Posted by Keely Paler @
The first things that people say about Fiordland are that it’s a really beautiful place but the sandflies are the size of elephants. My recent trip to Fiordland proved they weren’t wrong. The sheer number of sandflies means that headnets are now my favourite fashion accessory. However the stunning-ness of the location more than made up for it.
In November, I went down to Te Anau, Fiordland to complete the first part of my master’s fieldwork. This adventure began with hastily rearranging flights to capture the best weather window. Because of New Zealand’s highly changeable weather this is an important part of ecological fieldwork in remote locations. Despite this planning, we arrived to an unexpected layer of snow, but these surprises are part of the fun of working in the field.
In order to get to our alpine study site in Takahe valley (in the Murchison Mountains of Fiordland), I had my first experience flying in a helicopter (a lot scarier than I imagined). This site is a particularly awesome place to conduct research because it’s where the ‘extinct’ takahe was rediscovered in 1948. Since this time it has been classed as a ‘special area’, accessible only to scientists and pest-control operators. This relatively undisturbed environment means it is an ideal place to study the effects of climate change on New Zealand’s unique alpine biodiversity. My master’s research will examine how insects respond to climate change using open-top-chambers to experimentally induce localised temperature increases). Insects are captured using pitfall traps, which will be collected during a second trip in March. Despite the sandflies, I can’t wait to go back.
Keely Paler is an MSc student in the Centre of Biodiversity and Biosecurity, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. She is supervised by Darren Ward, Rich Leschen and Adrian Monks (Landcare Research) examining climate change and alpine insects.