Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Written by Cole Moore and Chris Angell 

After a long dry spell, the rains came to Wanganui on Monday the 7th. And boy did they come! Many of us began to get rides to class with our host families, rather than suffering a rainy bike ride. Those who biked that first Monday arrived at class soaked from head to toe. They've continued for a week now, through Monday again. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that the thirsty plants are eternally grateful for some water, after about a month without it. 

That day, we also began our geology research projects. Sorted randomly into pairs, we have all chosen topics in New Zealand's geology, ranging from gold mining to volcanic eruptions. Each pair will give a 15-minute presentation on their topic on either Monday or Wednesday, as well as write a short research paper going into more detail. Meanwhile, we've been given the final assignment for the Environmental Issues course: a more extensive, open-ended research paper about conservation. We have two weeks to write these essays (this time, on our own). It is daunting, but promises to be a valuable exercise. 

All the while in the background, course planning for next year's fall semester has begun. The list of courses offered next semester was posted online when we were in Kaikoura, but as course registration day draws nearer, the tone has shifted from one of idle speculation to serious planning. Chris Smith has become something like a celebrity, with so many biology (and related) majors looking to him for advice. 

With so many rising senior biology majors around, planning for Senior Seminar in the fall has also just begun. Every biology major, as well as some relatives like environmental science and biochemistry, is required to do a semester-long group research project on a topic of their choice, culminating in a review article and a presentation. 

On Friday, we presented our Kaikoura research projects again, for the benefit of Peter Frost and Meg, who didn't come to the South Island with us. It was a little nerve-wracking for some of us, but it allowed us to get some more feedback on our projects (which was all very positive!) and let Meg and Peter share in a little bit of our South Island experience. (And, for those who care about such things, this means we'll also receive a grade on our presentations.) 


There had been some tentative planning for a return trip to Tongariro National Park on Saturday, so that those were interested could complete the Tongariro Crossing, which we missed out on in January because of high winds at the summit. However, the poor weather showed no signs of clearing up over the weekend, so we nixed those plans. That doesn't mean there was nothing to do, however! On Saturday afternoon, Chris and Meg sponsored a trip to the roller skating rink, and on Sunday they invited us to join them in the Splash Center, an indoor pool and water slide.  The skating rink was quite enjoyable some of our group; Heather and Jessica even got a lesson from a teacher who was present in the rink. The splash center consisted of several hydro-slides, a lazy river, various hot-tubs, and the coup de grâce a giant inflatable bouncy racecourse. Suffice it to say we had quite an enjoyable time there this weekend.


As of today, the weather is still wet and cold. We're preparing to say goodbye to our host families at the end of the week, but we're excited for our two final trips: Rotorua and the Marlborough Sounds. This semester is going by so quickly! 

Monday, 7 April 2014

Written by Bailey Heinzen and Hanna Sosin

After a week of Spring Break adventures we arrived back in Wanganui ready to go to the annual Artist Open Studios. There were nearly seventy different artists whose studios we could visit, everything from print-making to ceramics, glass art to paintings. Some students bought a few pieces a few pieces of art, and we all really enjoyed exploring Wanganui and appreciating the amazing creativity of the local artists. The annual event drew more than five thousand visitors and made $170,000 in sales. To the right is example of some artwork seen at the Open Studios.

The next day marked the start of our transition back into the routine of classes and internships. For the first day back of our Environmental Issues of New Zealand course, groups of two students presented some of the things we learned about in the South Island. The seven pre-assigned topics were Eco Services, Habitat Conservation, Ecological Restoration, Predator and Pest Control, Captive Breeding, Reintroductions & Translocations and What More Can We Do? We had some very informative and intriguing discussions about these issues, sometimes ending in a little bit of arguing. Our Cultures of New Zealand class that day was at the Whanganui Regional Museum again for a meeting with Āwhina. She taught us about traditional Māori musical instruments as well as her experiences traveling across the Pacific on a double-hulled waka (canoe). It was a special lecture because a double-hulled waka that had sailed to New Zealand from San Francisco was due to arrive in Wanganui the very next day.

Tuesday and Thursday everyone went to their respective internships, but on Wednesday we enjoyed a special Geology class on the beach. Meg taught us all about Wanganui Geology and its significance; we were amazed at how quickly the rocks were eroding and couldn’t believe that some things would just crumble in our hands! We also had plenty of time to look at all the cool rocks and shells that were scattered along the beach, we even found the body of a young shark washed up on the shore.

Friday was dedicated to art projects with Wi and Liz (Adaobi’s host parents). This meant a steep ascent to the Quaker Settlement by bike. Over the course of the day, we worked hard to create personalized kowhaiwhai, Maori symbols, to represent everything from family and friends to graduation. These kowhaiwhai complimented/accented the small acrylic paintings we did with Liz’s help. Everyone came up with some amazing pieces of art! It was Wi’s birthday so Chris Smith brought Wi a bratwurst with candles, Wi doned a particularly ravishing birthday hat, and we sang happy birthday both in English and Māori.  Overall it was a great week for transitioning back into the swing of classes and internships after being away from Wanganui for so long. We’re excited to turn in our Natural History Journals on Wednesday; we’ve furiously been working on them all week. Here’s a photo of some Albatross Encouragement Zoe Wolfe sent to us earlier:

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Written by Ashley Hedrick and Zoe Wolfe   



After our stay at the Rough and Tumble Lodge, we loaded into the bus for the last time and headed toward Kaikoura, our last stop as a group on our South Island journey.  While on the road, we made a few pit stops, one of which was at a bakery where many of us bought delicious treats (including Matthias, who got a cream-filled donut to celebrate the end of his period of veganism).  Once we reached Kaikoura, we said goodbye to our wonderful bus driver, Clem, and were introduced to our hosts at the Edward Percival Marine Field Station.  Our resident advisors were Paul and Becky, marine biologists working for Canterbury University.  After a brief break for choosing bunks, we all gathered for a quick lesson on intertidal ecology.  Paul gave us a broad overview of the levels of the intertidal zone and preached to the magic of tide pools, which we would soon explore and become familiar with.  He also took this opportunity to introduce a few possible research ideas to get us thinking about what we wanted to research during the remainder of the week.


The main focus of our stay in Kaikoura was to devise, carry out, and present mini research projects on some aspect of intertidal ecology.  We all split into small groups based on our interests in the various project topics and quickly got to work coming up with questions, hypotheses, and experimental designs with the help of Paul, Becky, Chris, and Ikumi.  Since most of us were somewhat unfamiliar with working in a marine ecology setting, we relied heavily on the advice of the marine biologists and the experimental designs we read about in various research articles.  In a surprisingly short amount of time, though, the groups were off and running with projects in mind.  While some groups created lab experiments that could be carried out indoors, others decided they would venture out during low tide to take surveys and counts of designated experimental plots.  Even though it was our first evening at the field station, everyone was ready to get out the next day to begin performing the experiments.


Before we got to work on our research the next morning, however, we had a visit from a member of Kaikoura’s district council, a group of professionals dedicated to creating and running environmental and sustainability programs in their area.  The district council that presides over Kaikoura has made great efforts to make the city a Green Globe community through “Earth Check” programs.  These programs focus on zero waste, intensive recycling, reusable materials, carbon reduction, and establishing marine reserves.  The efforts of the district council seem to have had a positive impact of the area and have been well received by the community.  It was inspiring to see that environmental preservation and sustainability have become such a focus in Kaikoura and gave many of us hope that other communities could also successfully get on board with such programs.

To pass some time the following morning until the tide was low enough for us to carry out our experiments, we received a talk from Chris Smith about some of the research that he has been involved in on harvester ants as well as other side projects that he has been a part of such as metagenomic studies and slime mold studies. Once his talk was complete our group of 14 scattered to different areas along the coast that were best suited for their studies and we did not reconvene again that day until the tide returned. For many of us it was a great first day and we were looking forward to doing more in the days to follow. After spending such a long time away from our traditional methods of learning, being able to actively solve problems was a breath of fresh air.

Close to midnight that day Paul invited those who were interested to go on a midnight walk through the shore since the tide would be out again. A large group of us geared up with headlamps and joined him and were able to see some amazing creatures that were not as prevalent during the day. Some of the most memorable things we saw were huge sea stars, wandering anemones, and duckbilled limpets which are curious invertebrates whose soft velvety mantel grows to cover its small white shell. It was great to have Paul there to tell us all about the sea creatures that most of us were very unfamiliar with and it was a great chance to become more comfortable with the location and environment that we were studying in. Although many of us could have stayed out until the tide forced us back, we were all rather exhausted from our first day of work and chose to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

The next two days passed in a blur with groups working on their different projects and analyzing their data to create a presentation, but after many stressful hours everyone was finished and ready to present results. All the studies done were very unique and creative. One group consisting of Bailey Heinzen, Taylor Boucher, and Emily Sells looked at interactions of butterfish and bull kelp. Adaobi and Heather tested the tenacity of a specific seaweed (Hormosira banksii) and Zoe looked at how tramping on that seaweed could alter the biodiversity of what lives under it. Abby and Jessica examined how snails avoid different types of starfish and along those same lines Ashley and Chris studied how amphipods steer clear of anemones. The largest group consisting of Joanne, Brent, Cole, and Hanna looked at the differences between sea life living within an area protected from commercial fishing (Rahui) and an area where commercial fishing takes place regularly. Overall we were all very pleased with how our presentations came together and were very relieved to be done with what felt like a miniature finals week.

During our three days of intense work we were however lucky enough to go on an albatross sighting tour. Albatrosses were not the only things we saw though. We saw little blue penguins bobbing on the surface taking a break before their next dive, fur seals rolling around, and dolphins jumping through the air and playing in the wake of the boat. Overall it was a great trip and tons of fun to see so much life in the oceans.

Kaikoura was a great time to get back in school mode, but it eventually came to an end and we all parted ways on the morning of the 22nd to enjoy a well-earned spring break.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Written by Emily Sells and Jessica Schultz


Tuesday started off as an overcast day. As we drove to the Mackenzie Basin, it became increasingly foggy. This was upsetting because we were expecting spectacular mountain views. We met a sheep farmer in the morning named Jim Morris. He discussed with us the difficulties of highland farming, including managing the land in such a way that his farming does not become exceedingly detrimental to the environment, the decrease in demand for wool, and the fact that New Zealand does not subsidies farmers to counter a drop in the market. After the talk, we continued through the basin. When we stopped along a river for lunch, the fog finally lifted, giving us our mountain view. Our next stop in the basin was at a captive breeding program for Black Stilts in Twizel. We learned that the Black Stilt is the most endangered wading bird in the world, and we saw several young adults in their constructed hides. This Stilt is endemic only to the Mackenzie Basin, and the goal of the captive breeding program is to raise the Black Stilt's population numbers to the point that they are self-sustaining in the wild. The program itself has successfully raised Stilts to young adults, but they still have a high mortality rate in the wild. Because they nest on the ground near rivers, they are highly susceptible to predation from introduced stoats and cats. The predator control that is being done is not intensive enough to allow the Black Stoats to increase their numbers or even lower the mortality rate. On the way home, we took a detour to see Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand.
The next day we departed Wanaka en route to Franze Josef. We traveled through the Haast Pass and stopped to hike to the Blue Pools, which is a river of pristine blue water. Our next stop was at Fox Glacier. It was an amazing view of a valley carved from the Fox Glacier, and some of our group even hiked up close to the glacier. Others were content with seeing the glacier from a far, looking instead for Kea birds or a place out of the rain. The day after we headed to Blackball. On the way, we stopped in Hari Hari to talk with Dan and Kath about the poison 1080. They told us of the negative effects of 1080 on the environment, such as accidental ingestion by native birds. Dan and Kath are currently fighting in court to prevent the spread of 1080 in the forest surrounding their home and town. Dan suggests that other methods of pest removal would be superior to poisoning. To spice up the day, we also met with the Animal Health Board, the largest user of 1080 in the world, since they are the largest users in New Zealand and New Zealand is pretty much the only country that has not banned 1080. Their goal was not to eliminate possums, but to keep New Zealand livestock free of Tuberculosis. Because possums have been known to transmit TB to cows, the Animal Health Board spreads 1080 on pellets to keep the numbers of possums low. It was interesting to hear two opposing views toward 1080, and, needless to say, we were wondering who to believe. That night we stayed at a 100 year old pub called "Formerly the Blackball Hilton."




Friday started started with a tour of the historic coal mining community of Blackball. The area is famous for the 1908 miner's strike which lead to longer lunch breaks. Blackball used to have several working mines and still has one open mine today. On the way out, we stopped at a kiwi reserve to learn about the Great Spotted Kiwi. We even got to see one being fed. Driving along the west coast, we stopped at Punakaiki to see the famous pancake rocks. It is a mystery how the rocks were formed, which makes them all the more beautiful. Later that afternoon, we stopped to talk with Kerry-Jayne Wilson, the scientist in charge of the Penguin Trust. Kerry-Jayne expressed that there needs to be larger a focus on conservation for seabirds. Most conservation efforts focused on terrestrial species, but she says a number of seabird species are declining in population. A large issue is the loss of habitat since seabirds nest along the shore. The problem with this is that the shoreline is highly occupied or changed by humans. That night, we arrived at the Rough and Tumble Lodge, which is a slice of paradise in the middle of the bush. Not only did it actually have a good kitchen and laundry, but there were also tons of different activities to do. There were multiple short trails, mountain bikes, kayaks, fishing poles, and many more activities. We were all happy to spend three nights at the Lodge.

Saturday we left for a tour of the Stockton Mine. None of us expected to see such huge trucks and and other vehicles. Besides being the largest open pit mine in New Zealand, Stockton practices VDT, which stands for vegetation direct transfer. This means that, before they start mining, they take away at least a meter of soil and all the vegetation on top of it. They transplant this soil elsewhere for storage until they finish mining, at which point they try to reshape the landscape to it's previous size and shape before replacing the cared for soil. In this area of mining, there are endangered carnivorous snails that they are trying to reintroduce. The snails were uprooted initially to mine the coal under their home.

Sunday was our day of rest. We didn't travel, but we stayed at the lodge and learned about eco-tourism. We also discussed the impacts of tourism on economics, environment, and society. That was also the last day of the vegan diet bet between Mattias and Emily. Thanks to their mentors, Adobi and Heather (respectively), they successfully lasted the entire week. They celebrated the night with a BBQ for Cole's birthday, though the Small-Label-Readers (Mattias's affectionate name for himself and Emily after being banned from talking about veganism) were still unable to share in the meat and cheese parts of the food.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Written by Abby Hall and Heather Brock


We have been hearing about the Hump Ridge Track for quite awhile and nerves and anxiety have arisen as time has been getting closer for when we start. The Hump Ridge track was created by the community of Tuatapere and goes over the Hump Ridge located just inside Fiordland National Park. We have heard that the first day is the worst and that blood, sweat, and tears will be present. Scary! But other than those thoughts, we have also heard about how the tramp is worth it and how great the scenery is.

On Tuesday we arrived at the car park to start the track. For the first 3 or 4 hours we had a nice walk that was a only a gradual uphill increase. That first part of the walk was helpful, because it helped us to warm up our bodies. Right before we started our intense vertical uphill part of the walk, we stopped at Flat Creek to strip off our remaining layers of clothes. After layering down we, dun dun dun, started the known part of the Hump Ridge. It was a very tiring walk that required frequent stops for a breather. We stopped for lunch in the middle of the walk at Water Bridge Shelter. After taking a short lunch break, we started moving again and boy was it hard to start walking. We eventually made our next stop at Stag Point. The scenic view at this point was

The group taking a scenic break at Stag Point.
breathtaking and one of the students dropped their pack and exclaimed, "it was all worth it." After another walk uphill, we finally made it to our destination, Okaka Lodge. Immediately after arriving at the lodge, we all took off our boots and relaxed in the common area, while others took a nap in their living arrangements. Even though we walked basically up a wall, the real highlight of the day was celebrating my (Heather's) birthday. I woke up this morning to a chorus of the Happy Birthday Song and ended the day with a drink being bought for me. After a tiring day of walking, we all went to bed to get ready for the next day of walking.

The next day we woke up to sore bodies mixed with fatigue, but that did not stop us from starting our second day of walking. This day of walking consisted of mostly downhill with the occasional uphill. It was still a hard day of walking, because walking downhill is hard on the knees and it made our legs shake. Our first stop was at Luncheon Rock Shelter, which we did not have our lunch at, to take a break. We did not have as good of a view than at Stag Point, because it was very misty out and could not see very far out. After more downhill walking, we made it to our destination, Waitutu Hut.
Arrival at Waitutu Hut.
By the third day everyone had earned a break so we spent a day relaxing and learning more about south land Maori fishing practices from Tiny, a local who had actually built Waitutu Hut. He explained the decline of abalone or pauwa and about the Muttonbird Islands where the Maori hunt a seabird commonly called the sooty shearwater. After a short shore walk along the rocky shore near Waitutu and a good nights sleep, we said goodbye to Waitutu and continued our journey.
 
The fourth day of walking consisted of following an old tram-line that was used to move lumber from the south land forest to Port Craig on the coast, our destination. The tram-line was very muddy from the extensive rain that is the norm for this area, but it was flat which was a welcome change from the earlier walks. A beautiful view of the coast and the chance to see and swim with some Hector's Dolphins was our reward when we reached the hut at Port Craig.
Swimming with the dolphins at Port Craig.


For the final push from Port Craig to the parking lot, we began our journey in a hilly section of bush where we took the opportunity to have a "silent walk." Everyone had a chance to space out and spend a section of the tramp alone and in silence. After the silent walk everyone met on the first beach of the coastal portion of the Hump Ridge Track, and roasted some sausages and mussels, which were grabbed directly from the sea, over a fire for lunch before continuing. After going up and over several headlands and over three beaches everything started to look familiar, because we followed the loop and started back over the track from all those days before we headed up the ridge. In the end everyone made it safely back to the bus exhausted, but triumphant over the infamous Hump Ridge. We headed back to Tuatapere eager to shower and do laundry and continue our exploration of the south island.
Overlooking Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.
The next day we all slept in, but not by much, then loaded onto the bus and said goodbye to Tuatapere and headed north towards our first stop, Lake Manapori. We learned about the outcry over an attempt to raise the lake significantly in order to increase production of power from a hydropower plant that uses flow from Manapori to a fjord called Doubtful Sound in Fiordland National Park. Luckily the protests prevented the lake from being raised and we got to see it at its natural level before we headed father north towards Queenstown. Queenstown is a bustling tourism town, but we only really stopped long enough to stretch our legs and get some pictures before we continued on to Wanaka where we would rest for the night. The next morning, after a little excitement caused by our bus running out of diesel halfway down the road, we made it to our stop for the day, Cromwell. There we learned about the Clyde Dam, the largest concrete dam in New Zealand, who construction prompted the creation of a new lake right over what used to be downtown Cromwell. Later that afternoon we met with a landscape architect from the Mackenzie Basin area who gave us a brief overview of the issues of that region we are planning to visit next. For dinner that day we had a BBQ, which ended with a bet being made between a student and the South Island program leader, Matthias. The bet consisted of who could last being a vegan until next Monday. Each person is given a vegan mentor, Heather or Adaobi, to help guide them through this learning experience of a bet. The loser of the bet must buy the winner a pack of their choice of drink. We are all watching with eager eyes at who will win while having a few laughs along the way. The winner will be posted in the next blog post.
Written by Brent Kramer and Taylor Boucher

​We got to sleep in on Monday which was great, since most of us were still very tired from traveling to Kapiti.

​Then we finished off block two in Wanganui with a pretty normal week of classes and internships. Wednesday we turned in our nature journals. We had to have a list of 50 New Zealand species with information about them, sketches, and several essays on which we had to research three New Zealand species and a self reflection. We also had two quizzes on Wednesday. The first quiz was on the flora on NZ, and the second was a geology quiz that we have weekly.

A group performing a haka at Pakaitore Day.
​Friday was Pakaitore day, a holiday for the local iwi. It was a free day for the students, and we all celebrated in different ways. Some of us went to the Save Mart and bought cheap clothes in preparation for the South Island. Some got up early and went to the Pakaitore day welcoming ceremony and watched ‘The Funathon (where there were different teams of people, and in each team there were two swimmers, two runners, and two canoe paddlers). Others slept in packed/prepared for the south island and later went to Pakaitore for lunch and Haka performances.

​Friday night we all went to the quaker settlement to stay the night. On Saturday morning we woke up early and said our goodbyes to the quaker settlement and Wanganui. We then drove to Palmerston North and flew to Christchurch, met up with Matthias (our south island guide), and flew again to Dunedin where we met our coach tour bus and driver. We then headed down the east coast to where we were going to stay for the next couple of nights. We had two stops on the way; first we stopped to look at a lighthouse overlooking a rocky, water-eroded beach that was filled with NZ fur seals sunbathing and catching a snooze. Our second stop was at a yellow-eyed penguin beach habitat, where this rarest penguin in the world can be seen if you are lucky. Unfortunately, we did not see any, but Matthias assured us we would have other chances at other beaches (and we finally saw two penguins). Afterwords, we went to our cabins and slept for the night, knowing we had a full day ahead of us tomorrow.
Sea lion pup with laying on its mother.
Sunday was very eventful, we started the morning off with a short beach walk next to our cabins. On the beach we saw 3 sea lions lying around, also catching a snooze. We were very lucky to see them because there are only ~150 mainland sea lions left in NZ. We then went to a conservation area outside of Owaka. This conservation area, which is located at Mohua Park, is an eco-tourism get away owned by Fergus and Mary Southerland. It is home to the Mohua bird, a very rare NZ bird. Here we learned a lot about ecotourism and its effects. Our next stop was at an AWESOME place called ‘The Lost Gypsy Gallery.’ This was the workings of an inventor with a wild imagination, full of hand-made gadgets and gizmos that were very hands-on. These were all crafted and displayed for the curious on an old gypsy bus. This was most of the students’ favorite part of the day.




Rare Yellow-Eyed Penguins.
After that we drove to a short hiking area, that led to a beautiful waterfall tucked back in the bush. The stream flowing to the waterfall was carved by lava from a past volcano. We finished off the day stopping by ‘Teapot Land’, a small yard with a huge collection of teapots (786 to be exact).

Side note... What different people in our group like to do in their spare time:

Taking selfies, getting hiccups, looking at ants, being momma goose, taking pictures of butts, falling down, perching on rocks, throwing candy into people’s mouths, passing out after fire baths, writing phylogenies on their body, comparing themselves to pumice, finding insects in their food, doodling cool pictures, making sweet time-lapse videos, climbing things, busting their lip, taking candid sleeping photos, looking at rocks, and running around naked. 

​(All of these are inside jokes, if you want to know the stories ask someone from the group!)

Monday, 24 February 2014

Written by Zoe Wolfe and Adaobi Onunkwo

Hello All!
         
    This week has been one full of learning, exploration, and togetherness.  We began class on Monday with a lecture from Peter about mining in New Zealand and the difficult balance of energy needs and environmental concerns, and then we discussed a paper on the geological formation of modern day New Zealand with Meg.  In the afternoon, we went on another visit to the Whanganui Regional Museum to see Āwhina Twomey.  She gave a fascinating presentation called “Extending the Strapped Hand,” where she spoke about a trip she took to the United States with a group of students and professors from Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo Māori, a total immersion school for fluent speakers of the Māori language.  They travelled to North Dakota, Utah, Minnesota, and various other states to meet with teachers of Native American and first nation languages.  There, they did workshops and discussions with the teachers to help them improve their programs and take vital steps toward revitalizing the declining languages.  Āwhina’s story was powerful because it reminded us all that the cultural issues we are learning about here in New Zealand are not always so different from the cultural inequalities we have back home.  The connection made between the Native Americans that she encountered on her trip throughout the United States and the Maori communities that she is a part of in New Zealand,allowed us to bridge what we have learned in New Zealand and what we have been taught in the  United States. This comparison strengthened our understanding of the ostracization of the Māori community which was eloquently illustrated by Āwhina when she stated, “They are on your doorstep as well.”         

Tuesday, everyone headed back to their respective internships, where we all seem to be settling into a routine.  Those at Bushy Park monitored stichbird feeders for hours on end; the bird rescue folks continue to be enamored with Dawn (their boss); those at Pūtiki Kindergarten washed their hands furiously to avoid getting the stomach flu (again); and the students working with Ash Patea helped teach Māori in the schools, to name just a few of the internships.  On Wednesday, we were back in the classroom, this time visited in the afternoon by Tūrama Hawira, an expert Māori historian and environmental advocate.  He spoke to us about the Māori worldview and how it ties in with many of the environmental stances the iwi take today. His class was captivating; he interwove his knowledge about the land from his ancestors with knowledge about environmental impact of his sacred land. Lucky for us, we get to have another class with him later this semester.

On Friday, the group took a trip to Bushy Park, an enclosed forest reserve that was established on farmland given to the Forest and Bird Protection Society by Frank Moore in 1962.  Since then, a predator proof fence has been erected, most of the invasive mammals in the park have been eliminated, and endangered species have been reintroduced.  We began our visit with an introduction the homestead that still remains on the property.  There, we were treated like true guests with coffee, tea, and scones in the beautiful dining lounge. 

Afterward, we split up to go on walked around the various tracks with Peter, Chris Divine (the sole paid employee at Bushy Park), and Terry (a longtime volunteer at the park).  While some walked through the wetlands, others climbed the gully, and some even got to see a nest full of stichbird chicks.  Stichbirds (or hihis), saddlebacks, and North Island robins are the three main species of bird that have been introduced to Bushy Park with aims to rebuild their populations. The aim to rebuild of these populations are of particular interest because of New Zealand’s connection to these species. The saddlebacks and robins have done extremely well, and the hihis are slowly but surely increasing their numbers.  In order to monitor them more carefully and record better data about nesting, all of the hihis that were introduced have bands on the ankles to identify them.  However, seeing unbanded hihi birds is exciting because the lack of bands means that they were reared in the park.  

On Saturday we loaded up in the vans again for a trip to Kāpiti Island, another forest reserve off the coast near Wellington.  Like Bushy Park, the reserve is protected from mammal predators, but for Kāpiti, that barrier is water—the entire island is devoted as a reserve.  That night, we stayed on the mainland coast and enjoyed an evening at the beach.  Unfortunately, our plans to go by boat to the island the next morning were thwarted by the wind and waves.  We made the most of our time, though, and went on a beautiful hike along the coast, over farmland, and through native forest with Anthony, who will be leading us on our Marlborough Sounds trip at the end of the semester.  The walk we had with Anthony was exhilarating, climbing on top of high peaks only to be knocked back by breath taking views. It was not uncommon to hear a member of the group ask, “is this real life?” Indeed it is, what an honor it has been to see such a beautiful country and we cannot wait to see the many beautiful sights that await us.

Until next time,