Christchurch Botanic Gardens Linkage
In July 2011 the School of Biological Sciences and the Christchurch Botanic Gardens committed to work more closely together. Staff will learn from each other, call on each other’s expertise, co-supervise students, and take part in joint seminars. As part of this linkage, joint summer scholarships are offered each year.
Valued at $5000 each, a UC Summer Research Scholarship involves working on a specific research project under the supervision of an academic staff member for approximately 10 weeks over the summer period. In addition summer scholarship students will complete a short research skills programme and will give a short presentation on their research project .
See the Summer Scholarship website for full details on these projects.
2012 summer scholarship opportunities with Biological Sciences and the Botanic Gardens
Pollination effectiveness and pollinator substitution in urban landscapes
There is worldwide concern about whether anthropogenic changes are weakening ecological services such as pollination of plants by animals. The key question of this project is “How effective is natural pollination of a range of native and exotic plant species in a modified landscape?”. This will be quantified with the Pollen Limitation Index (PLI) on selected plant species, such as native orchids (Gastrodia), rare shrubs (Muehlenbeckia astonii), and bird-pollinated native trees (Knightia excelsa, Metrosideros umbellata), and some related exotic plants for comparison. This student will work in a team with another Summer Scholarship student who will be recording the density and activity of key pollinators (bellbirds and native bees) at the Botanic Gardens.
Project Leader: Prof Dave Kelly
Urban pollinators: rare, distracted or redundant?
This project complements the other on Pollination Effectiveness, the two successful students working as a team. It aims to answer two puzzling questions that emerged from Amanda’s and Christie’s studies conducted last summer. Surprisingly, last summer’s project showed that there were high densities of native bees present in the Botanic Gardens and at other nearby sites. However, it is not known where the bees are nesting, or how vulnerable these nesting areas are. The three key native bees have nests either in clay banks (Lasioglossum, Leioproctus) or in dead twigs (Hylaeus), all of which are vulnerable to management. The first question is: “Where are the nests of native solitary bees in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, and how can these nest sites be protected?”. The second surprising discovery was that there are good numbers of native bellbirds in the Botanic Gardens, but these birds rarely visited attractive flowers that the birds “should” be pollinating. The second key question is: “What are the densities of potential bird pollinators in the Botanic Gardens, and why do they rarely visit flowers?”.
Project Leader: Prof Dave Kelly
Botanic sentinels guard against biological invasions
The third project, Botanic Sentinels, involves a collaborative team from the School of Biological Sciences and other scientists as part of a Better Border Biosecurity (B3) effort. It involves the proactive use of the plant collection in the Botanic Gardens to identify potential pests and diseases of exotic plants before they become a biosecurity problem. It is part of an international Sentinel Plant Network strongly supported by the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation and Botanic Gardens Conservation International. Pests and diseases of New Zealand plants growing in other countries - helping us identify potential problems for NZ plants growing in New Zealand - form a reciprocal part of the network. The successful student will join the team to select and study the presence of these potential problems, and help New Zealand and other countries in the biosecurity effort.
A small write-up of the Sentinel Plants Network can be seen from page 7 of a recent BG Journal issue:
Project Leader: Prof Paula Jameson
2011 summer student projects with biological sciences and the botanic gardens
Botanic Gardens not all exotic
Hagley Park and the Christchurch Botanic Gardens were rich indigenous wetlands with abundant wildlife 150 years ago. But Summer Scholarship student Matt Wallace discovered they and are not as ecologically barren today as we might think. Matt’s field and herbarium studies revealed that indigenous forest and grassland species in particular are making a comeback among the lawns and flower beds, which is good to know as we plan a greener Avon / Ōtakaro in Christchurch.
Canterbury’s natural plant communities
The New Zealand section of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens is having a makeover! Tired areas are being recast to exhibit Canterbury’s natural plant communities: Waimakariri savannah grassland, Banks Peninsula montane flora, kahikatea forest and others. Bronwyn Slack, a Summer Scholarship student, undertook a survey of the existing vegetation so we now know what we should keep, and what can be cleared to make way for these exciting new developments.
Earthquakes and freshwater wildlife
Matt Kippenberger, Summer Scholarship student last year, was looking for freshwater wildlife in the streams and ponds on the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Most ponds had been punctured by the earthquakes and relined with clay – a clean slate for the study of recolonisation. Matt intervened with rocks and wooden shelters for the pond bottoms to speed up the process, and checked the remnant population of Canterbury mudfish in one pool that survived the earthquakes.
Native or exotic? Which would you prefer if you were a pollinator?
Two Summer Scholarship students, Amanda Peterson and Christie Webber, recorded the flower preferences of insects and birds during last summer. The Botanic Gardens had a diversity of both exotic and native plants in flower but insect pollinators knew what they preferred: native insects for native plants. The birds were less particular. Christie and Amanda are publishing their results, which have posed some interesting questions for this summer’s students.
Image: The native bee Lasioglossum sordidum is a frequent visitor to native flowers. Photo by Christie Webber.