Posts categorized as Science

Election 2017: Voting for the environment

This watercolour by Fanny Osborne of Adam’s mistletoe reminds us of its beauty.  At the time, it was known as Loranthus adamsii. It became extinct in the 1950s, probably because of forest clearance and possum browsing along with loss of pollinators and dispersers caused by introduced animals. Image copyright Auckland Museum; reproduced courtesy of Auckland Museum.

This is a series on five major election issues seen through the eyes of the national museum. In the lead-up to the 2017 General Election, we have linked each of these issues to an object, or a programme, run by Te Papa. In this post, Curator Botany Leon Perrie writes about the Environment. Some commentators… 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 »

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 »

Help us identify some 17th century butterflies, moths, and bugs: Part II

Hollar blog 2 plate 9

This is the second part to Dr Mark Stocker’s series of blogs asking you to help identify a number of butterflies, moths, and other insects in a series of 17th century prints by Anglo-Czech etcher Wenceslaus Hollar. Mark has been working with Te Papa bug experts Dr Phil Sirvid and Dr Julia Kasper to identify the insects but they… 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 »

Metamorphosis and pineapples: The illustrations of Maria Sibylla Merian

Detail from The Surinam Album

Who was Maria Sibylla Merian? Librarian Christine Kiddey uncovers the fascinating story of the woman behind the remarkable The Surinam Album, full of lavish illustrations of flora and fauna from the former Dutch colony of Suriname in South America. Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) was born in Frankfurt into a family of artists and book publishers, and… Read more »

Help us identify some 17th century butterflies, moths, and bugs

Hollar blog 6

Think you know your bugs? Art curator Dr Mark Stocker has been working on a project along with our bug experts, Dr Phil Sirvid and Dr Julia Kasper, to identify a number of butterflies, moths, and other insects (including a snail) in some 17th century prints by Anglo-Czech etcher Wenceslaus Hollar. But they haven’t managed to identify them… Read more »

At Te Papa we’re constantly photographing our collection items – whether that be art works, historical objects, or scientific specimens.  Recently, our imaging specialist Jean-Claude Stahl has taken pictures of some bizarre creatures – water bears, also known as tardigrades. Here, Jean-Claude explains why photographing a water bear is such a ‘bugbear’ and bug expert Phil Sirvid fills us in… Read more »