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Should we ban all petrol cars? Should we limit tourist numbers? Should rubbish collection always include a separate food waste bin for composting, even if we all have to pay more? Exhibition Experience Developer Murphy Peoples and Digital Producer Amos Mann discuss Te Au | The Current, a forum for fresh ideas around Aotearoa New Zealand’s toughest environmental challenges. Te Au | The Current aims to collect and reflect diverse opinions that could spark real-world change. See how others feel and add your voice to The Current to help solve New Zealand’s toughest nature challenges.Read more

Huia are one of Aotearoa’s most well-known birds, despite going extinct over 100 years ago. Early European scientists were fascinated by the radically different bills of the male and female huia, a feature called sexual dimorphism. More recently scientists recognised the New Zealand wattlebird family, which includes huia, as one of three families worldwide containing the most extreme variation in bills. A new study by Massey University’s Gillian Gibb and Te Papa’s Lara Shepherd used DNA sequences to determine when the New Zealand wattlebird family and the extraordinary sexual dimorphism in huia evolved.Read more

Snails and slugs are some of the most threatened animals on our planet today and their biodiversity is still vastly uncharted. In the digital age, community science platforms such as iNaturalist pose an interesting perspective to gather new information on these organisms through user-submitted photos and data. Using Brazil as a case study, our new study explores the potential of iNaturalist as a source of biological data on rare snails and slugs. Undergrad student Rafael Masson Rosa reports on some new discoveries and recent outcomes from the study.Read more

Bringing the swamp helmet orchid back from the brink of extinction is a mission that requires a multidisciplinary team of scientists, good eyesight and a lot of patience. There are only a few hundred plants of this species in the world; all of them are here in Aotearoa New Zealand. Curator Dr Carlos Lehnebach talks about his latest research to save this species.Read more

Jessie Prebble, former Te Papa/Massey PhD student in Botany, and Te Papa Curator Botany, Heidi Meudt (2016), holding a forget-me-not herbarium specimen. Te Papa

Taxonomic research involves a number of aspects, including field trips, lab work, studying and comparing live plants (in the field or glasshouse) or pressed specimens, and reading previous scientific papers. Not to mention analyzing and interpreting the data, incorporating previously published research, and writing up the results for publication. Sometimes, such research forms the basis of a post-graduate thesis (Master’s or PhD).  Curator Botany Heidi Meudt talks about one student’s journey.Read more

Myosotis antarctica Hook.f. subsp. antarctica, collected 15 December 2018, Mount Starveall Hut, South Island, New Zealand. CC BY 4.0. Te Papa (SP107322)

New research published by Jessie Prebble and colleagues resolves the taxonomy (naming and classification) of a group of small native forget-me-nots in the southern hemisphere. The new data show that some of these plants require different names. Curator Botany Heidi Meudt discusses what this means for their names.Read more

Cyclone Dovi was a Category 4 severe tropical cyclone that passed through New Caledonia before barreling into New Zealand during 12–14 February 2022. Many North Island residents were hit by gale-force winds, power outages, torrential rain and flooding. Curator Vertebrates Colin Miskelly describes a recent discovery that came along with it.Read more

an orange and white slug with spikes

With large areas of the city protected in reserves, Wellington is known for being rich in biodiversity. But beyond the highly-visible kākā, tuī and pōhutukawa, how well do you know the plants and animals with which we share the city? Wellington recently competed in the iNaturalist City Nature Challenge, an annual competition to see which city can record the most species during a four day period. Science Researcher Lara Shepherd thinks what we found lurking in our backyard might surprise you…Read more

Rare vagrant birds can be a challenge to identify correctly. In many migratory bird groups (e.g. waders, terns, and petrels), several species look very similar to each other. There are further complications with species that look very different depending on their age and breeding status (e.g. juvenile plumage versus adult non-breeding plumage, or adult breeding plumage). When a previously unrecognised vagrant species reaches New Zealand, it is even more challenging, as it will not be featured in New Zealand field guides and websites. Unless bird-watchers are thinking globally, a previously unrecorded species may be overlooked if it is misidentified as a species that is already on the New Zealand list. Curator Vertebrates Colin Miskelly describes how this was the initial fate of New Zealand’s first black tern.Read more

Adélie penguin, Gould Bay, Weddell Sea, Antarctica by Colin Miskelly.

A few years ago, our Vertebrate Curators Alan Tennyson and Colin Miskelly challenged Te Papa’s geneticist Lara Shepherd to identify a couple of penguin heads recovered from Antarctic toothfish stomachs. This year, Colin had another penguin puzzle for Lara to solve – what species was the headless penguin he found on a remote Rakiura | Stewart Island beach?Read more