Tapa, or barkcloth, is an important textile in the Pacific. Tapa is made from the beaten inner bark of some plant species, but once the tapa is made then identifying which plant species was used is difficult. Our genetics researcher Lara Shepherd teamed up with Catherine Smith from the University of Otago and colleagues to create a DNA reference database for identifying the plants used to make tapa.
Being in lockdown in Wellington didn’t mean an end to fieldwork for some of our staff. Botany Curator Leon Perrie and Researcher Lara Shepherd – who are in the same bubble – used their lockdown walks to collect roadside weeds for our herbarium. But what did they find within only a short walk from home?
Wellington recently competed in the iNaturalist City Nature Challenge. During the four days of the Challenge people recorded as many observations and species as possible. Science researcher Lara Shepherd was shocked that the introduced weed old man’s beard was the second-equal most observed species in Wellington.
Our building may be closed, but Lara Shepherd takes us through the important work that the Natural History team are doing from home. What has the team been working on in their bubbles? How is collection management continuing with no access to the collection? And what’s on the menu for our flesh-eating beetles?
In 2015, ecologists Chris Stowe and Claire Newell found a strange fern during a vegetation survey in Whirinaki Forest, in the eastern North Island. They sent a frond to Te Papa’s fern experts Leon Perrie and Patrick Brownsey, who were also puzzled. This fern was clearly a Dicksonia tree fern but didn’t match any known species. Was it a new species?