Thanks to the help of hundreds of citizen scientists (read: families and kids), the team of scientists was able to identify all number of species, including about 40 new species of parasitic wasps in 2010 and – worryingly - a pest beetle which was thought to have been eradicated by the Ministry of Primary Industries.
The value of urban oases like these cannot be underestimated. In a city that is largely covered in concrete, these tree-filled, food-filled areas can become safe havens for species which have found their natural environment over-crowded or inhospitable – or both.
Additionally, they can provide a welcome stopping off point for birds or bats looking to establish a new territory – it is only by protecting these remnant green spots that we can help to create wildlife corridors.
That said, you can create a refuge but without a team monitoring it how do you know its biodiversity value? Enter: the camera-wielding citizen scientist.
Thanks to the fact that nearly everyone has a camera at hand to take high-resolution photos of the bugs, birds and botanical curiosities that surround them, we are in a prime position to record the inhabitants to determine the value of these urban hotspots.
Indeed, since the 2010 BioBlitz, over 940 observations have been noted by the public in the Pukekawa area on the online portal iNaturalist. These observations are then pored over by a community of researchers, scientists and interested people who help verify and identify species.
“People are often surprised at the variety of species that we find in the Pukekawa area, the iNaturalist project page currently has over 490 species observed from leeches to little shags,” says Collection Manager Dhahara Ranatunga.
"You just never know what you’re going to find when you go out there. In 2005, we caught banded kokopu in all the streams. These are one of the endemic whitebait species, which are currently under threat from polluted waters, habitat destruction and over-fishing. In recent years, we have found juvenile banded kokopu which means that breeding is happening in this catchment.”
In April, the team will launch a self-guided trail in conjunction with the museum’s education team to help youngsters to hone their observation skills, so they can identify and learn more about the plants, bugs and creatures around them.
Ultimately, the team hopes this will help to inspire a new generation of citizen scientists to help enrich our knowledge of the birds, bugs, ferns, fungi and mosses that live in these urban sanctuaries and beyond.
”Everyone in the natural sciences team here has been inspired by someone in our childhood, so we feel a degree of responsibility to pass on the torch and spark an interest in the next generation,” says Collection manager, Ruby Moore.
Image (above): Short legged harvestman (Soerensenella prehensor)