2018-2019 Summer in Waitomo

Most of my field work for my personal project has been conducted in Waitomo, New Zealand. I’ve talked about Waitomo before in previous blog posts. It’s an incredible place and I am always thrilled to act as tour guide to introduce visitors (or even kiwis who have never ventured there) to the magic that is karst landscape, glowworm covered walls, diverse harvestmen, and a variety of other endemic invertebrates (such as velvet worms and sheetweb spiders). I took several trips to Waitomo this summer from Dec 2018 to March 2019.

The first two weeks of January, I hosted an Irish undergraduate student who came over for summer research experience, my undergraduate summer student from University of Auckland, and a MSc student working on giraffe weevils at my field site. We added to the sample size of autotomy experiments for one of my data chapters, tried some last ditch efforts to stimulate more natural male-male competition between the harvestmen, and the summer students also got to help with the giraffe weevil project (which included a lot of patience for behavioral observations and the use of a fancy thermal camera).

In February, I also hosted a professional photographer in Waitomo, took a visiting collaborator down for a quick field trip, and guided our new post-doc in the lab around the field site.

Can a sheep farm be any more picturesque?

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The closest beach to Waitomo is Marokopa beach. It hosts beautiful, glittery black sand, a rough surf, and seemingly good fishing. The beach is one of my dog’s favorite things about field work, though he is also a huge fan of caves, streams, and forest tracks.

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Here’s an assortment of some of the amazing things I’ve photographed in Waitomo this summer!

“Icing sugar” fungus on a sheet-web spider

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Female and male Uliodon sp. brown vagrant spiders with prey. The female is eating a centipede (left) while the male is eating some Hemiptera I believe.

 

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Close-up of a glowworm! Not to spoil the magic, but Arachnocampa luminosa is actually the maggot of a fungus gnat, the larvae are predatory and produce bioluminescence (light) and sticky strings of silk to attract and capture prey. 

A native bush roach molting, a male tree weta (Hemideina thoracica) molting to adulthood, and a stick insect doing an excellent job of being a stick!

 

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