Steve Pointing

Professor Steve Pointing is Director of the Institute for Applied Ecology New Zealand, AUT University. He completed his undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Great Britain, with undergraduate focus in biochemistry and postgraduate study in microbiology. His doctoral research addressed marine fungal and bacterial colonization of shipwreck timbers from the Tudor warship Mary Rose. After gaining his doctorate he lived and worked in Hong Kong until 2012, conducting research on the microbial ecology of extreme environments. He now calls Auckland home, and his research focuses on environmental issues with regional and global relevance, including New Zealand’s strategic commitment to Antarctica. Steve is on Twitter @stevepointing

Finding Pokémon Go creatures in real kiwi wildlife - Pointing At Science

Sep 03, 2016

If you have noticed more people than usual just wandering across roads without looking recently, chances are they were playing Pokémon Go.  This game uses augmented reality to lead players on a chase to capture Pokémon cartoon animals.  The thing is, I reckon we could do a pretty decent job of this game using REAL animals in Aotearoa New Zealand.  Here are a few suggestions and comparisons with actual Pokémon Go characters: Pokémon Caterpie This Pokémon is a vivid green caterpillar and of course we have many larvae of moths and butterflies that could substitute for Caterpie, but my vote goes to the green looper caterpillar. This is the larva of the moth Chryodeixis eriosoma and is commonly found in veggy patches around the country. It is actually a pest if you like growing veggies, but instead of spraying … Read More

Science with a smile today - Pointing At Science

Jul 13, 2016

Sometimes it is easy to find science that makes you smile, and this week I feature three interesting and amusing advances by scientists in New Zealand and the UK. Listen live today on 95.0 bFM radio at 12:15 or catch the podcast on-demand. Why thumb-sucking babies get fewer allergies Did you suck your thumb or bite your nails as a kid? Did your parents tell you off about it all the time?  Well finally science is your instrument for revenge – as Kiwi researchers at  Otago’s School of Medicine in Dunedin prove how biting your nails and sucking your thumb actually make your body tougher in the fight against allergies as you get older. A longitudinal study of over 1,000 participants born in 1970s were studied at infancy and then again as teens … Read More

Amazing animal facts - Pointing At Science

Jul 06, 2016

Birds that fly non-stop, central heating for ants, and decoding the language of pigs – all this and more on Dear Science today on 95.0 bFM radio, or listen to the podcast on demand. Birds that fly non stop We’ve all heard about amazing feats of endurance by migrating birds, and especially those that cross the oceans. Several species travel thousands of kilometres but mostly they benefit from ‘pit stops’ along the way on convenient outcrops of land. For bird aficionados the frigate bird is arguably the superstar of long distance flight, having been previously recorded to fly more than two weeks non-stop. Now new research has smashed that record by using satellite tracking and real-time biometric data to show these birds actually routinely fly non stop for periods of over two months!  This is particularly important for frigate … Read More

Never mind the oil, what about these resources? - Unsorted

Jun 29, 2016

We’ve all heard the concerns over non-renewable resources such as oil, but science has raised some interesting questions about some rather more unusual resource issues recently. I discuss these and other science news stories on bFM’s Dear Science show today. Helium: the new fossil fuel? What is helium and what is it used for? Helium (He) is an element named after the Greek Sun god, Helios. It is the second lightest element in the periodic table, an inert gas with the lowest melting and boiling point of any element, and hence highly desirable as a coolant. It is used to super-cool magnets in MRI machines and the Large Hadron Collider, and even as a rocket fuel coolant. Helium also has many more down-to-earth uses such as in the small lasers … Read More

What would aliens really think about humans? - Pointing At Science

Jun 27, 2016

With the release of ‘Independence Day – Resurgence’ in kiwi cinemas this week, I thought it might be a good time to ponder what aliens might really think about humans – in relation to our scientific efforts to make ourselves known in space.  The most pervasive signal from humans so far are radio waves.  Science tells us that longer wavelength radio waves such as FM radio, television signals and cellphone signals escape and expand our presence into space at almost the speed of light, that’s around 300,000km per second. Short wave radio cannot escape the ionosphere and the signals bounce back – so conversations between radio hams will thankfully not be the first thing ET hears. Radio has been around for just over a century, meaning a bubble of human news, music, entertainment … Read More

A link between the economy, cancer and corporate deviancy? - Pointing At Science

May 30, 2016

A few quirky social studies have appeared in the science literature, reporting data that the authors variously claim links increased cancer deaths to economic downturn, identifies a ‘value’ for corporate misconduct, and shows that the effort you put in to a relationship depends on how your partner stacks up against the competition! Is there a link between economic downturn and a rise in cancer? New research published in the leading medical journal The Lancet this week describes how over a quarter of a million cancer deaths were correlated with economic downturn in developed economies after the 2008 financial collapse. The study by a team from Harvard School of Public Health studied over 2 billion people in 70 OECD countries. They concluded those without a universal healthcare provision such as the USA, Russia and several central and eastern European countries … Read More

Hannibal, Yellowstone and dinosaurs with malaria – weird microbes - Pointing At Science

Apr 06, 2016

Today on my Dear Science show on 95.0 bFM radio we have a special feature on weird microbiology stories that are making the headlines this week.  You can listen to the podcast here. Poo microbes reveal Hannibal’s route over the Alps Source: Wikimedia Let’s start with a history lesson: Hannibal was Commander in Chief of the Carthaginian army during their war with Rome in the 3rdcentury BC; Carthage was a city state in what is now Tunisia and was at the time Rome’s main rival. Hannibal pulled off what is seen as one the greatest military strategies of the ancient world. He marched his entire army of 30,000 troops, 15,000 horses and 37 elephants over the Alps to fight the Romans in their own backyard. After several victories he ultimately lost the war … Read More

Ant-tastic science - Pointing At Science

Mar 23, 2016

There have been several recent scientific papers about ants that really caught my eye. I share some thoughts on these below, or you can listen to my Dear Science podcast this week for more on these stories. War and Peace – ant style African acacia ants build their colonies in trees and are well known for their aggressive role in fending off large herbivores from their ‘tree house’ with a fierce bite. They also regard ant colonies from any other tree as mortal enemies. Ants are particularly aggressive to one another and fights can leave thousands dead on both sides. This has been hypothesized to leave post-fight colonies more vulnerable to further attack. A study by Kathleen Rudolph and Jay McEntee in Behavioural Ecology has demonstrated how some ant colonies have developed a novel … Read More

Mātauranga Māori in science - Pointing At Science

Feb 09, 2016

At my Institute we actively nurture a spirit of collaborative learning in our research and teaching relationships by developing tikanga (Māori protocols) for ensuring the cultural safety and comfort of all research stakeholders. We wanted to share our experience and so have just released a new video on the Sci21 websiteby conservationist Dr John Perrott, acknowledging the value and integrity of Mātauranga Māori in science. Here is a quote from John on this issue: “Indigenous knowledge is enshrined in New Zealand’s culture and legislation through the Treaty of Waitangi. The importance Māori place on the environment, and native flora and fauna in particular is demonstrated in Māori art, oral narratives and proverbial sayings. Understanding Māori knowledge and cultural norms is essential for science practitioners in New Zealand if they are to build effective working relationships with Māori communities. Read More

I’m baaaaaack! - Pointing At Science

Feb 03, 2016

After a fantastic kiwi summer totally off the grid, it’s time to get back to work, and also to the fun part of science – which for me is all things ‘scicomms’ My radio show ‘Dear Science – science that makes sense’ kicks off again today and has a fresh new look and a new co-host in Sara Shirazi.  Today we discuss the history of coconuts and cats, and ask the essential pythonesque question “what have the Romans ever done for us?” Tune in at 12:30pm today on 95.0 bFM or listen to the podcast The Sci21 portal is expanding its content, if you haven’t been there yet make time to view the latest video upload ’emerging infectious diseases’ – particularly relevant if anyone is following press coverage on the Zika virus. A new feature is the Sci21-open … Read More