Past Events

Assessing the ecological consequences of extinction: are flightless birds important seed dispersers in New Zealand?

Wednesday 13th of November 2019, 05:20 PM (3 years ago)

Contact: Gretchen Brownstein |

Speaker: Jo Carpenter, Postdoctoral Researcher, Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research

Understanding the mutualistic services that species provide is essential when assessing the consequences of their local or global extinction. New Zealand historically harboured ~27 species of flightless land birds, of which 67% are now extinct, and the mutualist services these taxa provided are still unclear. Five large-seeded endemic tree species (Elaeocarpus dentatus, E. hookerianus, Prumnopitys ferruginea, P. taxifolia, Vitex lucens) appear partially adapted for seed dispersal by flightless birds, leading to speculation that they may once have been dispersed by moa. However, coprolite (fossilised faeces) evidence demonstrates that moa actually functioned largely as seed predators. So who does disperse these strange seeds? My PhD research shows that a flightless rail, the weka (Gallirallus australis) may be a significant disperser for some of these plants. Weka moved P. ferruginea and E. dentatus seeds similar dispersal distances to kereru (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae), yet the potential contribution of weka to forest regeneration is frequently overlooked by conservationists. Overall, my research demonstrates the importance of critically examining assumptions about which species conduct important ecosystem functions. More broadly, the Pacific has lost >450 rail species in the last 3000 years, which may represent one of the most widespread yet least appreciated losses of dispersal function ever recorded.

Andersons Lagoon

Saturday 2nd of November 2019, 08:30 AM (3 years ago)

Contact: John Steel | | 021 2133 170

Andersons Lagoon is a sizeable wetland comprising a shallow lagoon resulting from the formation of a sand dune barrier limiting the egress of the waters of Stony Creek to the sea. The lagoon is contained in a steep-sided valley resulting in some narrow bands of vegetation types along the shore. The track to the lagoon passes through a QEII covenant which was planted with native trees some years ago. The dune system has led to an inland sand spit with primarily exotic species extending from the dunes towards the lagoon, where native wetland plants are more common. The embouchure at the northern end of the dunes is easily crossed and a stairway leads to the top of a cliff from where a pathway leads to the mouth of the Shag River. A seldom visited area and well worth the trip. Leave the Botany Department car park at 8.30 a.m.

Weekend trip to the Catlins.

Saturday 19th of October 2019, 09:00 AM (3 years ago)

Contact: John Barkla | | 027 326 7917

On this trip we will visit several stunning coastal sites in the northern Catlins including Jacks Bay and blowhole, Pounawea Scenic Reserve, Cannibal Bay and Nugget Point. We’ll encounter coastal rata forest, dune slacks with rare species, shrublands and herbfields. We will depart on Saturday morning and spend Saturday night at the Pounawea Motor Camp 2.5 km from Owaka. This tranquil camp has cabins and camping sites surrounded by native forest on the edge of an estuary. You are responsible for your own accommodation arrangements and catering. Please let John Barkla know if you are intending to come by Monday 14 October. Travel arrangements will be advised.

Botanical art.

Wednesday 9th of October 2019, 05:20 PM (3 years ago)

Contact: Gretchen Brownstein |

The Botanical Art and Illustration Courses at Olveston began in January 2017. An Advanced Botanical Art and Illustration Course was later held beginning June 2018 and out of that course came the first Botanical Art and Illustration Exhibition at Olveston, which was held in December 2018. The classes have been hugely popular. The exhibition of original botanical artwork was of very high quality and created great public interest.

The courses are taught by Wayne Everson, who is an award winning teacher and practising artist. He holds a Master of Fine Art degree from RMIT University, Melbourne, and has taught art at tertiary level for many years in New Zealand and overseas. Wayne Everson will give the talk, which will centre on the success of the classes at Olveston and their botanical focus. 1c.jpg

Field trip to Akatore.

Saturday 21st of September 2019, 09:00 AM (3 years ago)

Contact: Robyn Bridges | 021 235 8997

Akatore is a remnant of diverse coastal shrubland at the mouth of Akatore Creek, 45 minutes south of Dunedin. Some special features of this site include the diversity of shrub species and threatened species such as Coprosma obconica, Olearia fragrantissima, Melicytus flexuosus and Carex littorosa with the possibility of our discovering other threatened species. We may also visit the adjacent coast where the threatened cress Lepidium tenuicaule is present as well as Myosotis pygmaea. It is recommended to bring extra foot wear to change into in case they get wet!

Geoff Baylis lecture: Geological constraints on the age and antiquity of land in New Caledonia and the Chatham Islands.

Wednesday 18th of September 2019, 06:00 PM (3 years ago)

Contact: Gretchen Brownstein |

Speaker: Hamish Campbell (Emeritus Scientist, GNS Science). Location: Castle 1, University of Otago (drinks and nibbles starting from 5:15 in the concourse).

This is an illustrated talk exploring the geological evidence for the emergence of land and onset of terrestrial conditions in New Caledonia (northern Zealandia) in the Oligocene, and in the Chatham Islands (eastern Zealandia) in the Pliocene. These age interpretations have significant implications for our understanding of the antiquity and biodiversity of the floras of both New Caledonia and the Chatham Islands.  

Chrystalls beach.

Saturday 31st of August 2019, 09:00 AM (3 years ago)

Contact: Sarah Kilduff |

We will go and see what we can find. Contact Sarah Kilduff (

Beech forests and their fungi

Wednesday 28th of August 2019, 05:20 PM (3 years ago)

Contact: Gretchen Brownstein |

Unfortunately, Toni is not longer able to speak this Wednesday, so David will be giving us a talk instead.

Dr David Orlovich, Department of Botany, University of Otago

Through many wonderful collaborations, we have been using new genomics tools to explore the past, present and future of our native forests and the fungi that support them. We used genotyping by sequencing to study the population genetics of silver beech. I will give an update on our research that gives tantalising clues to how silver beech spread in the South Island following the last ice age. However, beech trees can’t grow on their own, and we are also discovering many new species of ectomycorrhizal fungi that help beech trees to grow. The distribution of these fungi is still poorly understood, and again, new genomics tools will come to the rescue. We aim to understand if barriers to beech tree dispersal are also barriers to the spread of fungi. Watch this space! Finally, whole genome sequencing is allowing us to understand the genetic basis for the incredible diversity of mushrooms and truffles in our forests, and I will give an update on our research that seeks to understand the mechanisms that give rise to so many truffles in the NZ bush.

The importance of ectomycorrhizal fungi for beech forest regeneration: what we can learn to help forest restoration.

Wednesday 10th of July 2019, 05:20 PM (3 years ago)

Contact: Lydia Turley | 021 062 3602

Speaker: Laura Van Galen. The symbiotic relationship that exists between beech trees and ectomycorrhizal fungi has important implications for beech forest regeneration and the stability of forest boundaries. I am doing a PhD to investigate this relationship and provide practical information to assist forest restoration projects. I am conducting a large-scale survey of ectomycorrhizal fungi in beech forests across the South Island of New Zealand, to better understand the influence of host species, soil properties, patch size and condition, and other environmental factors on ectomycorrhizal diversity and community assembly. I am also establishing a plot experiment in ex-pasture where beech seeds will be sown under varying conditions, to determine the relative importance of fungi compared to other factors (such as soil nutrient levels, grass competition, the availability of shelter and herbivory) for restoration project success.

Please note the new date.

Bryophyte trip to Pipeline Track.

Saturday 6th of July 2019, 09:00 AM (3 years ago)

Contact: John Steel | | 021 2133 170

A chance to check out some of the smaller denizens of our local bush and learn the differences between mosses, liverworts and hornworts. Leave from the Department of Botany car park at 9.00 a.m. Contact John Steel

Revegetation of Wangaloa Coal Mine Reserve

Wednesday 12th of June 2019, 05:20 PM (3 years ago)

Contact: Allison Knight | | 027487 8265

We are privileged to have Cathy Rufaut and Professor David Craw (winner of the 2018 Otago University Distinguished Research Medal) to talk to us about their ongoing geo-ecology project at the Wangaloa Coal Mine Reserve and how they have monitored re-vegetation on this challenging site.

Field trip to Okia Reserve, Otago Peninsula

Saturday 8th of June 2019, 09:00 AM (3 years ago)

Contact: John Barkla | | 027 326 7917

Okia Reserve is a large coastal reserve on the Otago Peninsula that is jointly owned by the DCC and Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust. It comprises an old dune system that is rapidly changing from its dominant bracken cover to woody coastal species. The hollows between the dunes hold a variety of wetlands that include turf, bogs and ponds. The Otago Regional Council regard the dune hollow vegetation to be the best example in the Otago Coast Ecological Region. Along with the Pyramids - a significant geological feature, and Victory Beach - the longest beach on the Peninsula, there's plenty to keep us occupied. We'll do a walk that encompasses all these features. Meet at Botany Department carpark at 9am or the Okia Reserve carpark at the end of Dick Road at 9.30 am. Contact John Barkla 03 476 3686 or

Fungal Foray to Knights Bush

Saturday 25th of May 2019, 08:30 AM (3 years ago)

Contact: Allison Knight | | 027487 8265

Fungal Foray to Knights Bush, led by keen mycologist Andy Nilsen. This forest bordering the Clutha River at Tuapeka West has many different ecosytems to explore. Plantings of macrocarpa, pine, eucalyptus and Douglas fir grow on the edge of a diverse area of native forest. Inside the forest are stands of old kanuka, silver and mountain beech, ancient totara and matai on the shady slopes, with mixed podocarp/broad leafed forest on the river flat and a kowhai/korokia/divaricating shrub mix on the sunniest slopes. A list of known fungi from the area will be circulated and there will be a prize for the person who adds the most new species to the list! Meet at the Botany Dept car park at 8.30 am to carpool. 4WD to cross the access paddocks and footwear with good grip for the steep slopes recommended. Be prepared for all weathers. Contact Allison Knight 027 4878265.


BSO Annual General Meeting and Photographic Competition

Wednesday 8th of May 2019, 05:20 PM (3 years ago)

Contact: Gretchen Brownstein |

The photographic competition is a popular and eagerly anticipated event for anyone interested in botanical photography. Enter your best photos and learn what makes a good photograph and how to improve your photographic skills from our panel of expert judges. Your photographs may be chosen for the BSO calendar so this is your opportunity to have one month of fame. Start organising your entries now and don't wait until the last minute.

We will hold the AGM prior to the photography discussion. Please read the minutes of the last meeting and Chairs and treasurers reports.

Livingstone Wetland Restoration Project, Taieri Mouth

Saturday 27th of April 2019, 09:00 AM (3 years ago)

Contact: Gretchen Brownstein |

This is a family run restoration project of a the wetland and forest remnant. The project has been going a number of years now and been quite a bit of success with reforestation, increased birdlife and pest eradication. Recently they hosted the bird watching society who assisted them greatly with a bird count and a list of birdlife in the wetland and native bush. Now the Greens have asked the BSO to help create a plant species list for the native bush. We will spend the day exploring the tracks around the bush and wetland to compile a species list. Meet at Botany Department carpark at 9am. Contact Gretchen Brownstein 021 065 8497 or