Saturday, 6 August 2016

Back to School

It's great to be back at Wellesley and I can't wait to get started on trying out some of the new ideas and exciting programmes I've seen in different schools around New Zealand.

One of our major areas of focus is on developing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) within our whole school programme.  We're starting a Maker Monday with a STEM club held each Monday lunchtime.  We're also going to be running staff development sessions so that classes can begin to explore different possibilities and ways of integrating STEM into their classroom inquiries.

Although this is an American based clip, the ideas are still the same for us here in New Zealand.  This is a short clip giving you a bit more of an idea about what STEM is.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Wet Day Movie Watching

Over several months, Latu has been filming the robins and watching closely their behaviour while the chicks are still in their nests.  She's been able to set up cameras and watch the nesting habits of some of the North Island Robins here in Zealandia.
For her Masters, she is looking into parent - offspring interactions and brood division.  Do mother birds feed both chicks or do they favour one?  Do males feed the chicks as much as the females do? Once you start thinking about it there are all sorts of interesting questions around who looks after who.  Through filming the nests, Latu can study closely the interactions between parents and chicks.

To ensure her research and analysis of what she has filmed is sound, she has had to get another person to watch 10% of her videos.  We each have to carefully record what we see happening, the time, who and the behaviour observed.  Then once we have recorded our observations she has to compare mine with hers.  If what we both observes matches over 85% of the time then her observations are scientifically sound.  The reason why she has to get someone else to watch the same videos is to ensure that she is not biased when watching the clips and that she is actually recording what she observes rather than what she thinks she sees.  Therefore its pretty important that I also make sure that I observe carefully and record by observations accurately.

 Luckily the weather in Wellington has been pretty cold and wet so its been a perfect time to sit indoors and watch the little chicks be fed!

Here's a couple of still shots from some of the video's.

 Can you spot the two chicks?  They are begging with their beaks wide open!

 Can you see the two beaks?  Look where the nest is - if this was in your backyard what might the problem be for this family of robins?

 Why do you think the inside of a birds beak is bright orange?

This chick is 15 days old, look how big it is sitting in its nest!

Monday, 30 May 2016

Maud Island Frogs

One of the more unusual, but also the most interesting things I've done while at Zealandia, has been to help count Maud Island Frogs.

photo courtesy of

They are nocturnal, so 9.45 one evening, I met up with Raewyn and we headed in, armed with our headlamps!  Obviously, it was rather difficult to take photos but the link to the Zealandia blog about the count has a wonderful photo of the frog.

I learnt that NZ native frogs don't really have a tadpole stage, when they are born they are little frogs with a tail which later drops off.  The frogs are kept in enclosures that are full of leaf little so I couldn't work out where the tadpoles swam.  It was wonderful to be with Raewyn as she was able to fill me in about these frogs and their history at Zealandia.

Please click on the link below to find out about the frog count I helped out with!

Autumn in Zealandia

When you spend every day outside walking around the valley you start to notice the little things.

Now that autumn is here I've begun to notice that this is the time of the year that fungus and mushrooms appear.  I love walking through the valley and just looking all around me, it's very easy to get sidetracked and often my morning bike ride into the valley is slowed when I have to stop and check out something new.  Over the past few weeks I've taken a number of photos of fungus.  Below are some of the ones I've photographed.  They are amazing!

The 20th Kakariki

While I've been at Zealandia I've been really lucky to work with two different masters students.  Thanks to Latu I've learnt so much about the North Island robins and enjoyed every minute of being part of the research she's been doing.
I've also enjoyed working with Ellen and learning how to track birds using telemetry.  For her masters she has had to trap 20 kakariki and put small transmitters on them.  When I first met her she had about 8, now she has all 20.

The other day it was just the two of us, each hiding in different spots trying to look out for the very last kakariki.

Once you stay still, it doesn't take long for birds to appear.  A cheeky little kaka appeared and decided he didn't mind being close to me.  He was so close I could have touched him and I have to admit I was slightly distracted watching this bird swing around using its claws and beak.

We had to look for ones that had a red band identifying their cohort.  This meant that this bird was born in the 2015/2016 season.  All of a sudden one appeared right where I was watching.  A quick radio call and Ellen came rushing down.   We swapped hiding spots but I hadn't been in my new spot when she radioed me to say she had caught it in the trap.  I haven't run up and down many of the hills in Zealandia but I did that morning.

I helped hold the bird while she fitted the transmitter and then I even got to carefully hold the bird while she measured its leg length - there are special ways of holding birds and so she had to teach me first how to look after them.  It was quite something to hold onto a wild bird, something I won't forget in a long time.

Thanks Ellen for letting me be part of your research!