. Photo by John Barkla.
  • John and Mathew tramping between Mason Bay and Doughboy Bay on Stewart Island. We had to be completely self-sufficient on this part of the trip, each carrying about 15kg of food, clothing and botany collecting gear on our backs, and staying in DOC huts. December 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt @ Te Papa.
  • A small clump of Myosotis rakiura plants on Solander Island, July 2017. Photo by Tim Poupard.

Field work is a key part of scientific research at Te Papa. Each year, Research Scientist Heidi Meudt spends about three weeks in the field collecting specimens for her taxonomic research on native New Zealand Myosotis. In December 2016, she recently traveled to the southern South Island and Stewart Island together with Collection Manager Ant Kusabs to hunt… Read more »

Extracting DNA from dried plants – with an eraser

Hen and chickens fern after sampling with an eraser. This species has delicate fronds so the stem was sampled instead. Sampling site is arrowed.

Until now, it hasn’t been possible to get the DNA out of a pressed dried plant (herbarium specimen) without destroying part of it by removing a leaf and grinding it up.  But new research by scientist Lara Shepherd has proven that you can use an eraser to ‘rub off’ the DNA. Read Lara’s paper A non-destructive DNA sampling technique… Read more »

Kōwhai seeds on Kermadec and Chatham Islands’ beaches

The bight yellow seeds of kōwhai are a familiar sight on New Zealand beaches.

Plants have many ways to disperse their seeds to a suitable spot where they can germinate. Kōwhai trees have bright yellow seeds that have the amazing ability to float on water, including across oceans. Experiments have shown that kōwhai seeds can remain afloat in seawater for years and still germinate. Recent research led by scientist Lara… Read more »

The distribution of kōwhai and its close relatives throughout the Southern Hemisphere has intrigued scientists, including Charles Darwin, for over 150 years. Recent research led by Lara Shepherd has revealed more about the relationships among this iconic group of plants. Sophora sect. Edwardsia is a group of 19 species of small trees or shrubs mostly… Read more »

In photos: Giant eggs, tiny eggs, and the eggceptionally rare

  • Eggstremes. South Island giant moa and rifleman eggs to the same scale. Specimens ME.012749 and OR.007264 (latter collected by Captain John Bollons at Akaroa, date unknown). Photogtaph by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa
  • Laughing owl egg (44.2 mm x 39.5 mm). Locality and date unknown. Specimen OR.030062. Photograph by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa
  • New Zealand dotterel clutch, Maketu Spit, Bay of Plenty, October 2011. Specimen OR.029416, eggs approx. 45 mm x 32 mm. Photograph by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa
  • South Island kokako egg (42.0 mm x 27.4 mm), Hokitika, date unknown. Specimen OR.007626. Photograph by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa

Bird expert Colin Miskelly highlights some of the treasures in our egg collection, including those thought to be held only by Te Papa – as well as giant moa eggs, tiny rifleman eggs, and eggs that were acquired during dramatic events in New Zealand’s conservation history. Digitising our egg collection Most of the bird eggs held… Read more »

Meeting a man I will never know: Jonathan Mane-Wheoki

Ruby stands with some boxes in Te Papa's archives

Ruby Abraham, a Museum and Heritage Studies student at Victoria University, has spent the last 5 weeks on placement at Te Papa working intimately with the archive donated by Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (1943-2014). She explains how she’s got to know Jonathan (and the Ke Emu database) through processing and cataloguing his archive. When I began my placement at Te… Read more »

The heaviest, smallest, oldest, and smelliest books in our library

small-book-parrot-2017-te-papa-2000

Our Research Librarian Martin Lewis, aka @RareBookGuy, takes a look at some of the more unusual questions he has received on tours of the Te Papa library collection. Part of my role at Te Papa includes giving tours, working with school groups, and hosting visiting researchers. You can never predict what visitors will ask on a tour,… Read more »

A new bird for New Zealand – Cox’s sandpiper

  • New Zealand’s first Cox’s sandpiper, Lake Ellesmere, November 2016. Photograph: Michael Ashbee, NZ Birds Online
  • Pectoral sandpiper. Photograph: Steve Attwood, NZ Birds Online
  • Curlew sandpiper. Photograph: Neil Fitzgerald, NZ Birds Online
  • Sharp-tailed sandpiper. Photograph: Tony Whitehead, NZ Birds Online

The latest addition to the New Zealand bird list is a legendary shorebird so rare that there are times when it is likely that none exist anywhere in the world. Bird expert Colin Miskelly introduces the Cox’s sandpiper. Sandpipers are small wading birds that separate people with a serious interest in bird identification from casual… Read more »

Coastal kōwhai in the south of its range – natural or planted?

Coastal kōwhai (Sophora chathamica). This species can be distinguished from other kōwhai species by its overlapping leaflets and lack of divaricating stage when it is young. Photo by Leon Perrie.

Science researcher Lara Shepherd explores the distribution of kōwhai in New Zealand – largely found in the north and likely introduced in the south.  Coastal kōwhai (Sophora chathamica) has a very unusual distribution. Some of its outlying populations are suggested to have been planted by Maōri. We recently published our research studying the relationships of all eight New Zealand kōwhai… Read more »

What can kōwhai tell us about the location of New Zealand’s forests during the ice ages?

  • A flower-laded large-leaved kōwhai (Sophora tetraptera) from the Wairarapa. Photo: Leon Perrie
  • A flower-laded large-leaved kōwhai (Sophora tetraptera) from the Wairarapa.
  • Collecting genetic samples from prostrate kōwhai (Sophora prostrata) on the POrt Hills. This species is restricted to the eastern South Island and has zig-zag branches with small leaves and flowers. Photo: Leon Perrie.
  • Collecting genetic samples from prostrate kōwhai (Sophora prostrata) on the POrt Hills. This species is restricted to the eastern South Island and has zig-zag branches with small leaves and flowers. Photo: Leon Perrie.

Science researcher Lara Shepherd explores kōwhai trees, one of New Zealand’s most widely recognised native plants and our unofficial national flower. Did you realise that we actually have eight species of kōwhai in New Zealand? Our DNA research investigating the relationships of these kōwhai species and where kōwhai trees were located during the ice ages has… Read more »