Spring sunshine and chickens at Green Island School

Rooms 5 & 6 made the most of the sunny spring weather to investigate what birds and invertebrates live on their school grounds. Spreading out across the whole school the children and their grown up helpers found a diverse range of invertebrates including spiders, worms, beetles, and larvae getting ready to launch into spring. A tracking tunnel baited with peanut butter overnight and hidden in the native garden near Fresh Choice detected an itty-bitty hungry mouse.

A wide array of birds were observed by the children including a species not typically seen at schools; chickens. While we won’t include them in our analysis of birds feeding on invertebrates across school grounds, they live on the farm next door and can’t get through the fence, it was fun to count them in our bird surveys.

Back in the classroom we tallied our survey data all together and started analysing the data with help from the University of Otago and Otago Museum to see what it was telling us. From our data we could make statements like ‘over 17 different types of invertebrates were found to live at school’ and ‘sparrows and blackbirds were the most frequently observed birds during our survey’.

Tahu from Orokonui Ecosanctuary visited and outside in the spring sunshine we learned about what makes an animal a ‘New Zealand native’, what predators they need protecting from and how the ecosanctuary protects them. We dressed up two of our adults as a kiwi and a peripatus, made a strong ‘fence of defence’ and protected them from Tahu who roamed around on the outside as a possum trying to break through. It will be interesting to see the fence for ourselves next year when we visit Tahu at Orokonui. Before then, we will repeat our surveys at Woodhaugh Gardens in Term 4 and see how the data looks compared to the school surveys.

Many thanks to the grown ups for their help with the school surveys and we look forward to more grown ups supporting us with the next step in our peripatus schools journey.


Open Lecture: Water law in the US - Challenges and Solutions

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The Faculty of Law and Catchments Otago present an Open Lecture

Water law in the US: Challenges and Solutions for the Anthropocene

Professor Robin Craig, William Evans Visiting Fellow

  • Tuesday, October 16, 2018, 5:30 PM  6:30 PM, Moot Court, Richardson Building (10th Floor)

The US faces many legal and challenges regarding watershed management in the Anthropocene. Professor Craig will give some background on the basic divisions in the US between water quality law and water allocation law, jurisdictional fragmentation, and discuss the ways that have emerged tobridge some of those difficulties, drawing from her work both on water compacts and adaptive watergovernance.

Refreshments to follow. 

Robin Craig is the James I. Farr Presidential Endowed Professor of Law, at the University of Utah S.J.Quinney College of Law and affiliated to the faculty of the Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources, and the Environment and the Global Change and Sustainability Center. She serves on the Executive Board of the University of Utah’s Water Center. Professor Craig specializes in all things water, including climate change and water; the food-water-energy nexus; water quality and water allocation law; and marine protected areas and marine spatial planning.

The Williams Evans fund of the University of Otago was established in 1946 under the will of the late Dr Williams Evans, who directed that a trust fund be established for the promotion and encouragement of learning.

St Francis Xavier survey school grounds

It was a busy week with 79 St Francis Xavier School student scientists and their grown-up helpers searching the school grounds for resident invertebrates and their predators. Shaking bushes, sieving through soil, investigating pitfall traps, and scanning through bark and leaf litter the children found at least 13 different types of invertebrates.

Back in the classroom to analyse their survey data, the children discovered that while not many invertebrates in total had been observed in their surveys, spiders were found most frequently. Otago Museum educators Sam and Sof encouraged the children to think about the amount of available green space for invertebrate habitats on the school grounds and if this could have contributed to the low total invertebrate numbers being observed?  University of Otago researcher Yolanda chatted with the teachers about what improvements could possibly be made, given her work to improve urban biodiversity and children’s connection with nature in urban areas for improved wellbeing.

While the tracking tunnel containing ink pads and baited with peanut butter failed to detect any nocturnal ground-dwelling predators, the children did identify and count lots of different bird predators. Orokonui Ecosanctuary educators Tahu and Taylor enchanted the children with stories about New Zealand’s amazing native fauna and the special role the ecosanctuary plays in protecting them from their introduced predators. The children loved their teachers Miss H and Mrs R dressing up as a kiwi and a peripatus, creating a STRONG ‘fence of defence’ to protect them from roaming predators on the other side. Visiting Orokonui Ecosanctuary next year to see the fence and experience our native species will be very exciting. In the meantime, the children have been busy  writing stories about peripatus, creating amazing artwork and investigating facts about this intriguing species.

Many thanks to the wonderful St Francis Xavier School grown-up volunteers, University of Otago graduate students James and Charlotte, and Otago Museum educators Kate, Emily and Kallia for helping with the project. 

You can follow news about our PSP Curious Minds project "If we build it, will peripatus come?" on Facebook or via Twitter


Abbotsford kicks off peripatus schools

Last week over 55 enthusiastic Abbotsford School students joined forces with Otago Museum, Orokonui Ecosanctuary and the University of Otago Zoology and Botany Departments to survey their school’s ‘native woodland area’ for invertebrates and their predators; a Participatory Science Platform Curious Minds grant 'If we build it, will peripatus come?'

The children and their grown-up helpers searched different habitats for invertebrate bugs by shaking bushes, sieving through soil, scanning leaf litter and examining large debris, counting the different invertebrate types found. A special tunnel containing ink pads left out overnight to identify the presence of any nocturnal predators detected footprints from a inquisitive resident hedgehog and mouse. Rounding out their survey data, the children identified and counted lots of different bird predators.

Back in the classroom to analyse their survey data, the children identified more than eleven different types of invertebrates, with spiders the most frequently found. At least twelve different predator bird species were identified, with blackbirds and robins most commonly observed.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary Educator Tahu MacKenzie enchanted us all when describing New Zealand’s amazing native fauna and the special role the ecosanctuary plays in protecting them from their introduced predators. The children did a fabulous job being a STRONG ‘fence of defence’ protecting Mrs T dressed up as a kiwi and Dr C dressed as a peripatus from the roaming predators on the other side. We certainly look forward to visiting Orokonui Ecosanctuary next year, seeing the marvelous fence, and experiencing the native wonders of the ecosanctuary ourselves.

2018 Catchments Otago Symposium

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‘Water, Biodiversity, People’

Catchments Otago Symposium

Monday 9th April, 2018

St Margaret’s College, University of Otago, Dunedin


The University of Otago Research Theme Catchments Otago, a multi-disciplinary theme exploring approaches for sharing natural resources that consider environmental, social and economic outcomes, will host a day long symposium focussing on Water & Biodiversity, Water & Society, Water & Health and Water & Movement. Invited representatives from Government agencies, Community organisations and University researchers will discuss their perspectives relating to the sub themes during each of four 90-minute long sessions. There will also be sufficient time for fruitful discussions to explore topics raised by the session presenters during three refreshment breaks provided.

The Organising Committee wishes to extend a warm invitation to interested individuals to attend the 9th April 2018 Symposium.

Confirmed speakers include: Michael Baker, Department of Public Health, University of Otago; Mark Bryan, Managing Director VetSouth; Robert Costanzo, School of Public Policy, Australian National University; Pat Garden, Otago Conservation Board Chairperson; Olga Pantos, Institute of Environmental Science and Research; Gretchen Robertson Otago Regional Council Councillor; Dan Tompkins, Project Manager Science Strategy, Predator Free 2050.

To register attendance or request further information please contact Cynthia Lawrence: cynthia.lawrence@otago.ac.nz

With kind regards,  

Catchments Otago Steering Committee


2017 New Zealand River Story Award winner announced

 Researcher Dr Jay Piggott at the Kauru River ExStream set up.

Researcher Dr Jay Piggott at the Kauru River ExStream set up.


Congratulations to Dr Christoph Matthaei, Dr Jay Piggott, and their ExStream team for winning the 2017 New Zealand River Story award in Wellington last night. Established in 2013 by the Morgan Foundation and the NZ Rivers Trust, The River Story Award is for the most interesting and compelling story of an individual or community working to improve the health of a river, or rivers generally.

Located on the banks of the Kauru River in North Otago, the ExStream setup merged science with engineering to answer tough ecological questions using high statistical replication. The ExStream River Story can be viewed here.


Research opportunities for students or recent graduate

OceanaGold has two research opportunities available for University of Otago students or recent graduates this summer (preferably Dec-Feb) or possibly early Autumn (subject to agreement). $5K for each project; 8-10 weeks anticipated duration. Would suit 3-year student or recent graduate. 

1.       Generation of a biodiversity database. This would require becoming familiar with some freeware (Biota), and then obtaining data from reports and consultants to upload into Biota. At the end of this project good to not only get the data base but for the researcher/student to provide some training to OceanaGold staff on its use.

2.       A Field Guide to Biodiversity of Significance at Macraes. Starting with Birds but, time permitting other fauna and flora, prepare a field guide for use by Macraes Staff. 

There is a certain amount of overlap between these two projects, so if it is two students then it is likely they will work together. As part of the work they will need their own computer, and would not have access to OceanaGold’s system. They would also need to sign an NDA.

Please contact Mara Wolkenhauer directly at the University of Otago Research and Enterprise Office if interested.