Environment and Ecology

The Nelson bush fire: What can satellite images tell us about such events? - Out of Space

Duncan Steel Feb 12, 2019

The ongoing fires in the Nelson-Tasman region have quite rightly provoked much alarm. The response of Fire and Emergency New Zealand, the NZ Police, the NZ Defence Force, and many private individuals, has been magnificent. However, the utilisation of satellite imagery for assessing such fires and then planning and responding is deficient in NZ compared to much of the rest … Read More

Pandas and Bamboo: A recent dietary specialisation? - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Brendan Moyle Feb 11, 2019

Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) eat bamboo and not much else. This in evolutionary terms is odd. It’s odd in part because the panda has a short gut typical of carnivores. And it still possesses many of the genes associated with a carnivorous lifestyle. This is largely due to belonging to the bear family Ursidae. This is a group of animals … Read More

Not cow farts - Code for life

Grant Jacobs Feb 09, 2019

You may have heard or read media outlets talking of cow farts.[1] This tweet from  University of California at Davis animal biotechnology/genomics scientist, Alison Van Eenennaam might help – I’m sure I’ve been guilty of lazily using it. Eructation is a very polite and fancy way of saying burp. As the dictionary puts it, “a belch”. (Yes, … Read More

Satellite imagery of the Nelson bush fire - Out of Space

Duncan Steel Feb 09, 2019

The area burnt in the ongoing bush fire in the Nelson-Tasman region, largely around Pigeon Valley near Wakefield, can easily be seen in satellite imagery collected in recent days.  Earth observation satellites frequently cross New Zealand and, clouds allowing, collect imagery of the land and sea below. In later posts I will discuss such data collection in more detail, but … Read More

Are deer the new moa: Ecosystem re-wilding or a flight of fancy? - Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives

Nic Rawlence Feb 08, 2019

It’s the depths of winter and I’m squatting in the snow, surrounded by southern beech forest, using a pair of tweezers to pick up fresh steaming deer poo. Pooper scooper: Braving the cold in the name of science, these deer droppings are a harbinger of a changing world. Photo courtesy of Jamie Wood. My wife Maria, and palaeoecologist … Read More

Old bones reveal new evidence about the role of islands in penguin evolution - Guest Work

Guest Author Feb 07, 2019

Theresa Cole; Jonathan Waters, and Kieren Mitchell, University of Adelaide Ever since Charles Darwin’s voyage to the Galapagos, biologists have been trying to figure out what determines the number of species that exist at any point in time. Our research, published this week, provides an answer to this question, at least when it comes to … Read More

Ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica predicted to bring more frequent extreme weather - Guest Work

Guest Author Feb 07, 2019

Nick Golledge, Victoria University of Wellington Last week, rivers froze over in Chicago when it got colder than at the North Pole. At the same time, temperatures hit 47℃ in Adelaide during the peak of a heatwave. Such extreme and unpredictable weather is likely to get worse as ice sheets at both poles continue to melt. Our … Read More

The bacterial jungle of your car - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Brendan Moyle Feb 04, 2019

A recent article on car cleanliness described the bacteria that abound on car interior-surfaces. The results were shocking, with the headline announcing steering wheels had on average four times the amount of bacteria that public toilets did.  It inspired some to clean their cars . Nonetheless I confess I felt no surprise reading this. This is one of my … Read More

Biodiversity: Do non-native species count? - So Shoot Me

Jamie Steer Feb 04, 2019

Should non-native species classify as a kind of biodiversity?  The answer, one would think, is straightforward and should be uncontroversial. We need look only to the international Convention on Biological Diversity to find it. And the definition there is clear: biological diversity (or ‘biodiversity’) is defined as: ‘the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, … Read More