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Biological Sciences

Botany of the bizarre: the biology of the world’s strangest parasitic plant

Flower of Rafflesia schadenbergiana, third largest flower in the World
The strange parasitic plant genus Rafflesia faces a number of conservation challenges, including habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation. Learning more about these rare species is a crucial step in informing the conservation management of Rafflesia.

A celebration of spiders

Hypoblemum male
Happy Arachtober, the month of spiders! Dr Fiona Cross, or "Doctor Spider", introduces us to some cute jumping spiders commonly found in New Zealand.

Meeting Mushrooms in the Wild: 12 NZ species

Vermilion waxcap/ Hygrocybe miniata
For most of us, mushrooms are the most familiar type of fungi, but not all fungi produce mushrooms. Of the estimated 5 million species of fungi, about 14,000 produce mushrooms. New Zealand has a fascinating mix of native, endemic and introduced fungi. With a bit of practice, patience, and a sharp eye, these species are only a foray away.

What crawls beneath the surface?

Invertebrate life in New Zealand’s rivers and streams We all know about the kiwi and the kākāpō, but what iconic species are lurking beneath the surface of our rivers and streams? Freshwater invertebrates (animals without a backbone) are amazingly diverse: from taonga species such as kākahi (freshwater mussels) and kōura (crayfish), to...

Our hidden forests

Seaweed form one of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on this planet, yet, with most of its beauty hidden below the surface; its importance often slips our attention. Destruction of terrestrial forests often causes global sensation and outcries. We know about their importance as they provide a home and food sources for animals and their indispensable role for our...

A good news story for World Ocean Day: The Ross Sea region MPA

The Southern Ocean south of the Antarctic Polar Front is managed by an international agreement analogous to the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).  This area accounts for 10% of the world’s oceans and includes some of the most pristine marine habitats on Earth. CCAMLR allows fishing but aims to balance conservation with rational...

CAREX: a collaborative approach to waterway rehabilitation

riparian planting
Currently, there is considerable interest around the impacts that agriculture is having on water quality. Nationwide the focus has been on highlighting the issues but little attention has been paid to what the solutions might be. The Canterbury Waterway Rehabilitation Experiment (CAREX)* is a stream restoration project that has focused on finding solutions. CAREX has been...

Tiny mud heroes of New Zealand estuaries

Estuarine mudflats are usually seen as bare and fruitless wastelands, but in fact, they rank as one of the most productive habitats on Earth. They provide food for vast numbers of shorebirds and supply us with tasty shellfish. Mudflats also play a pivotal role in filtering coastal waters from various pollutants that we put there. These ecosystem services would...

The seals of Antarctica – a Twitter story

Public science communication is fundamental to science today. I believe that as scientists we have a duty to communicate our research to the public. Mainly because the public must be able to understand the basics of science to make informed decisions – perhaps the most vivid example of the negative consequences of insufficient communication by scientists and/or...

Ōpāwaho/Heathcote River – (Re)connecting catchment communities

The Ōpāwaho (or Heathcote River) is one of two main rivers that weaves its way through Ōtautahi (Christchurch) on its way to the Avon Heathcote Estuary (Ihutai). Once a pristine lowland waterway, and an abundant source of food and resources for Ngāi Tahu, the Ōpāwaho is currently in poor health. While the state of the river has...