Posts categorized as Research

Wildlife highlights of Disappointment Island

  • Captive Auckland Island rail. Photograph by Rod Morris. Department of Conservation
  • Auckland Island snipe. Photograph by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Gibson’s albatross pair displaying, Disappointment Island (main Auckland Island in background). Photograph by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Colin Miskelly with a lesser fulmar prion chick extracted from a muddy burrow, Disappointment Island. Photograph by Kevin Parker. Parker Conservation

Bird expert Colin Miskelly recently joined an albatross research team on the rarely visited Disappointment Island in the subantarctic Auckland Islands. But he was on a separate mission to research the more secretive species on this misnamed gem of an island. An inappropriate name There are few places on the planet with more inappropriate names than… Read more »

A trip to remote Tokelau: Life a few metres above sea level

Aerial view of Atafu atoll

The Pacific island nation of Tokelau is one of the most remote places on the planet, and, with the entire country sitting metres above sea level, one of the most under threat from climate change. Media creator Kate Whitley describes the journey to this vulnerable ‘necklace of small islands’. In November 2017 a small group… Read more »

Further flax weevil finds from farthest Fiordland

  • Flax weevil on Round Island, Preservation Inlet. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Southern Winds in Cascade Basin at the head of Long Sound. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Flax weevil larvae, Preservation Inlet, November 2017. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Sites where flax weevil feeding sign was noted in Chalky and Preservation Inlets in November 2017. Red arrows show islands where live flax weevils were found. Map based on NatureWatch sightings contributed by the Te Papa and DOC team.

Until 2016, flax weevils (large flightless protected beetles) were known from a single island in Fiordland. Recent surveys by Te Papa and Department of Conservation staff have now found evidence of them on a further 56 Fiordland islands. Here, Te Papa scientist Dr Colin Miskelly reports on the latest findings from remote southern Fiordland. What… Read more »

Seabird discoveries in remote southern Fiordland

  • Colin Miskelly searching for petrel burrows on one of the ‘Fingers’ of Five Fingers Peninsula, Resolution Island, with the Southern Winds below. Photo by Alan Tennyson. Te Papa
  • A broad-billed prion chick on an islet off the southern Fiordland coast. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Team members landing on outer Garden Island, Chalky Inlet. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • A broad-billed prion (left) and an Antarctic prion (right), Chalky Inlet, November 2017. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa

Te Papa scientists Alan Tennyson and Colin Miskelly recently joined a Department of Conservation-led survey of seabird colonies in remote Chalky Inlet and Preservation Inlet in southern Fiordland. The team made the most of an extended spell of fine weather to land on an astonishing 77 islands. Vertebrate curator Dr Colin Miskelly here summarises some… Read more »

Martinborough’s cave of bones: How thousands of flightless birds met their end

Adzebill skulls

Fossilised bird grave sites are common in New Zealand, but one particular cave in Martinborough has revealed thousands of bones of flightless birds who plunged to their deaths. Curator of vertebrates Alan Tennyson describes how over thousands of years rare and extinct birds such kakapo, kiwi, North Island takahe, and moa fell through the concealed… Read more »

‘Please do not bite the books’ and other comical library rules

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Would you walk into a library with a dirty face? Take a bite out of one of the books? Or LIE to the librarian?  Librarian Martin Lewis (@rarebookguy) reveals comical library rules from history and shares his five commandments to ensure happy books and librarians.  No dirty faces and no lies in the library Libraries have funny… Read more »

Dr Mark Stocker, Curator Historical International Art, discusses his Collections Online summaries of Te Papa’s remarkable Rembrandt holdings. Sharing Rembrandt with the world Digital technology and art history scholarship/curation are a marriage made in heaven, believe me. Over the past few weeks, I’ve written database web summaries of every Rembrandt – and wannabe Rembrandt – in… Read more »

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 »