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

A red flower with green tips

Last spring, Te Papa’s Leon Perrie, Lara Shepherd and Bridget Hatton travelled to Whanganui to collect plant specimens from the garden of the late Ian and Jocelyn Bell. Many of the plants in the garden are rarely cultivated in New Zealand and were not represented in our botany collection. Research Scientist Lara Shepherd takes us behind the specimen-collecting scenes.Read more

This year Wellington is competing against over 400 cities worldwide, and five other New Zealand cities in the iNaturalist City Nature Challenge. The aim of this friendly bioblitz-style competition is to record as many species as possible in the four days from 29 April to 2 May. With our fabulous array of forest and marine reserves, we hope Wellington can show the rest of the country, and the world, what a biologically diverse city we live in.Read more

A red fungi that looks like an egg beater with all the stalks joining at the top

Autumn is upon us and many fungi are emerging. Our Research Scientist Lara Shepherd takes us on a photo tour of New Zealand’s diverse fungi, lists resources to help you identify your fungal finds, and discusses that age-old question – can I eat it? New Zealand boasts a splendid arrayRead more

Professional rat catchers removing rats from Sydney following an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague in 1900. Photo: NSW State Archives

Norway rats and house mice are two of the most widespread invasive species worldwide. But where did the Norway rats and house mice in New Zealand come from? Our geneticist Lara Shepherd and colleagues from Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, University of Waikato, and Place Management NSW have shed some light on this question by sequencing DNA from rodent bones from a 19th-century archaeological site in Sydney.Read more

Members of our field team trekking across a steep and colourful scree in the Livingstone Mountains. Photo by Geoff Rogers January 2022.

In January 2022, our Botany Curator Heidi Meudt went on a chock-a-block seven-day field trip to Southland with Department of Conservation botanist Brian Rance and several others. The aim of this trip was to collect several species of forget-me-nots growing in the ultramafic Livingstone Mountains and nearby hills. Heidi talks about what they were looking for and the environment the forget-me-nots were growing in. Read more