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 for some elusive forget-me-nots.
Myosotis rakiura on the Catlins coast
On this trip, we teamed up with colleagues Brian Rance and John Barkla (Department of Conservation), Mike Thorsen (ERA Ecology), and keen student Mathew Rees (Kew Gardens).
We wanted to find and collect two species of Myosotis that I had not yet seen in the field: Myosotis rakiura (restricted to Southland, Stewart Island, and Solander Island), and M. tenericaulis (known from few sites on all three main New Zealand islands).
In addition to making collections and taking photos for research, we also wanted to get good estimates of the number of plants at each site, as both plants are listed as At Risk – Naturally Uncommon on the New Zealand Threatened Vascular Plant List.
The first day of our trip was spent driving along the spectacular Catlins coast of the southeastern South Island, visiting three sites where M. rakiura had been collected or seen in the past: Bluff, Curio Bay, and Purakaunui.
We were stoked to find plants of M. rakiura in full flower at all three sites, growing on the rocks and slopes near the coast.
Myosotis and more on Stewart Island
Would we be equally successful on Stewart Island (Rakiura)? We were about to find out. The next day we packed our backpacks and got on an early flight to Stewart Island, where I experienced my first beach landing.
And the excitement continued, as we found our first population of M. rakiura shortly thereafter.
The rest of the day was spent tramping to Doughboy Bay…
…which wasn’t always easy…
…but we got there and made collections of yet another population of M. rakiura!
The final full day in the field involved a long tramp through the Rakeahua River Valley, where we found and collected not only Myosotis tenericaulis (two separate populations!), but also several other interesting plants, including tiny Ourisia modesta, which was the first time we had seen this plant in flower. We collected it because Te Papa did not yet have a specimen of it.
Postscript from Solander Island
To top off what was an extremely successful field trip (with mostly good weather to boot), researcher Tim Poupart (PhD student collaborating with Te Papa Senior Curator Sue Waugh) collected another population of M. rakiura from Solander Island for us during his visit there in July 2017.
Taken together, we now have samples from the whole geographic range of M. rakiura, and these are currently being compared morphologically and genetically.