Posts categorized as Research

Speargrass weevils thriving on Mana Island

  • A Wellington speargrass weevil browses on an Aciphylla squarrosa leaf, Mana Island. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Speargrass (Aciphylla squarrosa) in flower, Mana Island, November 2015. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Feeding sign left by a Wellington speargrass weevil after browsing on an Aciphylla squarrosa flowerstalk, Mana Island, November 2015. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Aerial view of the west coast of Mana Island, January 2015. Speargrass weevils were released at the left-centre of the image, between the track and the cliff-top. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

Weevils get a lot of bad press. A few species are serious crop pests or despoilers of cereal products, and they give the rest of the family a bad name. In New Zealand, a dozen or so weevil species and populations are recognised as being threatened with extinction, and Wellington speargrass weevils (Lyperobius huttoni) are… Read more »

Goodbye to the lettuce liverwort – it’s going extinct

A cluster of Petalophyllum preissii plants, with my finger for scale. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

A highlight of my recent South Island fieldwork was helping to survey the last remaining New Zealand population of the liverwort Petalophyllum preissii.  It’s a distinctive looking plant, a bit like a little lettuce, and about the size of a fingernail. Seeing it was special because I likely won’t have the opportunity again.  You’ll probably never… Read more »

Scientists meet Scientists: ECE ‘Back of House’ Visits (Group 1: Imagine Childcare)

Ricardo sharing about beetles, Photographer: Imagine Childcare, © Te Papa

Throughout 2015, young children from three Wellington regional Early Childhood Centres (ECE) have been thinking and working as scientists as part of the ‘It’s a Bugs Life’ partnership project with Te Papa Education. In celebration of the mahi (work), their teachers and educators from Te Papa arranged for the children to come and meet with more experienced scientists working here at Te Papa. In… Read more »

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 »

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 »