I spent the last week of November in Southland, New Zealand collecting harvestmen for our Marsden-funded project to investigate the evolution of weapon exaggeration and diversity. This was just one of several trips around the South and North islands of New Zealand taken recently by myself and others to create a collection of Neopilionidae (in the genera Pantopsalis, Forsteropsalis, and Mangatangi) that will be used for the morphological and phylogenetic comparative aspects of the project (which will be conducted by my supervisor Chrissie Painting while I focus on the behaviour and physiology of just a couple of species).
My advisor Greg Holwell, labmates Rebecca Le Grice and Murray Fea, and I flew into Queenstown and embarked on a 5-day trip slowly covering over 800km (500 miles) of stunning New Zealand countryside. We spent the majority of our time on the Southern coast travelling from Queenstown to Tuatapere, skirting the edge of Fiordlands National Park, on to Bluff and Curio Bay, and ending our collection in Tahakopa and Catlins Coastal Rainforest park.
This trip was not all about harvestmen however. While we spent our evenings and nights in the native bush searching for nocturnal harvestmen, we spent our days on the beautiful south coast collecting kelp flies (in the family Coelopidae) as part of my labmate Rebecca Le Grice’s PhD project.
Once we were back in Auckland, some of the harvestmen got to have a proper photoshoot.
I am gearing up for some field work in Waitomo, New Zealand at the beginning of 2018. I will be doing some exciting behavioural and physiological experiments with two species. If you’re interested in volunteering with us, check out the Opportunities tab.