Biological Sciences - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Biology Newsletter

Newsletter 241

Monday 13 August 2012

Last week of Term 3

I have finally got to the end of Phase 1 of the PBRF process – at one stage there were 888 portfolios on my system! Now I am hoping for a couple of weeks respite to prep some lectures - and to empty some boxes that came with me from Massey eight years ago and are not, repeat not, going to go with me to our nice new offices in the refurbished building!

Congratulations to Rachel van Heugten for winning the College of Science Thesis-in-three round. Please note the date and time for the finals: 22 August, 7.00 pm.

As I write this we are undergoing an external Health and Safety audit. It does still amaze me that people still don’t accept that when in any Research Lab i.e. any lab in  Putaiao koiora, that there is to be no food or drink (including water bottles) in the labs. Our thanks to both Bill and Nicole for the enormous amount of time they spend trying to keep us adhering to Heath, Safety and Compliance legislation.

~ Paula ~


College of Science heats

Our very own Rachel van Heugten (PhD candidate) was placed first in the College of Science heats and will now proceed to the UC final on Wednesday 22nd August, A1 lecture theatre, 7.00 pm. Please come along to support Rachel talk about her thesis on the Canterbury tree weta. Her senior supervisor, Marie Hale, must be enormously proud. Great effort Rachel!

Outreach for the Introverted: an introduction to editing Wikipedia

Tuesday 4th September, 12-1, Room 275

Scientists should be doing more community outreach but many of us don't particularly like people. If you are in this category, then I may have the solution for you. The 7th most visited website in New Zealand is Wikipedia. The beauty of this resource is that anyone can edit this encyclopaedic resource from the comfort of their own computer. Getting started can be intimidating, however, once you're familiar with the basics this is a painless way to greatly increase your sphere of influence. Your edits count as a "contribution to the research community", furthermore, you ensure that the review panel reading your latest grant, your future students, your collaborators and the wider community has easy access to further information on your field. 

I'll run a short introduction to get you started editing your own articles. I'll briefly cover formatting, Wikipedia policies and citing articles. You will need a laptop and a Wikipedia article that you would like to create or correct and expand. A good target we may try for is to expand the articles on New Zealand species where members of the school have international-level expertise  (eg. Styela clava, Oceanites maorianus, Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos, Himantopus novaezelandiae, Trite planiceps, Senecioneae, Peraxilla tetrapetala, Inanga,  Potamopyrgus antipodarum, Nothofagus solandri, Chionochloa rubra, Parapoxvirus, Petroica traversi, ...). 

If you're interested then send an email to and I'll send you further details before the meeting. 

Dr Vida Mary Stout (20 February 1930-21 July 2012)

St Barnabas Church Hall, Wednesday 25th July at 4.00 pm.

Friends and colleagues past and present attended Vida’s funeral service. A tribute was delivered by Emeritus Professor Mike Winterbourn which highlighted her long and dedicated service to the Zoology Department and the University of Canterbury. Vida will be remembered as a dedicated field researcher (freshwater ecology), student supervisor, and administrator (Dean of Science) who retired in 1996.

For those of us who attended it was a pleasant reunion with past graduates and staff, a chance to hear about her interesting and active life, and an opportunity to meet her extended family.

If anyone would like to know more details about her UC career I have a file available.
Lyn de Groot (her ex-secretary when she was Dean in the late 80’s)

Dr Gregor Yeates (born 1944 - 6 August 2012)

Gregor attended UC and gained his bachelors degree with first class honors in 1966. During the second year of his studies at Canterbury, he attended lectures by a Nematologist, Dr. W.C. Clarke. Those lectures focused Dr. Yeates’ interests on nematodes. Dr. Yeates completed his Ph.D. in 1968, under the direction of Dr. Clarke, on the ecology of nematodes in coastal sand dunes. He was awarded a D.Sc. degree by the University of Canterbury in 1986.

After completing his Ph.D., Dr. Yeates spent a year in the Nematology Department at Rothamsted Experimental Station in England followed by a year at the Mols Laboratory in Denmark. Between 1970 and 1992, he was a soil scientist with the Soils Bureau of New Zealand’s Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in Lower Hutt. Subsequently, he was appointed as a Senior Scientist at Landcare Research New Zealand Ltd in Palmerston North, New Zealand.  He continued his work as a soil zoologist until his retirement in 2011.

Baby Gray

Duncan (PhD 2011) & Bridget have produced yet another girl to their family. Weighing in at 7lb and no name to date (unless someone else has extra news!?). Mum and baby are doing fine.

Journal News

Recent publications in the school

Barnett, C.A. and Briskie, J.V. (2011). Strategic regulation of body mass and singing behavior in New Zealand robins. Ethology 117: 28-36.

Briskie, J.V. (2011). The effect of earthquake aftershocks on the dawn chorus of an Eurasian blackbird (Turdus merula). Notornis 58: 175-176.

and now for something completely different...

The Rugby Champsionship kicks off this Saturday


Twenty golden moments from the London games



Thought for the week

"It's what I came here to do, I'm now a legend."
- Jamaica's Usain Bolt permits the world to proclaim him a sporting legend after becoming the first man to retain the 100- and 200 metres titles.

Contact details

If you have items of news or interest that you would like included in this newsletter, contact the admin office before noon on Friday at or phone ext 6732.