Guest Author

This is the Sciblogs guest blog, where we run science-related submissions from the Sciblogs community and beyond. Contact Sciblogs editor Peter Griffin about making a submission - or about hosting a blog on Sciblogs.

Understanding and Improving the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme - Guest Work

Aug 14, 2018

Catherine Leining, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research To chart a successful future for the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS), we need to understand its present and its past. Researchers from Motu Economic and Public Policy Research have published a new Guide to the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme. This guide covers the basics of how emissions trading works and discusses the core design features in operation today and how and why they have evolved over time. The release of this guide coincides with the start of a new round of government consultation on amending the NZ ETS. Written by myself and Dr Suzi Kerr, who is an international expert in emissions trading, this concise guide offers a straightforward introduction to emissions trading in New Zealand. It draws from Motu’s extensive research on the history and … Read More

Antarctic seas host a surprising mix of lifeforms – and now we can map them - Guest Work

Aug 06, 2018

Jan Jansen, University of Tasmania; Craig Johnson, University of Tasmania, and Nicole Hill, University of Tasmania What sort of life do you associate with Antarctica? Penguins? Seals? Whales? Actually, life in Antarctic waters is much broader than this, and surprisingly diverse. Hidden under the cover of sea-ice for most of the year, and living in cold water near the seafloor, are thousands of unique and colourful species.  A diverse seafloor community living under the ice near Casey station in East Antarctica. Our research has generated new techniques to map where these species live, and predict how this might change in the future. Biodiversity is nature’s most valuable resource, … Read More

We know why short-statured people of Flores became small – but for the extinct ‘Hobbit’ it’s not so clear - Guest Work

Aug 04, 2018

Michael Westaway, Griffith University and Francis David Bulbeck, Australian National University Humans are diverse in size and shape – but some populations are of relatively low average height, and historically described using the term “pygmy”. Some researchers have suggested that the Rampasasa inhabitants of the Flores highlands of Indonesia are one such group. A paper published today in Science looked at whether the Rampasasa are related to an ancient human-like being that was also small in stature and once lived on the island of Flores – the archaic hominin Homo floresiensis, commonly referred to as “the Hobbit”. The Rampasasa live near Liang Bua, where the Hobbit fossils were first discovered. The study finds no evidence of a genetic relationship – which isn’t surprising, even though a paper published in 2006 suggested otherwise. The … Read More

Why compostable plastics may be no better for the environment - Guest Work

Aug 03, 2018

Thomas Neitzert, Auckland University of Technology As companies move to get rid of single-use plastic bags and bans on microbeads are coming into force, new biodegradable or compostable plastic products seem to offer an alternative. But they may be no better for the environment. Recently, European scientists argued that existing international industry standards are insufficient and cannot realistically predict the biodegradability of compostable plastics. New Zealand’s Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE), Simon Upton, weighed into the debate, questioning the merit of biodegradable plastics and urging the New Zealand government to deal with the confusion surrounding their labelling. The key concerns include the terminology itself, the lack of appropriate recycling or composting infrastructure and toxicity of degradable plastics. Confusion over terms We know that plastics hang around in the environment for a very long … Read More

In Australia’s Snowy Mountains, a Battle Over Brumbies - Guest Work

Jul 31, 2018

Bianca Nogrady Experts are calling for a substantial cull of the wild horses living in New South Wales’ Kosciuszko National Park. The government isn’t having it. The peatlands that drape the high, treeless slopes surrounding Australia’s tallest peak form a natural archive. “They are unusual bits of landscape in that they actually record their own history,” says Geoffrey Hope, an environmental historian at the Australian National University, who has been studying these unique bogs for more than 15 years. In this famously dry continent, the peatlands of Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales are remarkable in their persistent sogginess. They experience heavy frost and snow in winter and, occasionally bushfires in summer. Yet somehow, they endure, providing a haven for one of Australia’s most critically-endangered species, the brilliant yellow and black Corroboree Frog. But recently, a new … Read More

How to grow crops on Mars if we are to live on the red planet - Guest Work

Jul 27, 2018

Briardo Llorente, Macquarie University Preparations are already underway for missions that will land humans on Mars in a decade or so. But what would people eat if these missions eventually lead to the permanent colonisation of the red planet? Once (if) humans do make it to Mars, a major challenge for any colony will be to generate a stable supply of food. The enormous costs of launching and resupplying resources from Earth will make that impractical. Humans on Mars will need to move away from complete reliance on shipped cargo, and achieve a high level of self-sufficient and sustainable agriculture. The recent discovery of liquid water on Mars – which adds new information to the question of whether we will find life on the planet – does raise the possibility of using such supplies to … Read More

Skywatching southerners have chance to see selenelion this Saturday morning - Guest Work

Jul 26, 2018

Dr Duncan Steel A few minutes after 8am this Saturday those further south in New Zealand will have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness a rare celestial event: a selenelion (or selenehelion). What is that? It’s when the eclipsed Moon can be seen on one horizon, whilst the rising Sun can also be observed near the opposite horizon. One might think this to be impossible – because an eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth and Moon are in a straight line, and so if the Moon is above the horizon then the Sun must surely be below it. But the bending (refraction) of the rays of light caused by our atmosphere makes it feasible to see both the eclipsed Moon and the Sun at the same time — so long as you are in the right place. Read More

How long should you stay away when you have a cold or the flu? - Guest Work

Jul 25, 2018

Nadia Charania, Auckland University of Technology Most adults get around two to three colds a year, and children get even more. In terms of the flu, there are around 3-5 million severe cases of influenza worldwide each year and 290,000 to 650,000 deaths. The symptoms of a cold and the flu are similar, so it’s hard to tell the difference. But the flu is usually more severe and develops more quickly than a cold. Colds and flus can be easily passed from person to person through the air, when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and touch, when a person touches an infected surface or object like doorknobs and light switches. So what’s the difference between colds and flus, and how long should you stay away? Colds Cold symptoms include a sore throat, cough, runny … Read More

Who owns the moon? A space lawyer answers - Guest Work

Jul 24, 2018

 Frans von der Dunk, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Most likely, this is the best-known picture of a flag ever taken: Buzz Aldrin standing next to the first U.S. flag planted on the Moon. For those who knew their world history, it also rang some alarm bells. Only less than a century ago, back on Earth, planting a national flag in another part of the world still amounted to claiming that territory for the fatherland. Did the Stars and Stripes on the moon signify the establishment of an American colony? When people hear for the first time that I am a lawyer practicing and teaching something called “space law,” the question they ask most frequently, often with a big smile or a twinkle in the eye, is: “So tell me, who owns the moon?” Of course, claiming new … Read More

Plastic poses biggest threat to seabirds in New Zealand waters, where more breed than elsewhere - Guest Work

Jul 19, 2018

Stephanie B. Borrelle, Auckland University of Technology Plastic pollution has the potential to cause the worst damage to seabirds in the seas around Aotearoa New Zealand, where many of them come to feed and breed. Aotearoa boasts the greatest diversity of seabirds in the world. Of the 360 global seabird species, 86 breed here and 37 are endemic, which means they breed nowhere else. Some 90% of New Zealand’s seabirds are threatened with extinction. They (and many other marine species) are under pressure from pollution, climate change, and overexploitation of marine resources. Plastic pollution could be the final nail in the coffin for many seabirds that are already struggling for survival. Plastic – not so fantastic Every week, another grotesque story illustrates the impact of plastic in the environment. A whale was recently found with … Read More