Tuesday, August 19, 2014

CPIT research month - week 3 day 1

Today's session from Applied Sciences. Always interesting and especially to see how science is applied to real world problems. The overall theme this lunchtime around ' the science of small things: mites, microbes and micronutrients'.

First up, Dr. John Clark, who is a taxonomist who describes what he does as 'inventing new words to describe the multiplicity of life on earth'. John presented on 'sharpening the tools: towards better biocontrol in greenhouses using NZ native species'. John reported on approaches and early results from collaborative work with Universities, government bodies and with students. Basically to try to identify NZ insect predators which can eat white flies and their eggs. John's taxonomy is detailed on the NZ wiki species site.

Then Dr. Barbara Dolamore provides an update on on-going work on presence of toxins (from bacteria blooms) on Lake Forsyth. Specifically to measure level of the toxins in short fin eels, which are part of the traditional food source of local Maori (the Waiwera runanga). Tests in 2004/2005 indicated high levels in the livers of eels but only small amounts in muscles. In 2009, a channel dredged through the gravel banks on Birdlings Flats to allow the lake levels to be regulated. Although bacteria still present, no bloom occurred in 2014. Testing of eels harvested in 2014 reveals very low levels of toxin in eel livers and none in the muscles. Another collaborative project with universities, govt. bodies and the local iwi.

Dr. David Hawke also provided an update on his on-going work with regards to the contribution of seabirds to selenium levels in NZ soils. NZ soil deficient in selenium but sea bird colony soils have higher levels through bird guano. David reported on recent studies to find out if soils with higher selenium was taken up by native plants (not much) or animals living in streams by sea bird colonies. Established only mussels seemed to have higher selenium levels but more work needs to be done to find out what sort of selenium and mechanism used by mussels to carry the selenium.

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