If we build it, will peripatus come?
A community science project supporting real-world ecology and conservation science in the primary school classroom, examining and creating habitats around town for invertebrates and the unique Dunedin velvet worm, peripatus.
A mysterious ancient velvet worm emerging at night to shoot its invertebrate prey with poisonous spit before devouring them sounds like a child’s fantasy story. Yet in 2011, the Dunedin peripatus (or velvet worm) could have brought the new Caversham motorway development to a grinding halt; its preferred damp home amongst urban debris stood in the proposed roadways’ path. Since then, studies of peripatus resource use in urban landscapes identified key habitat factors to assist with conservation efforts. But how widespread are peripatus across Dunedin and do habitats best for peripatus show the highest invertebrate biodiversity?
Dunedin primary school students will survey urban greenspaces for invertebrate biodiversity and compare sites to their own school grounds. Working with Catchments Otago (University of Otago) and the Otago Museum, the children will identify habitat features that show highest invertebrate biodiversity and work to create such habitats on their school grounds.
With funding support from the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment’s Participatory Science Platform (PSP), the Otago Museum and Catchments Otago will help the children develop flyers on ‘creating invertebrate-friendly urban environments at home’. Flyers will be launched by the children at the April 2019 WILD DUNEDIN festival.