Last week Te Papa Botany curator Leon Perrie and I attended the Uawa BioBlitz in Tolaga Bay. Organized by the Allan Wilson Centre and Groundtruth, the BioBlitz was an intense 24 hours of species discovery. Scientists from a variety of organisations were joined by members of the local community, including kids from the Tolaga Bay Area School, to find and record as many species as possible from the selected forest and marine sites.
Leon and I were focused on the botany and, although many of the plants we found were expected, we did see several individuals of the Naturally Uncommon fern Blechnum zeelandicum. Significant finds by others were the Nationally Vulnerable New Zealand dotterel, long fin eels, a gecko and possibly evidence of both of the remaining New Zealand bat species. Over 500 species were recorded.
Not only did members of the local community get to see how scientists work, but they also shared their own knowledge of the biota with us, including their Māori names and uses. Particularly exciting for me was getting to taste karaka kernels. These had been prepared by the grandmother of one of the students using a family recipe. Karaka were an important food source for Māori in pre-European times and are poisonous if not prepared correctly.
The highlight of the BioBlitz for me was the night walk, where the aim was to look for fish but we were distracted by the amazing invertebrates, including a mushroom-eating slug!