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.

The myth of judging people on their merits - Guest Work

Oct 17, 2018

Nancy Longnecker The well-written article entitled ‘Why men don’t believe the data on gender bias in science’ by Alison Coil stimulated this post. Coil points out that gender disparity is about much more than a numbers game and is not necessarily the result of the overt sexual harassment that is at long last being exposed in some industries. While gender is a predictive factor, implicit bias is far more complex. There are talented men who are humble and supportive of others and who do not reach their potential in terms of promotions because they are not perceived as ‘strong’. There are many talented men and women of colour who must ‘prove’ themselves to be far more than capable in order to be considered for opportunities. I am disturbed (not surprised) to see the US rolling back measures … Read More

The world’s most ancient alpine songbird - Guest Work

Oct 13, 2018

Lucy Dickie We might be well known for being home to the world’s only nocturnal and flightless parrot (especially after an incident a few years ago involving Stephen Fry), but few people probably know that we can also claim the world’s most ancient alpine songbird–the pīwauwau, or rock wren. Rock wren are part of the family Acanthisittidae (the New Zealand wrens) which, 200 years ago included at least seven species, all endemic to New Zealand and all either flightless or poor flyers. They are part of the order Passeriformes–the songbirds–but our little native wrens are a truly ancient lineage and have no close living relatives. Unfortunately, only two of these species are still around today. Introduced predators likely played a large part in the extinctions of the other five (or more). Only the rock wren and the rifleman remain and … Read More

Novel science communication sees Bird of the Year take on Tinder - Guest Work

Oct 10, 2018

Imagine if our MPs used the mobile dating app Tinder to campaign during an election. The media would have a field day! And yet scientists from the University of Otago and the University of Canterbury are using this exact tactic to campaign for the critically-endangered kakī (black stilt) in Forest & Bird’s annual Bird of the Year competition. The result? A fresh take on science communication that goes beyond the “conservation bubble” and reaches an entirely new demographic. It may sound like a bird-brained idea, but there are over forty years of research and conservation work behind the plan. Kakī are one of the rarest wading birds in the world. With just 132 adults left in the wild, they are rarer than the famous kākāpō, takahē, and black robin. While these birds are rare, few New Zealanders know … Read More

Support women in science this week! - Guest Work

Oct 09, 2018

Emma Timewell Diversity in science is what makes it truly innovative – and although one scholarship won’t fix it, it’s a step towards a more inclusive sector. This week, the Association for Women in the Sciences (AWIS) is attempting to raise $30,000 for its Women in STEM scholarship. The first AWIS Women in STEM Award scholarship, administered by the New Horizons for Women Trust, was awarded earlier this year to three women studying medical imaging, computer science and marine biology. The initial funds for the scholarship were raised through screenings of the 2017 movie Hidden Figures – which centred around female mathematicians involved in the NASA space programme – with the aim of encouraging women to study STEM subjects at tertiary level, particularly those whose social identify is under-represented in … Read More

Bird of the Year: Which birds are good for ecosystem services? - Guest Work

Oct 05, 2018

Bio-Protection Research Centre We are midway through one of the most important electoral contests of the year: Bird of the Year. Every year, this popular campaign raises awareness of New Zealand’s native birds and the perilous state many populations are in. At the Bio-Protection Research Centre we also think it’s a great opportunity to get people thinking about how birds help to make the world go round. Birds offer obvious, and sometimes less obvious, ecosystem services – sometimes called nature’s services. Ecosystem services are usually defined as ecosystem function plus value to humanity. For example, most people believe birds reduce pest numbers significantly, although this has only occasionally been demonstrated. But value to humanity is not always economic – it often includes a contribution to human wellbeing. On the Canterbury Plains, for example, to hear a bellbird is … Read More

Palu and Donggala: working towards resiliency - Guest Work

Oct 03, 2018

Michele Daly, GNS Science We can only imagine how horrific it currently is for the people of Central Sulawesi, following the magnitude 7.5 earthquake that struck Donggala and Palu on late Friday afternoon 28th Sept 2018. The damaging tsunami which struck Palu Bay at incredible speeds a reported 30mins after the quake happened, caused widespread destruction. This was on top of significant damage due to the earthquakes north of the city and also along the Palu-Koru Fault. Tsunami waves as high as 5.5m crashed ashore in the already damaged city, destroying buildings, smashing vehicles and killing hundreds of people. Palu and Donggala are both StIRRRD (Strengthened Indonesian Resilience – Reducing Risk from Disasters) districts and the StIRRRD team have been working in these areas over the past 7 years. We have many colleagues and friends in the community and we … Read More

Satellite measurements of slow ground movements may provide a better tool for earthquake forecasting - Guest Work

Oct 02, 2018

Simon Lamb, Victoria University of Wellington It was a few minutes past midnight on 14 November 2016, and I was drifting into sleep in Wellington, New Zealand, when a sudden jolt began rocking the bed violently back and forth. I knew immediately this was a big one. In fact, I had just experienced the magnitude 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake. Our research, published today, shows how the slow build-up to this earthquake, recorded by satellite GPS measurements, predicted what it would be like. This could potentially provide a better tool for earthquake forecasting. Shattering the landscape The day after the quake, I heard there had been huge surface breaks in a region extending for more than 170 km along the eastern part of the northern South Island. In some places, the ground had shifted by 10 metres, … Read More

Charisma in nature - Guest Work

Oct 01, 2018

Sophie Fern It’s been a huge couple of weeks in New Zealand conservation, with Conservation Week, followed by the Great Kererū count and today voting opens for Bird of the Year. I find Bird of the Year fascinating, both because I am a giant bird-nerd, but also because I have a professional interest in what people like about the natural world. My research looks at non-human charisma, that mysterious “it-factor” that makes us like a particular creature or plant more than another. And, I want to know whether non-human charisma is involved in conservation in New Zealand. I’m also keen to define what humans find charismatic, because although it’s a word that we frequently throw around, there is no clear definition of what charisma means in humans, let alone what it means when we use it to talk about nature. Read More

Some thoughts on the current tahr debate - Guest Work

Sep 28, 2018

Professor David Norton New Zealand’s native flora evolved without ungulates (deer, chamois, tahr, goats, merinos) and did not develop many of the defensive mechanisms that are present in plants in other parts of the world. Ungulates have well documented adverse impacts on New Zealand’s native vegetation, especially when at high densities. Exclusion of ungulates, including tahr, has led to marked recovery of vegetation in the subalpine and alpine zone. Tahr are often the dominant browsing animal in the subalpine and alpine zone of the central Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana, although other browsers include deer, chamois, hares, possums and merinos are also present. A strong recovery in subalpine and alpine vegetation was apparent when tahr numbers were reduced significantly by aerial hunting from the 1960s-1980s. The Himalayan Thar Control Plan was published in 1993 and sought to balance … Read More

Advice for science careers – Suffrage 125 - Suffrage 125

Sep 21, 2018

Dr Sarah Morgan For the girls wanting a career in science, or the young women wanting to get out: my story. Wizard My journey through science as a woman has been a bit of a meander. As a kid I was the one playing down the back of the garden mixing up magic potions (mud, leaves, flower buds…), and then as I got older, reading almost non-stop. Sci-fi and fantasy books, of course. One summer I re-read the LOTR trilogy over and over again to the despair of my mother (and my eternal embarrassment, as we bumped into a teacher in town and she told her). This is probably an important distinction – dragons, magic potions, and adventure – not just experiments for the pleasure of knowing the ‘what’ of something: I also … Read More