Diversity on our doorstep

Posted by Darren Ward @nzhymenoptera

New Zealand is a weird place for biodiversity. When discussed, perhaps most often mentioned is the ‘high degree of endemism’. This is the proportion of species found only in NZ and nowhere else in the world. Overall, about 90% of insect species in NZ are endemic. Along with endemism, the “total number of estimated species”, or the “number of undescribed species” are also often mentioned. An estimated 20,000 invertebrate species live in New Zealand and about 50% are undescribed.

But what is almost never mentioned is the number of undescribed species that are literally at your doorstep. You don’t have to go to remote field locations to find new species. Even in Auckland, NZ’s biggest city, there is a massive number of ‘undescribed’ and ‘unknown’ species.

Kuschel (1990) perhaps first bought this to our attention with his long running survey during the 1970s-1980s, literally in his backyard. In the Auckland suburb of Lynfield, he collected 130 species of beetles that were undescribed. In total >700 endemic beetle species were found.

Recently, we have been studying the diversity of parasitoid wasps in the Waitakere ranges, a large forest on the doorstep of Auckland city. Our study discovered 136 species of parasitoid wasps from ten locations (Kendall & Ward 2016). 80% of them are undescribed.

Just last week, a new species of parasitoid wasp, Synopeas motuhoropapense Buhl 2016, was described from Motuhoropapa Island (one of the small islands in the Noises Island group in the Hauraki Gulf). It was described along with 14 other species of micro wasps (<2mm in length) from around New Zealand. What is remarkable is that these 15 new species were described from <100 specimens in total, that’s a new species for every ~6 specimens.

Such biodiversity projects are an important part of understanding how the world works, but also give a sense of wonder about how we live with a massive diversity of weird and wonderful little critters.


Darren Ward is an entomologist in the New Zealand Arthropod Collection at Landcare Research, and a senior lecturer at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland.

Buhl PN. 2016. Keys to species of Ceratacis and Synopeas from New Zealand, with the description of new species (Hymenoptera: Platygastridae), International Journal of Environmental Studies. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00207233.2016.1205916

Kendall L, Ward DF. 2016. Habitat determinants of the taxonomic and functional diversity of parasitoid wasps. Biodiversity & Conservation. 25(10), 1955-1972i

Kuschel, G. 1990. Beetles in a suburban environment: a New Zealand case study. Auckland: DSIR Report No3.

50 by 50? Yeah…nah

New Zealand’s climate change targets

Posted by Alice Baranyovits @ABaranyovits

New Zealand has a lot to be proud about, it’s an absolutely fantastic country, in fact according to the Telegraph it’s ‘the best country in the world’ and has been for the last 4 years. It’s also a bit of a world leader; in 1893 it became the first self-governing country to give women the vote, it was the first country to introduce the 8 hour working day, zorbing and bungee jumping and need I mention rugby?


New Zealand – the best country in the world

But there is another area where New Zealand is one of the world’s leaders and for once it’s a bad thing (and I’m not talking about the ridiculous house prices) and that’s in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per capita. In 2011, New Zealand was the fifth highest GHG emitter per capita out of 40 Annex 1 countries (listed here). New Zealand’s emissions per capita, whilst below countries such as Australia and the US, are well above most European countries, China and the world average – check out this graph. This was one of the points brought up during an excellent Royal Society talk I attended on Tuesday night at the Auckland Museum entitled ’10 things you didn’t know about climate change’.

Now I’m not going to go into everything Prof. Tim Naish and Prof. James Renwick discussed during their fascinating but somewhat depressing talk. One of the key take home messages was something I would have hoped everyone is already well aware of, and that’s climate change is happening, its human induced, and it will have impact on the way we live our lives sooner rather than later.

What I do want to talk about is something else that was mentioned during the presentation and that’s the idea of a GHG emission free New Zealand by 2050.  We will already hopefully be celebrating being Predator Free that year so why not go two for one and make it an even more momentous year by becoming GHGs free as well? Imagine the celebrations!

Unfortunately New Zealand’s current climate policy is well off that – with a proposed reduction in net emissions of 50% below 1990 levels by 2050, the ‘50 by 50’. A 5% reduction is proposed for 2020 and then an 11% reduction by 2030. Sadly, things don’t seem to be heading in the right direction; as of 2014 New Zealand’s gross GHG emissions had reached 81.1 million tonnes, that’s a 23% increase on the 1990 levels. Even if the 2050 target of a 50% reduction is reached that’s still well below the targets set by many other countries (e.g. Denmark, & the UK) and the targets proposed by the UNFCCC – an 80-95% reduction for Annex 1 countries, which includes New Zealand.

Both the Royal Society and organisations such as Generation Zero think New Zealand can and should do better. That we should be striving to be a world leader in this too and proving once and for all that New Zealand truly is clean and green. In a recent report the Royal Society highlighted the many advantages that New Zealand has, such as its wealth of renewable energy options, that leave it well placed for the move into a greener economy. They stated that to be successful, there would need to be sound policy, investments and incentives, along with the willingness of New Zealanders to make some lifestyle changes. Tackling the emissions from the agriculture sector (New Zealand’s biggest GHG contributor) will probably be the biggest challenge but not one that can be avoided – check out my previous post.

New Zealand may be small but it’s proven again and again that it can punch above its weight on the world stage and I can’t think of anything better than being a world leader in the fight against climate change – so let’s try and make 2050 a year to remember for all the right reasons.

For more information, check out Generation Zero’s ‘Zero Carbon Act’ and the Royal Society’s reports ‘Facing the future: towards a green economy for New Zealand’ and ‘Setting New Zealand’s post 2020 climate change target’.


Alice Baranyovits is a PhD student at the Centre of Biodiversity and Biosecurity, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. She is researching the movements of kererū in urban areas. She is supervised by Jacqueline Beggs, Mick Clout, Todd Dennis & George Perry.


At risk of catastrophic failure: relying on others in urban research

Posted by Ellery McNaughton @EJ_McNaughton

Recently, in a conversation commiserating research woes, one of my colleagues described the main part of my project as a “huge risk”. My most memorable line of feedback from my first annual review stated that my project was in danger of “catastrophic failure”. Welcome to the risky but rewarding world of urban research. In my case, the portent of research doom was the fact that my project’s success is largely reliant on other parties.

My 18 month project is based around an initiative undertaken by a large, council-controlled organisation (Auckland Transport), and requires the cooperation of multiple individual volunteers. These supposed harbingers of failure are by no means only found in urban research, but one does frequently come across them when working in such a populated and people-centric environment. Part of the issue with relying on other parties is differing priorities and perspectives.

While a researcher who has spent an inordinate amount of time living, breathing and planning The Most Important Research Project of All Time™ may think their requests are reasonable, a large organisation may not share the same enthusiasm and sense of importance. From my experience, while these organisations can be very accommodating, informative and helpful, at the end of the day they are subject to financial and political pressures that a lowly researcher cannot hope to contend with.


A metaphor. Hint: the dog is the ecologist

At the other end of the scale is dealing with individuals. One of the rewarding aspects of my urban research is the incredibly generous people who volunteer their properties to use as study sites. Understandably, they too have their different priorities. In an ideal research world where everyone appreciated the momentousness of The Most Important Research Project of All Time™, study properties would remain in the same state as you found them. In the real world, trees are cut down, fences are erected, cats are bought, yards are remodelled, and houses are sold and renovated.

All of which is to say that reliance on other parties can lead to complicated stats at best and catastrophic failure at worst. However, when it goes right, it can lead to some fascinating research that would otherwise be unachievable – a result that is worth the risk.

Ellery McNaughton is a PhD student in the Centre of Biodiversity and Biosecurity, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. Her project will investigate the effects of a city-wide changeover in streetlight technology on urban bird behaviour and ecosystem function. She is supervised by Margaret Stanley, Jacqueline Beggs, Kevin Gaston(University of Exeter, UK) and Darryl Jones (Griffith University, Australia).

After the Invasion: Spread

Posted by Delayn Fritz @WildOptic

My previous blog post focused on global trade and the invasion process as a whole, but what happens to an exotic species after it becomes established? Post-establishment spread and dispersal is the next step for an exotic species transforming into an invasive species. Of particular interest are the causes of that spread, both natural and non-natural.

The simplest way that a species spreads is through its competitive edge. A study of the competitive nature of the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) showed that they completely overcame native ants in North America in terms of resource gathering. Being able to displace native species allows the exotic invading species to take over their turf and spread locally. In fact displacing or removing native species may even lead to an ecological meltdown which can cause other invasive species to establish and cause a positive feedback loop.

ArgAntAn Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) specimen. Photo Credit: April Nobile / © AntWeb.org / CC BY-SA 3.0

Another way for an exotic species to spread is environmental shift. This can be through habitat fragmentation and disturbance wherein a gap in the normal functioning of an environment displaces the native competitors to a point where the exotic species become dominant. One form of this that has been documented repeatedly is the increased proportion of exotic plants along roadsides, which act as a corridor for exotic species. Climate change may play another role in spread, as one study showed that increased rainfall had a positive effect on range expansion while drier years actually decreased the range of both Argentine ants and native ants in North America.

Long range jump dispersal patterns are also a key factor in spread, but this is often achieved by non-natural means. This jump dispersal usually occurs by the exotic species hitching a ride on internal trade routes or just regular vehicles. This leads to species achieving spread rates a whole order of magnitude  higher than the distance travelled by normal dispersal. It has also been shown that when this jump dispersal occurs it can actually increase the spread rate by up to three orders of magnitude.

For my MSc, I will be trying to analyse some of the data on currently established exotic ant species in New Zealand, and using taxonomic collections and their historic data to try and figure out the spread rates of different species and see if this is related to any of the aforementioned spread processes.


delaynDelayn Fritz is an MSc student in the Centre of Biodiversity  and Biosecurity, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. He is interested in the invasion process of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in New Zealand. He is supervised by Darren Ward and Eckehard Brockerhoff (Scion, B3).

What is biosecurity and why should we care?

Post by Anna Frances Probert @AFProbert

Human movement and global trade are ever-increasing. Last year 5.6 million people arrived into New Zealand and more than 1.7 million containers moved through New Zealand ports. This increases the risk of unwanted organisms (disease and pest species) arriving and establishing. The management of these risks (both pre border and post border) is what biosecurity encompasses.

Unwanted organisms can have dramatic impacts on our livelihoods – impacting economic, social and environmental values. In most circumstances, introduced species (that is, species that are not native to New Zealand) are benign. Many of them won’t survive to establish, having evolved to thrive in different environments. However, a small subset do survive, establish and then spread across the landscape, becoming ‘invasive species’. If we perceive these to have a negative impact, then they are considered ‘pest species’.

Preventing new organisms from entering New Zealand is much easier and more cost-effective than trying to eradicate or control them once they slip past the border. Although there have been several successful eradication programmes conducted in New Zealand – for instance the Argentine ant on Tiritiri Matangi and the Queensland fruit fly in Auckland.

Recently, government funding for the Predator Free New Zealand project was announced, which aims to support the large-scale eradication of rats, possums and mustelids from New Zealand. This ambitious project will have massive benefits for native flora and fauna as well as remove the costs associated with the long term management of these pests.

The announcement of this project coincided with the launch of the government’s Biosecurity 2025 strategy, which aims to review and future-proof New Zealand’s biosecurity system. The current Biosecurity 2025 document outlines proposals for what might be in the direction statement, which will guide New Zealand’s biosecurity system into the future. As a nominated ‘Biosecurity Champion’, myself along with Rudd Kleinpaste, Bruce Wills and Graeme Marshall are involved in promoting the importance of biosecurity and public involvement in the consultation process.


Biosecurity Champion on the radio

Public submissions are now open, and as part of the consultation process public meetings and hui are to be held around the country.

Biosecurity is an issue that affects every New Zealander. I encourage everyone to make a submission, so that we can work together to protect our country from unwanted organisms, now and into the future.


At the Biosecurity 2025 launch

MeblogAnna Probert is a PhD student in the Centre for Biodiversity & Biosecurity, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. She is using ants as a model to assess the risk posed by exotic invertebrates to native ecosystems. She is supervised by Margaret Stanley, Jacqueline Beggs, and Darren Ward.

How much water does a kauri tree use?

Posted by Cate Macinnis-Ng @LoraxCate

Ever wondered how much water a kauri tree uses? Find out in my video for the 180 Seconds of Science competition. A vote for my entry will help me win funds towards my research.

#180science is a joint competition run by the Australian Academy of Science EMCR Forum and the Royal Society of New Zealand Early Career Researcher Forum. These organisations represent emerging researchers in their respective countries. Voting closes on 22nd August at the conclusion of National Science Week in Australia so get in quick!

kauri sapflow


Dr Cate Macinnis-Ng is a Senior Lecturer and Rutherford Discovery Fellow, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland.  She is a plant ecophysiologist and ecohydrologist working on plant-climate interactions.



A Trip to Switzerland to learn some Wood Anatomy Skills

Posted by Julia Kaplick @julekap

In June this year I was lucky enough to escape the Auckland winter weather and learn some new skills at a Wood Anatomy Course in the Swiss Alps. It is a long running course organized by Dr Holger Gärtner, Prof Fritz Schweingruber from the Swiss Federal Institute of Forest, Snow and Landscape Research and Dr Alan Crivellaro from the University of Padua in Italy. The two main aspects of the course are the theoretical basics of the anatomical features of wood and the practical skills needed for sampling and preparing wood thin sections. This might not be obvious to everyone, but I was super excited to go and it was not because it took place in Klosters, where Prince Charles goes on skiing holidays.


Left: Microscopy with a view of the Swiss Alps. Right: Gentian, the Swiss national flower. Right: Out in the field with Prof Fritz Schweingruber, one of the world’s leading experts in wood anatomy

There are many different scientific applications for wood anatomy, but I am most interested in the connection with tree water relations. Anatomical features like lumen area and cell wall thickness vary seasonally and are strongly influenced by climatic conditions. The wood anatomy also affects hydraulic characteristics of trees. Tree species with larger lumen areas can transport more water, but they are also more likely to suffer from embolism (the formation of air bubbles) during times of drought stress.


Sample preparation – Top: With a microtome wood samples can be cut into thin section. Bottom: Staining of the sample and baking to create permanent slides


Thin section of a kauri root – Staining of the wood thin sections makes anatomical structures more visible. Left: unstained. Right: same sample stained with Safranin and Astrablue.

The first day of the week-long course was all about the theoretical background. We spent the day looking at many thin sections under the microscope, starting with simple conifers, and later learned about the more complex structures of angiosperms and even had a glimpse at some crazy looking non-woody species. On the following days we went to some beautiful alpine valleys to try out different sampling techniques and learned how to prepare and stain professional thin sections from our own samples.


Radial thin sections of rewarewa (left), tanekaha (middle) and nikau (right).

I could have easily spent the whole week cutting and staining my samples, but we also got to go on two little trips. The first one was a walk through a sustainably managed forest area, together with the responsible forester. The second trip was a visit to the Institute of Snow and Avalanche Research in Davos where we got to see the latest fashion accessories on the Swiss skiing field and also got to know a little more about how effective forest is as a protection against avalanches. Another highlight of the week was Helga, the lovely hotel cook who insisted on providing us with two hot meals a day, to keep our brains running. Yes, there was a lot of cheese and chocolate.


Left: Fancy new avalanche protection. Middle: View of Klosters from above. Right: Happiness after a long day of learning



Julia Kaplick is a PhD student in the Centre of Biodiversity and Biosecurity, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. She is researching the response of native trees to seasonal variation in climatic conditions using measurements of sap flow, water relations and carbon allocation. Julia is supervised by Cate Macinnis-Ng (University of Auckland) and Mike Clearwater (Waikato University). Julia is supported by funding from the Marsden Fund.  

Deadly Flora; New Zealand’s Nasty Natives

Posted by Robert Vennell @RobertVennell

The wildlife of New Zealand often seems pretty tame, especially in comparison with our Aussie neighbours. In Australia, everything can kill you – crocs, spiders, snakes, jellyfish and even octopus. In contrast, New Zealand is a land of flightless birds and frisky parrots. Other than the weather, wasps and the odd feral pig, there is little to fear when tramping out in the wilderness. But while we may be lacking in ferocious beasts – we do have our fair share of deadly plants.


The toxin from five Ongaonga (Urtica ferox) spines is enough to kill a guinea pig

Native plants can pack a serious poisonous punch, and death is by no means quick or
pleasant. Take for instance Ongaonga, the New Zealand tree nettle. It’s covered in an array of poisonous syringe-like spines. When an unfortunate victim disturbs the plant, the spines are released – injecting them with a potent cocktail of toxic chemicals that attack the nervous system. In high doses, the victim loses motor coordination and convulses violently. The toxin from just five of these stinging spines is enough to kill a guinea pig and there has been one reported death in modern times1.


The seductive Tutu (Coriaria arborea) makes killer pies. Literally.

Perhaps even more deadly is the seductive Tutu. It can be seen dangling bunches of delicious purple grape-like fruit along river valleys. But while the succulent flesh of the berry is edible, accidentally eat the tiny black seed and it might be the last thing you ever do. The seed, leaves and stems all contain the powerful neurotoxin Tutin, which send the body into violent neuromuscular spasms. The plant is completely unforgiving – and has claimed the lives of a number of settlers who tried to make tutu beer and pies2. Recently, a tramper cooked and ate a tutu shoot mistaking it for supplejack. He was sent into violent convulsions which dislocated his shoulder, but thankfully survived the ordeal.


The humble Karaka (Corynocarpus laevigatus) – underestimate it at your peril.

Or how about the humble karaka berry? Inside the bright orange flesh of this classic coastal tree is a kernel packed full of the neurotoxin Karakin. Eating the kernel without proper preparation could render you permanently paralysed, as the neurotoxin causes violent convulsions which can bend bones out of place2. Human poisoning is fairly rare nowadays, but a number of dogs have been poisoned, including Mungo, Malo and Honey Bear.

Considering the deadly nature of some of our native plants, it’s surprising that they don’t have greater recognition. Thankfully however, it’s pretty easy to avoid these plants and fatalities are pretty rare. But if like me, you enjoy munching your way through the forest – it’s a healthy reminder that New Zealand wildlife can be deadly, particularly if you’re putting it in your mouth.

Robert Vennell - Hunua Ranges Berry collection

A collection of (mostly) edible plants from a recent field trip to the Hunua Ranges.

Connor, H.E. 1997. The poisonous plants in New Zealand. Wellington, Government printer.
2 Crowe A. 1981. A Field Guide to the Native Edible Plants of NZ. Penguin Books.
3 Riley M. 1994. Maori Healing and Herbal. NZ Ethnobotanical Sourcebook. Viking Sevenseas NZ Ltd.

Robert VennellRobert Vennell is an MSc student in the Centre of Biodiversity and Biosecurity, University of Auckland studying the impacts of wild pigs on native forests. He is supervised by Margaret Stanley, Mark Mitchell (Hawkes Bay Regional Council),Cheryl Krull (AUT) and Al Glen (Landcare Research). He also writes about the history, meaning and significance of New Zealand’s native tree species at www.meaningoftrees.com

Is mist netting safe for birds?

Posted by Carolina Lara @carislaris

An amazing advantage of having collaborated in avian studies in different countries is that I have learnt a range of different techniques people use to carry out ecological research. Of particular interest to me, given the nature of my PhD project, is the capture of birds using mist nets, better known as mist netting. Mist netting is a common technique for monitoring avian populations – it can provide data on population density and demography, but it also allows researchers to collect morphometric data and blood and faecal samples, attach devices and gain information about the birds’ feeding habits.


Bird poo collected to analyse feeding habits in urban forest fragments

Mist netting is labour intensive, especially in a natural environment such as a forest.  It requires looking for the most suitable location to place the mist nets, putting the nets up and then waiting to capture some birds (usually between 7–8 hours effort). The mist net set up (number of nets, timing) will vary according to the target species, the type of habitat, and the research questions being asked.

To me the beauty of mist netting is having the chance to hold a bird (yes, even that vicious tūī ). However, a high level of expertise is required to avoid injuries to the birds. Once captured in a mist net, a myriad of external factors (e.g. time of day or human error during handling) can affect the bird’s wellbeing. Nevertheless, it is an extensively used capture technique, so how safe is it?


Often people are too scared to come close to a captured tui

An interesting study quantifying rates of bird mortality and injury for 22 banding organizations in Canada and the United States showed that the average rate of bird injury and mortality from 620,997 captures was less than 1%. The most common incidents were wing injuries, stress, and cuts, with heavier birds more prone to incident within and among species. While the study found risks to birds are low, it is highly advised that new bird handlers are properly trained in mist netting techniques so they can safely extract and process birds captured in mist nets.

Mist netting is the part I enjoy the most about my research and has given me the opportunity to work with volunteers who enjoy this as much as me. For me mist netting is not only about collecting data for my study, but is also about engaging different people with real-life conservation.


Decreasing the handling time of a captured bird is important to reduce risk of incident



Carolina Lara M. is a PhD Candidate within the Centre for Biodiversity and Biosecurity, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. Her research interests focus on seed dispersal networks within fragmented landscapes. She is supervised by Margaret Stanley,Jason Tylianakis, Karine David, and Anna Santure.

Are we ready for more weeds with a changing climate?

Posted by @mc_stanley1

Here in Auckland it appears that home owners want to pretend they’re always on that tropical holiday in Queensland. Aucklanders seem to have an unhealthy obsession with palm trees.

palm house

An example of an Auckland house with a tropical paradise & an exotic palm obsession

Unhealthy you say? Well, apart from the nasty injuries as a result of phoenix palm spines, I don’t mean unhealthy for people – but some introduced palms are certainly unhealthy for our native ecosystems.

The downside of wanting to retain that tropical holiday feeling around our houses, is that several introduced palms and other subtropical/tropical species have been planted in large numbers over the last decade, and several are showing signs of being ‘weedy’. The species we are most worried about are the ones that produce fruit that birds love eating and dispersing (think phoenix palm), and that are shade tolerant. Seedlings and saplings of shade tolerant species, such as bangalow palm, can germinate and grow inside native forest fragments, and can easily outcompete our native nikau palm.


A) Juvenile bangalow palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana) growing in an Auckland forest fragment. B) Bangalow and nikau seedlings growing side by side in a fragment – correct identification is difficult for community weeding groups.

While this spread is happening right now, we know that these subtropical/tropical species will be more successful and invasive in an increasingly warmer New Zealand – with the advance of climate change. Just a few less frosts per year is likely to mean that these species survive the winter and become more abundant and spread further south as conditions change.

So are we ready for this?

We don’t think so.

Christine Sheppard, Bruce Burns and I have recently written a ‘forum article’ in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology, where we raise this very issue. Despite knowing this will happen, and that we’ll have a whole lot more weeds to manage in the future, there’s not a great deal of tangible action. That’s because we currently have >400 environmental weeds we are already dealing with, and the thought of trying to pre-emptively manage more is frankly overwhelming.

There are things we can do though:

  • Include climate change in our current prediction and prioritisation processes, i.e. incorporate a ‘climate change factor’ into estimates of ‘predicted land infested’, and prioritise species likely to be weedy in our regions with fewer frosts and warmer temperatures;
  • improve funding streams for weed surveillance – so we can detect and manage these species before they take off and become unmanageable;
  • robust use of citizen science weed surveillance to increase NZ’s surveillance capacity;
  • raise awareness of the danger of increased ‘weediness’ under climate change and take a pre-emptive strike by educating the public about their plant choices and prevent invasion by banning high-risk species.


The last point is probably the most important. How can we change behaviour and have a conversation with the public about their plant choices? I don’t want to rain on anyone’s ‘tropical parade’, but really New Zealand, it’s time to wake up – leave those tropical paradises in the tropics and protect NZ.


Do we want those Aussie palms?

Yeah nah! No more palmsies for you.



Sheppard CS, Burns BR, Stanley MC. 2016. Future-proofing weed management for the effects of climate change: is New Zealand underestimating the risk of increased plant invasions? New Zealand Journal of Ecology 40: http://newzealandecology.org/nzje/3279



me2smallDr Margaret Stanley is a Senior Lecturer in Ecology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland and is the programme director of the Masters in Biosecurity and Conservation. Her interests in terrestrial community ecology are diverse, but can be grouped into three main research strands: urban ecology; invasion ecology; and plant-animal interactions.




Dr Christine Sheppard is a former member of the Ecology Ngātahi lab group, completing her PhD on the invasiveness of newly established alien plants under different climate change scenarios. She is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Hohenheim in Germany.