And how can you tell?

New Zealand tui in an Australian bottlebrush. Photo by the author.

At least once a week, and often more frequently, many New Zealanders work their neighbourhood trapping lines. This involves visiting a series of traps set for rodents, hedgehogs, mustelids, or possums to see if there are any new kills. They do this as a community service, helping to rid New…

Data for Change

One predator at a time

Huia Bay, Waitakere Ranges. Photo with permission of Kelly Bennett

Imagine, just for a moment, that you could make a difference by doing something small in your neighbourhood. That’s what thousands of New Zealanders are doing all over the country by working together to trap invasive predators. New Zealand is a country of birds, but possums, rats, mice, hedgehogs, and…

Data for Change

Using birdsong to index the local health of New Zealand nature

New Zealand tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) by Kelly Bennett.

The natural soundscape of New Zealand is ringing with birdsong. Unfortunately this natural wonder is currently confined to pockets of the country that are protected from introduced predators. The New Zealand government Department of Conservation (DOC) and community groups have embarked on an ambitious plan, called Predator Free New Zealand…

Not mowing a lifestyle block in New Zealand

For twelve years, our acre of pasture at Huia in the Waitakere Ranges, New Zealand sat unoccupied. It was part of a farm, and now grew a variety of grasses and invasive weeds, including Kikuyu grass, gorse, inkweed, wild ginger, bugle lilies, creeping mallow, dandelion, woolly nightshade, and blackberry. The…

Stories from an exotic childhood

Sampans on the Kuching waterfront (Photo credit: Sarawak Tourism Board)

When we arrived in Sarawak in 1968 I had no idea what it would be like, but I was young, barely thirteen. We stayed at the government guesthouse, which was a spare, villa-like building on a small hill overlooking the town of Kuching. I recall the sound of chanting, the…

or why I should have been a botanist

CTD rosette used to collect water samples and collect temperature, salinity, oxygen, and turbidity profiles. Credit: California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations.

Oceanographers by definition go to sea, but many don’t, or go to sea very seldom. Those include modellers, remote sensing scientists, palaeoceanographers, and lab-based experimentalists. For many oceanographers, going to sea means working on large research vessels, generally for weeks or months at a stretch, hundreds of kilometres offshore, out…

Stories from an exotic childhood

Drawing by the author.

Growing up on a small farm in Kenya my brother and I wandered freely through the bush, and down along a stream where there were taro fields. The forest on the other side of the stream was full of animal trails. The Africans set snares for bushmeat. Monkeys raced through…

The short answer is no.

Drawing by author

When I was a brash young oceanography PhD student, forty years ago now, I walked into my supervisor’s office and stepped on some papers scattered on the floor. I bent down to pick them up, and was greeted by a terse “Leave them there!”. I asked what they were, and…

Stories from an exotic childhood

Photo by Marko Blazevic from Pexels

I grew up in a farmhouse full of books outside Nairobi, Kenya in a place that used to be called Karen, with the Ngong Hills in the distance behind a forested ridge. I loved my books of myths and legends, and especially the African tales where people could shape-shift into…

Stories from an exotic childhood

Ngong hills with taro plants and fever trees remembered from our farm outside Nairobi, Kenya. Drawing by the author.

Hunting holds an irresistible attraction for many. As a boy growing up in East Africa, I was no different. I spent many days wandering our farm with an air rifle, a couple of dogs, and my brother. It was how I learned to watch the birds and other animals, to…

Sam McClatchie

Fisheries oceanographer. Former lead for the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations program at NOAA (2007-2018).

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