Archive Environment and Ecology

Sciblogs 2.0 coming soon – wanna get involved? Peter Griffin Jun 26

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After nearly six years in operation, Australasia’s largest blog network is getting a facelift and some fresh voices.

Sciblogs features commentary from around 30 scientists and science writers and is consistently ranked among the country’s top 10 blogs based on Sitemeter statistics.

But the platform is well overdue for a revamp and will soon be relaunched with a new look, new additions to the blogging line-up and a remit of appealing to a wider audience.

Among the changes will be:

  • A more visual look and refreshed blog homepages
  • Mobile-friendly design so Sciblogs looks good on smartphones and tablets
  • Some new bloggers covering everything from drones to psychology
  • News content drawing from sources such as our new research news portal.

Become a Scibling

We are on the lookout for new science bloggers to join our lively stable of bloggers and as well as writers, videographers and social media gurus who are passionate about science communication and who are keen to collaborate on Sciblogs.

“The likes of Iflscience, Science Alert and the science blog networks of Scientific American and Scienceblogs shows there’s strong appetite for science news and commentary,” said Sciblogs editor and Science Media Centre Director, Peter Griffin.

“We want to grow the Sciblogs community featuring the best, most interesting science from New Zealand and around the world. We’ll improve our mobile and social media presence so Sciblogs content is easier to browse and share.”

The new Sciblogs will go live by the end of August – contact if you would like to get involved.

Speed bumps on the road to Paris Peter Griffin Jun 24

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The next few months will witness a steady build-up to COP21, the December major climate change conference organised by the United Nations, and in the mind of many scientists, our last chance to strike a global agreement to tackle emissions reduction in a bid to stop dangerous global warming.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 4.17.21 pmThere hasn’t been as much anticipation ahead of a COP “conference of the parties”, since 2009, when politicians, policy officials, scientists and climate activists descended on Copenhagen to hammer out an international deal to curb emissions. That COP was widely considered to be a failure. The will wasn’t there. But will it be there six years on?

As we close in on the Paris meeting, scrutiny will also fall on the commitments individual nations make around emissions reduction targets beyond 2020.

The New Zealand Government recently held public consultation on our climate target, received over 10,000 submissions and attracting attendance of around 1,700 people at public meetings around the country.

So far, so constructive. But the climate target discussion paper and the nature of the consultation has attracted widespread criticism, most recently from the Association of Scientists just this week. Below I’ve summarised some of the feedback on the climate target from various parties:

Association of Scientists - critical of the short consultation period (less than four weeks) and the “minimal involvement” of key scientific institutions.

“The general lack of engagement by CRIs and Universities in the consultation process may reflect concerns previously raised by the Association about conflicts of interest in the scientific community, as a result of the Government’s policy of mainly funding scientific research that has a direct application in industry or government.”

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright – made an urgent call for the setting up of a national forum to tackle climate change. Said measures currently in place to tackle climate change are “insufficient”.

“The discussion document is disappointing – it is long on national circumstances, but short on ambition.”

Dr Wright’s submission on the climate target discussion document is available here.

Joint statement from Morgan Foundation, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, Generation Zero, Greenhouse Capital, Greenpeace and several individuals – consultation period was too short, emissions trading scheme hasn’t worked, we need cross-party agreement on tackling climate change.

“We can’t continue to puff up our existing achievements and investments while our emissions rise. There is only so long our international reputation could survive that sort of damage.”

Royal Society of New Zealand – a detailed science-based appraisal, recommending that New Zealand’s target should be around a 40% reduction in net emissions relative to 1990 gross emission levels, by 2030.

“This brief consultation period is not sufficient for the discussions we need to have as a country on how we want to respond to the biggest challenge of our time. Such conversations need to happen at multiple levels, on an ongoing basis, and across sectors.”

You can read the Royal Society submission here.

Victoria University academicsreported the New Zealand Herald, the academics say there is a “disconnect in it between the Government’s suggestions and questions, and CO2 emissions projections”.

“It nowhere demonstrates how it plans to achieve New Zealand’s existing CO2 emission reduction targets for 2020 to 2050.”

New Zealand Herald economics editor, Brian Fallow – consultation short on time and information.

“The short consultation timeframe and the limited information the Government has released suggest its attitude is one of shoulder-shrugging indifference: ‘Climate change? Is that still a thing?’”

Other analysis and criticism of the climate target discussion paper is outlined here.

A summary of submissions will be published by the Ministry for the Environment.

On climate change and fire-breathing dragons Peter Griffin Apr 01

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Given the recent climate-related discussion here on Sciblogs, paper from Nature seems highly appropriate…

Wed 1 Apr – Embargoed until 12:01 NZT:
Climate change to wake sleeping dragonsAn Australian and UK study has reported that increasing temperatures will result in an explosion of fire-breathing dragons around the world. The researchers say that dragon numbers declined during cool periods in history such as the so-called Little Ice Age but are likely to make a comeback as the planet warms. This suggests that New Zealand could become a targeted food source, due to its abundant supply of dwarves, elves and hobbits. Australian expert comments available. New Zealand newspapers have permission from the journal to run this story in print on the day the embargo lifts, with the strict proviso that nothing can appear online until after the embargo lifts. 

Yes, they even produced a paper on it…

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 1.43.19 pm

Ominously, they conclude:

Climatic conditions are rapidly reaching an optimum for breeding dragons, and it is only a matter of time before the neurotransfer spell loses its efficacy completely. Further research into fireproof protective clothing is highly recommended — as is an avoidance of honorific titles.

It nearly fooled a few journalists too!

Sponsoring species – is it worth it? Peter Griffin Mar 25

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From the Yellow-eyed penguin to the Kakapo, companies are keen to associate their brands with efforts to save some of our iconic native species.

Yellow-Eyed Penguin  Source: Wikipedia

Yellow-Eyed Penguin Source: Wikipedia

Is this funding worth it? Hell yes! As Department of Conversation spending on preserving biodiversity comes under pressure, private money is increasingly being sought to support conservation efforts. We need these public-private partnerships more than ever.

This Dominion Post article from 2012 article outlines the impact on the Kakapo Recovery Trust that was expected in the face of the New Zealand Aluminium Smelters withdrawing its funding after 22 years. NZAS appears to have hung in there with its sponsorship and this year will round out 25 years of support of the Kakapo Recovery Trust. BNZ has put its money on the Kiwi with Operation Nest Egg. Cheese maker Mainland supports the Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust while Dulux, in addition to sprucing up DOC huts with a fresh coat of paint, sponsors Kea conservation efforts.

The list goes on – you can see the goodwill associated with efforts to preserve our “charismatic” species.

But while the rockstars of the natural world bring the sponsorship dollars in, new research shows that funding conservation efforts tightly around the needs of individual species may miss out on wider benefits to other species. That is, there may be ways to save two birds with the same dollar…

A paper just published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B looked at the economics and efficiency of sponsoring flagship species. (view the abstract and press release on Scimex)

New research led by Australian and New Zealand scientists suggests that privately sponsoring the conservation of charismatic ‘flagship’ species can also help save other species from extinction, putting into question the notion that this approach to conservation is biased and inefficient. The researchers looked at the conservation actions for 700 of the most threatened species in New Zealand and argue that while other species’ conservation also improve from funding ‘flagship’ species, it could be boosted further if these funds were “optimally allocated among all threatened species”.

The lesson therefore for how to get the best bang for buck from conservation sponsorship – for biodiversity in general is, according to the authors:

1. use objective criteria for baseline funding of threatened species conservation, and use private funding for flagship species conservation as efficiently as possible to maximize shared benefits with other species. If private donors are made aware of the ancillary gains from their flagship species sponsorship, this may encourage further donations or new partners.

2. Encourage donations to a broader suite of flagship species, to maximize possibilities for efficient sponsorship through shared actions with other species. As noted by Verissimo et al., using a relatively large ‘flagship fleet’ can potentially appeal to a larger pool of donors. Our results show that a ‘flagship fleet’ can also allow additional flexibility to increase the efficiency of allocating conservation funding. If donors wish to sponsor an individual species, they can be encouraged to sponsor species whose conservation actions result in the greatest additional biodiversity gains. If donors are willing to sponsor a ‘flagship fleet’ of species, the money can be used to fund the specific actions with the great- est additional biodiversity gains.

3. Explore the possibility of encouraging private funding for general biodiversity goals. Although private funding for flagship species can help to conserve biodiversity, in general, it can only supplement, not replace, funding based on objective criteria. If such supplemental funding can be used in the most efficient manner possible, the greatest biodiversity gains can be achieved.

At the Science Media Centre we approached  Dr Wayne Linklater, Director of the Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology at Victoria University Wellington and a contributor here at Sciblogs, for comment:

“Private conservation funding in New Zealand is growing, and growing rapidly. Thank goodness for it, because we need it.  Public funding for conservation is not enough to halt further species declines and extinctions, let alone recover those species already in trouble.

Policy diversity begets biodiversity – the more tools we can apply the greater variety of good outcomes that are possible.  Private funding of iconic species is a new and increasingly used tool in New Zealand and through it outcomes will be achieved that would not otherwise be possible.

The 10 species in the article which  benefited from private-public partnerships are just a few, perhaps only a quarter to a third, of NZ species that might attract private funding. The potential is for rapid economic growth in privately funded conservation.

Consider also that many of the programs to conserve NZ’s iconic species are inefficient. They are expensive and success is unlikely. Indeed, those iconic species will probably be reliant on a high-cost conservation investment for a very long time to come. Where, however, their iconic status can also attract private funding, they can at least improve investment and outcomes for other species.

Although the authors do not consider it, we shouldn’t also discount the potential for private funding of habitat, landscapes, and ecosystem functions. Some with cash to spare will be attracted to the idea of supporting many species at once – communities of plants and animals, landscape vistas, or particular services that the ecosystem provides, like animal pollination or drinking water quality. We know that conservation at such larger scales, when it is possible, is more efficient at conserving biodiversity. I expect private funding for those things would result in even larger gains in plant and animal conservation than those described by the authors who focussed only on privately funding of individual species.

“But we shouldn’t make the mistake of believing that any one policy will do the job on its own. Private funding for conservation is just one tool in our toolbox and we need to learn how to use it well and when it is best used. This is our next challenge.

For many however, private funding will distort what would be regard as sensible conservation priorities. The debate about what is important and what is not will continue. And it should. The debate is important. The author’s however, go some way to demonstrating that private funding is a help, not a hindrance. Nevertheless, not all private funding is the same. In time, conservationists will also be challenged to structure funding and  discriminate amongst private funders to ensure that conservation is not prejudiced by a few elites.

In particular, when considering private funding for conservation we should not forget the enormous amount of conservation in New Zealand done by individuals and communities that is not quantified in money terms but is nonetheless, also privately funded conservation. It is New Zealanders conserving by ‘doing’ rather than just by ‘donating’ and I expect that if we quantified it and its outcomes, they too could be large. Fortunately, we now have a Dept. of Conservation that is focussed on supporting community conservation to benefit from that grass-roots doing and giving.”

Top ten weirdest science stories of 2014 Peter Griffin Dec 19

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It was another big year for science capped off with the successful Rosetta mission to land a probe on a comet. But as usual, there were also plenty of quirky science stories that captured our attention too. My colleagues at the Australian Science Media Centre rounded up a list of the some of the quirkiest.

Sorry hipsters, we hit peak beard

In April, Australian researchers delivered a cutting blow to hairy male hipsters – theirresearch found that beards are only attractive to women if they’re a rarity. The bald truth is that, when too many people conform to bristly non-conformism, it quickly becomes a turn-off. But there was good news for men who’ve resisted rejecting their razors in the current sea of beards – a smooth chin is considered more attractive when everyone else is sporting facial fuzz. The researchers said their findings reflect patterns seen in other animals – females tend to find rare features attractive in potential mates.


There was a bigfoot-step forward in yeti research

July brought abominable news for mythical animal fans; a detailed analysis of 30 tufts of hair from around the world thought to be from yetis, bigfoot and other extraordinary ape-like creatures showed they all came from ordinary, decidedly non-mythical animals. Ten samples turned out to be bear hair, while others were from dogs, cows, horses, and there was even one from a person. However, some of the results were out of the ordinary; two of the samples – from the mountains of India and Bhutan – didn’t match any living animals, but did match an extinct species of polar bear thought to have died out around 40,000 years ago.


Eeeeeuuuugh! A snog transferred 80m bacteria

Watch out under the mistletoe this year – in November, Dutch researchers took bacterial samples from the mouths of 21 canoodling couples and found that a ten second snog transfers as many as 80 million bacteria. They also noticed that partners who kiss nine times a day or more share similar communities of mouth microbes. But don’t be too grossed out – a regular game of tonsil tennis is good for our health, priming our immune systems to fight off any infections we pick up from our partners later, they say.


‘Women’ with willies made us wince

Scientists announced the first example of an animal where the female has a ‘penis’ and the male a ‘vagina’ – the bizarre Brazilian cave insect Neotrogla – in April. During sex, the aggressive female penetrates a vagina-like opening on the male’s back with a barbed penis-like organ, grappling the couple together. You might want to cross your legs for this next gory detail – the pair bond so tightly that, when separated by the scientists, the male’s body ripped apart, leaving his genitals behind. And, to top it all off, these females put male lovers to shame – mating can last up to 70 hours. I think we all know who wears the trousers in that relationship.


Life imitated art as TV’s Dr House cured a real-life patient

In February, German doctors who were stumped by a tricky case were struck by some remarkably familiar symptoms while watching an episode of US TV medical drama ‘House’. Their patient was suffering from seemingly inexplicable severe heart failure, as was the fictional physician’s. The medical misanthrope diagnosed his patient as suffering from cobalt poisoning caused by a metal hip implant, and when the real-life doctors replaced their own patient’s metal hip implant with a ceramic one, he rapidly recovered.


Robopenguin rolled into our hearts

In November, researchers introduced the world to a rather cute remote-controlled rover disguised as a baby penguin, designed to monitor real penguin populations in the Antarctic. The bogus bird certainly had the real ones fooled – even notoriously shy emperor penguins tried to communicate with it and let it join a crèche of chicks. The pretend penguin will allow scientists to monitor the effects of climate change on wild populations without stressing the birds out or disrupting their natural behaviour.


The oldest fossilised sperm was found, and it was enormous

In May, scientists revealed supersized sperm fossils they’d found in Queensland, which are at least 16 million-years-old. The gargantuan gametes are ten times as long as the animals that produced them – crustaceans called ostracods – and 20 times the length of human sperm. The scientists used X-rays to figure out how the giant sperm fit inside the bodies of animals a tenth of their size, but just why the sperm are so large remains a mystery.


Female hurricanes were deadlier than males

Rudyard Kipling probably wasn’t thinking about the weather when he penned his poem‘The female of the species is more deadly than the male’, but in June, US scientistsclaimed it may be true of hurricanes. Comparing the death tolls of hurricanes with male and female names between 1950 and 2012, they found the females have, on average, killed more than the males. Further experiments suggested the assumption that males are the more aggressive and dangerous sex may lead people to underestimate the danger posed by female hurricanes. The result is a reluctance to evacuate, increasing the number of fatalities. But the research was not without its critics – other scientists said the facts that all hurricanes were ‘female’ until 1979, and that average fatalities have generally decreased over time, rendered the results meaningless.


The oldest human poo revealed Neanderthals made friends with salad

In June, scientists announced the results of picking through some 50,000-year-old fossilised faeces they stumbled upon while studying an ancient Neanderthal fire-pit in Spain. Analysing the crystallised crap, which is the oldest human poop ever discovered, they found evidence of plant matter as well as meat, revealing that our ancient cousins enjoyed a side of berries, nuts and other vegetables with their mammoth steaks. The petrified poop also revealed the Neanderthals were infested with various types of parasitic worm, enough to make a modern human very sick indeed.


Scientists found a shocking way to induceInception-style dreams

In May, German scientists said they’d found a way to induce lucid dreaming – the state in which you are conscious during a dream, aware you’re dreaming, and able to control the dream’s plot. Delivering a mild electric current to the frontal and temporal brain regions of 27 dreamers altered their neural patterns. A particular type of brain wave activity called gamma activity increased, and the subjects became aware they were dreaming, and were able to exert greater control over the dreamworld.


Flu claims Antarctic researcher Peter Griffin Aug 04

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A lot of people in the scientific community are struggling to come to terms with the death of Antarctic historian and museum curator Natalie Cadenhead, who died at Christchurch Hospital on July 24 of influenza.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 9.49.17 amNatalie was only 47, a fit and healthy tramper as this report from The Press explains.

She didn’t get the flu vaccine, because, her husband George Rogers explained, she had allergies to certain medicines:

“Reflecting now, it probably would have been good to have her immunised, but being healthy and with her allergies, it seemed like the right thing to do.”

I didn’t know Natalie, but plenty of colleagues did. Natalie spent several seasons on the ice at Scott Base. Her research interests included aspects of the heroic era of Antarctic exploration, the TAE/IGY base buildings and Antarctic science. She was also responsible for the Antarctic object based collection at Canterbury Museum and was associate editor of Antarctic, the journal of the New Zealand Antarctic Society.

She was, I’m told, also one of the original members of the Science Communicator’s Association.

In a fitting tribute, friends and colleagues flew the New Zealand flag at Scott Base at half mast.

Natalie’s death is a reminder of the fact that the swine flu virus (H1N1) killed a number of healthy people when the pandemic hit in 2009.

This Science article from 2010 reports on research by paediatrician Fernando Polack of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee that suggests a reason why swine flu hits the young and healthy particularly hard:

After looking at lung samples from 75 young and middle-aged adult victims of the 2009 pandemic, they found an uncanny amount of a protein called C4d, a molecule that normally binds to antibodies to form virus-fighting immune complexes.

When antibodies fight a virus under normal conditions, Polack says, they call in C4d, a compound that can destroy viruses. In the case of flu, most people had antibodies to seasonally circulating influenza strains, but these antibodies were a poor match to the pandemic virus. Although they recognized the virus and latched on to it, they weren’t able to stop it from replicating, says Polack. When the antibodies and the C4d formed the immune complexes, Polack speculates that the system spiraled out of control. Instead of punching holes in the viruses, the immune complexes punched holes in the victims’ veins and flooded their lungs with water and plasma. “The immune system gets fooled into activating this particular immune defense, and it causes harm,” says Niranjan Bhat, an infectious disease physician at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, Maryland, who was not part of the research.

This was less likely to happen in young children and infants, with few or no antibodies against seasonal flu strains, says Polack. And elderly people had antibodies to the H1N1 strain that circulated in the United States until 1957—a descendant of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918—which are known to be a much better match to the 2009 H1N1 strain; so the flood of C4d generally didn’t occur in them. When the team looked at lung samples from victims of the seasonal flu, they found only trace amounts of C4d, which seemed to confirm their suspicions.

Natalie’s death is a good reminder of the importance of getting vaccinated in time for the flu season each year.

Below is a video that feature’s Natalie and Sir David Attenborough talking about Scott’s Hut at Cape Evans.

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Where should the science funding dollars be going? Peter Griffin Jul 24

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A few weeks ago I headed up the hill to Victoria University to hear science and innovation minister Steven Joyce launch a document called the “Draft National Statement of Science Investment 2014 – 2024“.

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 9.48.43 amIf you are a scientist in New Zealand, or involved in the science system, this should be very important to you. The document lays out the priorities for funding, as the Government sees them, for the next decade of public investment in science and innovation.

It covers things like the National Science Challenges which are just getting off the ground, Callaghan Innovation, the Primary Growth Partnership, the Marsden Fund, the Centres of Research Excellence and business R&D grants. These are all things the Government is currently doing, and which it will continue to use as tools for investment in the next decade. Some of them are also things I hear a lot of scientists grumbling about for various reasons.

Everyone seems to have a different idea about how best to leverage science dollars for the good of the country. For instance, at the launch event, one scientist told Joyce that if the Government wanted to make a real difference with its science investment it should double the size of the Marsden Fund which is funded to the tune of around $52 million a year. Joyce said that may well be true, but the case would have to be well made because it would require the funding being taken from some other area of science investment.

Well, at the moment we have the chance to make that case or any other case for science investment. The “draft” in the document title means that the strategy for the next decade isn’t yet set in stone and everyone has until August 22 to give feedback on it.

The feedback form is available here - fill it out and get it back to MBIE to have your say.

In addition, next week I’ll be chairing a panel discussion here in Wellington on the future of New Zealand science funding featuring some pretty experienced and opinionated people giving their views on where science funding should be invested.

I’ll be asking them plenty of questions – if you can’t make it along (see details below), leave your questions in the comments below or send them to be privately via the contact form and I’ll make sure to put them to the panel…

Shaping our science system, a SCANZ panel event

Wednesday 30 July | 5.30pm, 6pm start | members $10 non members $20

Royal Society of New Zealand 11 Turnbull Street, Thorndon Wellington
RSVP to 

Does investment in science influence society?  Can we really expect it to meet New Zealand’s economic, social, environmental and cultural needs? Is it the level of investment or the areas in which the investment is made?

On 22 August consultation closes on the government’s draft National Statement of Science Investment, a document that sets the scene for a discussion about New Zealand’s science funding strategy for years to come.  What does this mean for scientists and the average New Zealander?

Join SCANZ for a panel discussion that will examine the issues from a range of viewpoints.

The Government is seeking a wide and open discussion about the shape of New Zealand’s science system, so come along and be part of the conversation.

Professor Adam Jaffe, Director Motu Economic & Public Policy Research  

Wendy McGuinness, Founder & Chief Executive McGuiness Institute 

Dr Ian Ferguson,  Departmental Science Advisor at the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries, with a joint appointment with Plant & Food Research. 

Panel chair: Peter Griffin, co-founder of Sciblogs and Science Media Centre manager  

Further details online at

Want to lower your carbon footprint? Eat less beef Peter Griffin Jul 23


When it comes to industries that are seen as damaging to the environment, the dairy sector is usually the prime target in New Zealand.

Source: PNAS

And there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the production that powers our largest export industry is having an increasingly apparent impact on the land and our waterways.

The scale of dairying in New Zealand makes the problem blindingly obvious. Less is heard about the smaller New Zealand beef industry, but beef production actually uses more land, water and greenhouse gases than dairy, as a new study in PNAS revealed this week.

The researchers found that producing beef required around 28 times more land than production of eggs, poultry, pork and even dairy, 11 times more water and resulted in five times more greenhouse gas emissions. That’s right, the four categories of production had a similar level of resource use and greenhouse gas production, but beef was way out ahead.

Now, the research relates to the US market where the majority of cattle destined for the burger joints and barbeques of America spend the latter part of their life in feedlots where  they are fed a mix of roughage, grain and supplements. The processing those feedstocks require use up resources. But even cows that are fed completely on open pasture through their lives are more resource-intensive to produce, say the researchers:

Even when focusing only on agricultural land, beef still towers over the other categories. This can be seen by excluding pasture resources and summing only crops and processed roughage (mostly hay and silage, whose production claims prime agricultural land that can be hypothetically diverted to other crops). After this exclusion, 1 Mcal (megacalorie) of beef still requires ≈15 m2 land, about twofold higher than the second least-efficient category.

When you compare beef production to staple crops like rice and wheat that many people depend on for the bulk of their diet in some countries, the picture is more dramatic. Compared to those crops, meat requires 160 times more land and 11 times the water to produce.

Here in New Zealand, we don’t have feedlots, though farmers do supplement their cows feed with things like palm kernel, which is quite resource-intensive to produce.

According to Beef & Lamb New Zealand:

“The total greenhouse gas footprint was calculated at 2.2kg CO2-equivalents for a 100g portion of  beef. Broken into segments, this equates to 90.3% for the on-farm stage, 2.1% for meat processing, 4.2% for transportation, and 3.3% for the consumption phase.”

The carbon footprint of grass-fed beef is generally lower than feedlot beef, but the fact remains that beef production is dirtier than anything else, even dairy production in terms of land and water use and greenhouse gases. Therefore, if you want to help the environment, say the authors, cutting down on your beef consumption is one of the most effective things you can do. Animal products in general are quite wasteful of resources compared to edible crops but again, beef i sway out in front.

According to another study:

“…the loss of 1 kilogram of boneless beef has the same effect as wasting 24 kilograms of wheat due to inefficiencies in converting grain to meat. The authors illustrate how food waste in the U.S., China and India affect available calories, noting that reducing waste in these three countries alone could yield food for more than 400 million people.”

Beef farmers in New Zealand and the US point out that beef yield and efficiency is improving. But beef production will remain more resource-intensive than just about anything else, an issue that will become more important as pressure on land and water increases further.

Some local reaction via Adrien Taylor’s 3 News piece

Analysis of the research from our colleagues at the UK Science Media Centre


Tangaroa gets an overhaul Peter Griffin Jul 11


NIWA’s research ship Tangaroa has spent the last few weeks in dry dock at the Devonport Naval Base where it is receiving an overhaul that will set it up well for many more voyages of discovery.

But the inclement weather in Auckland has hampered efforts to get a fresh coat of paint onto Tangaroa’s bottom.

Said NIWA’s operations manager John Hadfield:

“Fortunately the antifouling paint on the under hull (the part that sits under the water) was in very good condition and required minimal preparation before re-coating. However, above the water line, on the topsides, we get marking and minor damage to the coatings from, wharves and scientific gear that is deployed over the side. This requires remedial work to be carried out.

“We are still hopeful that weather conditions will allow us to get a full coat on the blue topsides before Tangaroa departs the dock on the 15th July.

“We have had a paint expert from Altex Coatings calling the shots on when we can paint to ensure it bonds and then lasts. If the wind gets up we can’t spray paint and even on a fine day, if there is high humidity we can’t paint.”

Along with a new paint job and other maintenance, a $1 million sub-bottom profiler is being mounted in a pod on Tangaroa’s hull. The expensive piece of equipment, known as TOPAS PS 18, allows scientists to identify marine sediment layers up to 200 metres below the sea bed.

Tangaroa leaves dry dock on July 15 before heading for the Tasman Sea.

credit Dave Allen, NIWA

credit Dave Allen, NIWA

credit Dave Allen, NIWA

credit Dave Allen, NIWA


credit Dave Allen, NIWA

credit: Dave Allen, NIWA

credit: Dave Allen, NIWA

credit Dave Allen, NIWA

credit Dave Allen, NIWA


credit Dave Allen, NIWA

credit Dave Allen, NIWA


credit Dave Allen, NIWA

credit Dave Allen, NIWA


credit Dave Allen, NIWA

credit Dave Allen, NIWA


credit Dave Allen, NIWA

credit Dave Allen, NIWA


Giant squid dissection – livestreaming now! Peter Griffin Jun 19

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This is fascinating… AUT researchers examining a giant squid… live streaming now!

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