Uncovering hidden gems

Posted by Cate Macinnis-Ng @LoraxCate

If you missed Ed Yong’s piece on his efforts to improve gender representation in his reporting in The Atlantic, you should check it out. In short, in late 2016, Ed analysed the proportion of quotes used in his stories from women for that year. At only 24%, he decided to do something about it and he’s since been spending more time seeking out women to interview. The good news is, Ed reports that it has only taken a little extra time to improve the balance and now he’s looking at seeking out other underrepresented groups. My favourite quote from the story is, ‘I assumed that my passive concern would be enough. Passive concern never is.’

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I was reminded of this when I was assigned my first paper to handle as an associate editor for the American Journal of Botany. It’s easiest to send papers to the big names but they are often too busy to review and that means less established researchers miss out on valuable learning opportunities. Positive responses to review requests are often more likely from PhD students and in my experience, quality of review if often as good, if not better than more senior researchers. Since finding suitable candidates can be a challenge, I put out a call on twitter.

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I’ve had a great response with heaps of retweets and about a dozen self-nominated volunteers. I’d love to add more people to this list so get in touch if you are keen.

It got me thinking that there are a number of simple things we can all do to avoid ‘passive concern’. Here are some ideas –

Early careeer researchers and PhD students

  • Be active on Twitter – bulid a following and a voice so people start to notice you. You never know when an opportunity may arise.
  • Contribute to blogs and other forms of more accessible communication. Rapid Ecology looks like an exciting new platform to do this. The Conversation and The Spinoff are other examples of places to have pieces published online.
  • Do media training so that you feel prepared when the time comes. Formal training will help you learn how to refine your message, improve your on-air performance, reduce use of jargon and be strategic about using media in career development and advancement. If you can’t find formal training, a local community or student radio station is a good place to practice being interviewed.
  • Add your name to databases like 500 Women Scientists’ Request a Scientist and Diversify EEB. You might not hear anything for a while but these lists do work – that’s how I got the invitation to be AE for AmJBot.
  • Don’t be afraid to remind more senior colleagues about being inclusive. For instance, if you are helping organise a symposium, suggest diversity is considered when invitations to speak and attend are sent out.

Established researchers

  • Consider diversity when appointing reviewers, inviting people to speak, suggesting people for committees, collaborators on projects – we need a diversity of voices in all scientific activities. Use Diversity EEB, request a scientist or other resources. If what you need doesn’t exist, consider building the resource.
  • Don’t be a broadcaster on Twitter. Broadcasters tweet about their own work but rarely engage with others. They are often high profile senior researchers. If your follower to followed ratio is high, you are not really listening to what people are saying on twitter.
  • Follow diverse voices on Twitter – seek out ECRs, women, POC, LBGTQ researchers to follow. I’ve learnt so much from twitter. If someone makes a good point, amplyfing it with a retweet is a good way to help diverse voices be heard.
  • If you are involved in a professional society, check out their equity and diversity statement. If they don’t have one, you could volunteer to help put one together.
  • Join the #KindnessInScience movement by improving the research culture in your institution by being more welcoming, respectful and responsible.

With a little bit of effort, we can all do our part to build a more equitable system. Do you have other simple ways to uncover hidden gems? Feel free to add other ideas in the comments below.

Dr Cate Macinnis-Ng is a Senior Lecturer and Rutherford Discovery Fellow, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland she is also President of the New Zealand Ecological Society and PI in Te Pūnaha Matatini.  She is a plant ecophysiologist and ecohydrologist working on plant-climate interactions.

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Ratting on Rakitu

Posted by James Russell @IsldJames

Last week I had the pleasure to finally visit an island I had long wanted to survey. My perverse reward was finding not one but two species of rats inhabiting the island. Rakitu lies off the east coast of Aotea (Great Barrier Island) – a remote island off the coast of a remote island. Its inverted shape; a valley in the centre surrounded by towering cliffs and tors, lends it English name of Arid Island. With delays to our expedition I was left wondering if the island ever wanted me to visit, but eventually we arrived and I had the pleasure of meeting the descendants of the previous owners also staying out there.

Rakitu as seen looking eastwards from Aotea
Rakitu as seen looking eastwards from Aotea (Source: NZ Herald)

The 328 hectare island was a major centre of Māori activity, and in colonial times was farmed through its central valley and slopes. In 1993 the island was purchased to be managed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation where today it is an open access scenic reserve. Black rats (Rattus rattus) were long known to be present, and our team wanted to assess their abundance, and their impacts on the abundance of native birds, reptiles and invertebrates.

Rakitu cove provides a sheltered and welcoming anchorage
Rakitu cove provides a sheltered and welcoming anchorage (Source: James Russell)

Using an intensive 25 metre trapping grid in the remaining rich native forest in Bush creek, we studied the rat population. Checking only 37 live traps took the entire day, every day. To our surprise, on the first day, we caught a small number of Pacific rats (Rattus exulans) in the forest. This species would have been introduced during Māori occupation, and so it was a surprise that it had never been recorded when its presence was likely, but the abundance of the much larger black rats masked the presence of Pacific rats (locally known as kiore) for a long time, as known from elsewhere. Indeed, the black rats on Rakitu are among the largest ever recorded in New Zealand, averaging over 200 grams weight, and the most dense, at over 20 per hectare. The Department of Conservation intends to eradicate the rats from the island this winter, which is urgent given the declines in bird species and reptiles we were also observing on the island.

Kereru (native wood pigeons) are one of the few bird species still thriving on Rakitu, due to their large body size
Kereru (native wood pigeons) are one of the few bird species still thriving on Rakitu, due to their large body size (Photo: James Russell)

Given the extremely challenging terrain (with locations inaccessible to humans where rats could evade trapping) and size of the island (over 4,000 traps would be required if it was even possible), the only way rat eradication (every last rat removed) can be guaranteed would be by aerial distribution of brodifacoum. Some of the local community on Aotea are fundamentally against poison, which as a principle is laudable (poisoning an environment or species is never good). However, evidence from over 100 rat species eradications on islands around New Zealand for over 50 years shows no long-term effects of one-off brodifacoum use for rat eradications. The evidence does show, however, many, many long-term benefits to the resident native species on all those islands. The dilemma is thus not poison or not poison, but poison or rats?

Pāteke (native brown teal) struggle to breed on Rakitu in the presence of rats, with only one pair present
Pāteke (native brown teal) struggle to breed on Rakitu in the presence of rats, with only one pair present (Photo: James Russell)

Originally posted on National Geographic Voices

Decent proposal: Science engaging GIA

Posted by Lloyd Stringer @lloydstringer2

The biosecurity landscape in NZ is undergoing change. It is shifting from government-led surveillance and responses to a shared response with industry. The Government Industry Agreement (GIA) enables partnerships between industry and government to manage pests allowing for agreement on, for example, decision-making and cost-sharing of responses to new pests and diseases before an incursion has occurred.

This coming together of government, industry and science was exemplified in a recent trip to investigate, share knowledge and trial new surveillance tools for Halyomorpha halys, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in Santiago, Chile.BMSB Setting trap Santiago

Decent proposal- science engaging GIA: Lloyd Stringer (University of Auckland/ Plant & Food Research) kneeling with Matt Dyck (from Kiwi Fruit Vine Health, a GIA signatory) putting up a surveillance trap for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.

The delegation comprising members from the Ministry for Primary Industries, Kiwifruit Vine Health, New Zealand Wine, Horticulture New Zealand and Plant & Food Research shared their combined knowledge with the Chilean SAG (equivalent to MPI in NZ) and vice versa.

So far populations of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug have not been detected in New Zealand, but it is knocking on the door so the risk of incursion is great. Biosecurity is a shared responsibility, and it is great to see different organisations domestically and internationally sharing information so that all parties benefit from collaborative science and operational research.

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Science helps to underpin surveillance, eradication and pest management programmes. Recent work done by Ecology Ngātahi members have helped to show how to speed up the confirmation that a species has been eradicated and estimate the probable effectiveness of eradication tools. As NZ becomes more familiar with GIA, I expect there to be many opportunities for science to take what we have learnt and apply it so that it can be more readily used to inform decision making to keep NZ relatively pest free.

So remember if you see something odd, catch it and call the MPI exotic pest and disease hotline 0800 80 99 66.

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Lloyd Stringer is a BMSB-plagued PhD student at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland, and scientist in the Biosecurity Group and Plant & Food Research, Lincoln. He is trying to understand how populations and management tools interact for pest surveillance and eradication. He is supervised by Max SucklingJacqueline Beggs, and John Kean

 

2017 highlights for Ecology Ngātahi

Post by Anna Frances Probert @AFProbert

It’s almost the end of the year, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the Ecology Ngātahi research group for 2017. However, please note that the following post merely highlights some of the achievements of Ecology Ngātahi – there is simply not enough space or time to cover everything!

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Dr Garvey and Dr Galbraith at graduation earlier this year

We said haere mai to six new students this year: Kshama Awasthi (MSc), Andre Bellve (MSc), Zach Carter (PhD), Ben Cranston (PhD), Kathy Crewther (PhD) and Cathy Nottingham (MSc) who added to our diverse array of research interests, involving everything from remote sensing to impacts of hedgehogs! On the flip side, we had five students graduate: the wonderful Patrick Garvey and Josie Galbraith were awarded their PhDs earlier this year and Sam Heggie-Gracie, Sam Lincoln and Tom Saunders were awarded their Masters degrees. Congratulations!

 

More recently, we congratulated a number of our academic team who were promoted to Associate Professor. Congratulations to the new Assoc. Prof. Bruce Burns, Assoc. Prof. Margaret Stanley and Assoc. Prof. James Russell. Further congratulations must also be extended to the newly appointed Professor Jacqueline Beggs. I think a lab party is in order!

Earlier this year, we were very fortunate to have two visiting PhD students from Brazil for several months thanks to their collaboration with James Russell. Vinícius Peron de Oliveira Gasparotto and Carlos Robberto Abrahão, conduct their field research at Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago 545km of the coast of Brazil in the Atlantic. Viní’s work focuses on the endemic Noronha skink (Trachylepis atlantica), with his research investigating the biology of this poorly studied species, as well as assessing the potential risk posed to the skink population from invasive species. Carlos, on the other hand, researches the biology and impacts of a large, ferocious, invasive lizard occurring on the islands, the Tegu (Tupinambis merianae). We wish Viní and Carlos all the best in finishing their PhDs and hope they come visit again (or even better, we go and visit them).

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Carlos and Viní having some car issues, but remaining in good spirits as they travel NZ

 

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Carolina and Margaret in Sevilla (with Lucy and Jamie)

Travelling was a theme of the year, with many members of our groups going to far-flung places as a result of conferences and collaborations. James Russell had the fortune of visiting Brazil to work on island invasives, taking the opportunity to capture what I’m awarding the “Cutest critter cuddle” for his picture with a tapir. Several members of our group, including Carolina, Margaret, Jamie and Jacqueline, spent time sipping sangria (or at least I hope they did) in Sevilla, due to their international collaborations. Carolina took advantage of the European visit to attend and present a poster at the Ecological Networks Symposium in Uppsala, Sweden. Julia Schmack and James attended the Islands Invasive Conference in Dundee, Scotland and Julia Kaplick attended the 10th International Sap Flow workshop in California in May. Later in the year Ecotas lured Bruce, Cate Jamie and Ben to the Hunter Valley in NSW, Australia, where Cate was elected President of the New Zealand Ecological Society.

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James Russell wins the annual “Cutest critter cuddle” award 2017 for his picture with this tapir

Some noteworthy research highlights from students include Josie publishing two new papers on her urban bird research, Jamie publishing on functional redundancy across agricultural intensification gradients and Lloyd Stringer with his paper on the

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Jamie enjoying a well deserved beer immediately post-thesis hand in

management and eradication options for the Queensland fruit fly. A special mention of congratulations Alice, who handed in and successfully defended her thesis this year, and to Jamie, who handed in his PhD in September, and is due to defend in January 2018.

 

Several students including the illuminating Ellery, Carolina and myself wrapped up field work for our PhDs and are now to be contained to the lab (at least in my case) or office for the foreseeable future. On the opposite side of the PhD, Ben established his kauri drought experiment Huapai and we look forward to hearing about these forest giants deal with the stress of water shortage.

And on one final note, our group had a really fantastic year for science communication. School visits, guest writing spots, radio interviews, policy opinion panels – there was a lot going on!

We wish everyone a jolly good festive season, and happy New Year. Don’t forget to spread the word and Respect the Rahui!

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from us!

 

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 ecosystemsShe is supervised by Margaret StanleyJacqueline Beggs, and Darren Ward.

 

 

Rāhui to protect kauri in the Waitākere Ranges

Posted by Julia Kaplick @julekap

New Zealand kauri is one of the country’s most iconic species and of great natural and cultural importance, but this forest giant is under threat by a deadly pathogen. Kauri dieback is caused by the seemingly invisible organism Phytophthora agathidicida. The first symptoms are wilting leaves and lesions at the base of trees. Underground the fine feeding roots as well as the anchoring tap roots are rotting. Over time the infection kills the trees leaving only ghostly wooden skeletons standing.

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Dead kauri tree at Waipoua forest

A recent report published by Auckland Council found that a fifth of kauri in the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park show symptoms of dieback and the picture looks especially grim along the many walking tracks. The spread of the deadly pathogen more than doubled in the last five years showing that whatever measures were taken in the past had unfortunately little effect.

Phythosanitary stations have been in place since 2008. They mostly consist of Trigene or Sterigene solution filled spray bottles and brushes to clean soil from footwear. The disinfectant kills the active zoospores of Phytopthora agathadicida, but not the dormant spores which is why it is so important to remove all soil from shoes. The Council report does however show, that the stations are not effective enough, mainly due to people ignoring them or not using them properly.

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As people are the main reason why the disease spreads so quickly through the forest local iwi Te Kawerau a Maki placed a rāhui over the Waitakere Ranges. Their hope is to stop any further spread and to give the forest time to heal and recover. Auckland Council on the other hand decided to not officially close regional park. To some this might be surprising, but track closures in the past have shown, that many people just ignore them. The regional park is simply too big to enforce a complete closure. This way the cleaning station will be maintained for people deciding to go for a walk despite the rāhui. The Council does support the rāhui and several individual tracks throughout the Waitakere Ranges are closed due to dieback.

Personally, I will respect the rāhui and stay away from kauri in the Waitākere ranges and I hope many will do the same. It is for now the only way to protect kauri and preserve this iconic tree for future generations.

photo_juliaJulia 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.  

The Beautiful Sea Creatures

Posted by Carolina Lara @carislaris

In the process of becoming half New Zealander, I have invariably found myself spending a lot of time at the beach. I grew up in a semi-deserted area of Mexico so the marine environment was unknown to me, particularly the vast seabird community. From this I’ve learnt two things, not all birds live in the forest and not all seabirds are seagulls. In New Zealand/Aotearoa, around a third of the ca. 80 species of seabirds are endemic. Among the most amazing ones we find the largest albatross in the world, the magnificent toroa; the tiny and unfortunately endangered dotterel/tūturiwhatu; the Chatham Island oystercatcher/tōrea; the Westland petrel/tāiko, and the fascinating  New Zealand storm petrel (believed extinct and re-discovered in 2003), to mention a few.

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New Zealand storm Petrel

Why are seabirds important? Well as explained by Moller et al (2000), seabirds often breed in dense colonies and their abundance, high guano loads and soil burrowing makes them a “keystone species”, species that play a large role in the prevalence and population levels of other species within their environment.  Any change in seabirds abundance would likely affect important soil processes (nitrification, plant regeneration) and therefore abundance of other animal species. Most importantly, seabirds shape the ecology of terrestrial communities by acting as a link between the sea and the land because they import marine-derived nutrients into terrestrial communities.

Despite the great value of seabirds in maintaining of ecosystems, their abundance has dramatically decrease worldwide, with an estimated 70% decline over the last 60 years, representing the deaths of 230 million birds. Some of the threats seabirds face are: plastic pollution (plastic rubbish is found in 90% of birds guts), overfishing, toxic pollution, nest predation by invasive species (e.g. rats) and the effects of rising sea temperatures on their food supply. New Zealand hasn’t escaped this trend with the dotterel/tūturiwhatu and yellow-eyed penguin/hoiho making it to the news recently, not many individuals of each species are left in the wild.

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Dotterel/tūturiwhatu at Martin’s Bay

Is there still hope for our seabirds? Yes, with adequate management programs to get rid of invasive species in seabird colonies, regulating fishing to avoid birds getting caught in fish nets, reducing our plastic consumption and the establishment of conservation areas we can expect a recovery in seabird abundance in the long run. For now, let’s go out and appreciate these beautiful sea creatures.

 

CalisCarolina 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 StanleyJason Tylianakis, Karine David, and Anna Santure.

Detecting drought with remote sensing – some preliminary results

Posted by Kshama Awasthi

Green vegetation growth is a useful indicator of drought events and vegetation indices such normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI) and enhanced vegetation index (EVI) are often used for the assessment of agricultural drought. I have been evaluating the sensitivity of these indices to detect the impact of drought on forest areas in various parts of Aotearoa New Zealand. In general, a higher NDVI or EVI value represents more healthy vegetation so I expected to see a decline in the vegetation indices during drought.

Picture1Right: NDVI values for the Hunua Ranges for the month of March

There was a slight decline in NDVI in 2013 during the drought. To confirm the role of drought in the decline in NDVI, I am using soil moisture deficit (SMD) data from NIWA. SMD is calculated using incoming daily rainfall (mm), outgoing daily potential evapotranspiration (mm) and fixed available water capacity that is the amount of water in the soil reservoir that plants can use.

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Above: Soil moisture deficit and vegetation health indices for summer months at Hunua Ranges.

As expected, the NDVI (r2=55%) and EVI (r2=65%) both show a strong relationships with SMD which indicates NDVI and EVI values are responsive to drought.

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Above: Relationships between soil moisture deficit and NDVI and EVI vegetation indices for summertime at Hunua Ranges, 2006-2017.

EVI values decreased more in response to drought conditions as compared to NDVI, indicating that EVI is more sensitive then NDVI on the onset of drought conditions.

Since the relationship between EVI and SMD is stronger than the correlation between NDVI and SMD, EVI can be the better indicator of drought detection in forest as compared to the NDVI as EVI provides improved sensitivity in high biomass regions while minimizing soil and atmosphere influences.

This is the result for the Hunua Ranges and calculations for other sites are still ongoing.

kshama Kshama Awasthi is an MSc student supervised by Cate Macinnis-Ng and Jay Gao

Microchipping: A force for good

Posted by Kathy Crewther @kat_crewz

Earlier this week, a Taranaki Regional Council hearings committee recommended that feral cats be defined as cats which are “unowned, unsocialised, and have no relationship with or dependence on humans” (Taranaki Regional Council, 2017). This will please some cat lovers since submissions had been made to define a feral cat as “any cat without a microchip, collar, or harness” with some owners fearing that this could equate to a ‘licence to kill’ their wandering, microchip-free pet moggie. But it does raise the question: Why haven’t you microchipped your cat?

According to the New Zealand Companion Animal Council, 44% of NZ households have a pet cat compared to 28% with dogs, making cats the most popular pet in the country. However, while 71% of dog owners had microchipped their pet, only 31% of cat owners had done so (New Zealand Companion Animal Council Inc., 2016).

Every day, websites like petsonthenet.co.nz and neighbourly.co.nz have listings of anxious owners desperate to find their missing cats and – yes – some of them are microchipped. However, the chances of being reunited with your furry family member are much higher if people know how to find you. This means not only microchipping your cat, but also making sure you keep your contact details up to date after you register the microchip.

I have had two recent experiences which illustrate the value of the microchip. Earlier in the year, one of my colleagues took in a distressed cat that looked like he had been wandering for some time. When she took him to the vet to check for a microchip, she discovered that the cat had been missing for 5 months and had somehow found his way from Botany to Takapuna! Thanks to an up-to-date microchip registration, kitty was reunited with a very happy and grateful owner.

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Distance is no object to cats who will sometimes secretly (or accidentally) hitch a lift

When a cat I had never seen before turned up repeatedly on my doorstep, the lack of a microchip did not mean a death sentence for this fluffy wanderer, but it did mean I was unable to reunite her with her owners, despite placing listings on various websites. Instead, Dorey (as she is now known) was able to be re-homed with a very caring family and no longer shows any desire to wander.

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In the absence of a microchip, Dorey was unable to be reunited with her owners, but fortunately a new family was found for her

Moral of the story: microchipping is there to help protect your beloved pets and to ensure that, in the event they go missing, you are reunited with them as quickly as possible. And, at around $45-80, microchipping is one of the most affordable aspects of pet ownership. So, please, if you haven’t already done it – microchip your cat.

 

twitter picKathy Crewther is a PhD candidate in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland. She is investigating the management of domestic cats and their impact on urban wildlife.

 

 

References:

Decision Report of Council in respect of submissions to the Proposed Regional Pest Management Plan and Taranaki Regional Council Biosecurity Strategy, Document number: 1952447. (October 31, 2017). Retrieved November 2, 2017, from https://www.trc.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Plans-policies/PestPlanReview/RPMP-TBS-DecisionReport2017-web.pdf

New Zealand Companion Animal Council Inc. (2016). Companion Animals in New Zealand 2016. Auckland, New Zealand.

 

 

Breaking the mowing addiction – let’s have some meadows.

Posted by Bruce Burns @BruceTracks

Why do we mow so much? In the city, our landscape norm is buildings set in areas of close cropped grass, and we are taught from an early age that regularly mowing lawns is the height of good husbandry (or wifebandry). But does it need to be so?

The mown lawn could rightly be viewed as an emblem of western civilization, and modern urban form owes much to the existence of lawnmowers. Regular mowing maintains open space around our buildings and roads and prevents ecological succession of those areas to weeds or forest. But there is a lot of lawn to mow – urban grasslands take up around 15 – 20% of Auckland (and other western cities) land area. There is also a cultural norm that seems to equate closely-mown lawns to tidiness, order, and care for urban human habitat. Mowing has become a regular activity for us, and we even instil a mowing ethos in our children with toy mowers.

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Meadows in low-mow situations in Auckland provide multiple environmental and biodiversity benefits

But all that mowing comes at a cost, both real and opportunity. Publically and privately we spend millions of dollars and hours each year on mowing. Environmentally, mowing burns fuel and thereby contributes emissions to the air and pollutants to water. The opportunity costs can be estimated by considering what happens if we mow less and let lawns turn into meadows. Urban grasslands provide areas for stormwater infiltration and water retention – these ecosystem services are increased when grassland swards are deeper. As well, urban biodiversity would be enhanced. Meadow vegetation supports a greater diversity and abundance of plants, insects (including pollinators) and many other life forms. As well, wildflower-rich meadows would have psychological benefits for many urban dwellers, and they are stunningly romantic.

So, let’s experiment with setting aside areas within our cities and allow them to develop into meadows. I’m not talking about everywhere and not suggesting they won’t need some management. But I think we have a lot to gain by leaving the mower in the shed and valuing the nature that happens as a result.

bruceDr Bruce Burns is a Senior Lecturer in Plant Ecology in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. He is a plant community ecologist specialising in the biodiversity and restoration of natural, managed, and urban ecosystems.

Amazon Biodiversity Monitoring in Ducke Reserve

Posted by James Russell @IsldJames

Monitoring of biodiversity is a challenge, but visiting Ducke reserve in the Amazon I am able to see one of the gold standards for long-term biodiversity research. Satellite images reveal an oddly square 10 x 10 km forest block just to the north-east of Manaus. Here lies the Ducke scientific reserve owned by the National Institute of Amazon Research (INPA). My Brazilian colleague Carlos Abrahão undertook his early postgraduate research here and is keen to show me the reserve.

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Our hike in to the central camp of the reserve is exhausting. Lying on the equator in the humid forest one only has to walk a few minutes before being drenched in sweat. As we navigate the linear track system turning at right angles appropriately, an afternoon thunderstorm threatens in the distance. As we nimbly traverse the last tree fall bridge of a stream we come upon the forest camp, and only minutes later the storm hits.

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After making camp, stringing our hammocks up, darkness falls and the storm abates. Carlos takes this opportunity to eagerly search for the snakes he undertook his research upon. The best he can find is a tree snake, but for a New Zealander coming from a land without snakes, this is the perfect entry level snake for someone like me to let crawl upon themselves. Still, both I and the snake are happy when it is returned to the tree.

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The perfectly square grid system the design of the RAPELD system imagined by INPA researcher Bill Magnusson. By dividing the scientific reserve in to consecutively larger squares, questions of importance to biodiversity managers can be appropriately matched to scale, whether it be the taxonomy of biodiversity in a tiny square, to forest dynamics across the entire reserve. Before entering the reserve Bill was generous enough to give me a copy of his book Biodiversity and Integrated Environmental Monitoring. It is a must-read for those interested in long-term biodiversity monitoring, especially as one lies in their hammock in the centre of the very reserve it focuses upon, listening to the cacophony of amphibians.

Originally posted on National Geographic Voices