Tuatara/ Science: On April 22, I got to go up the Kapiti coast (West coast of the Southern tip of the North island) with a grad student and Sue, the technical officer to get blood samples from tuatara at the Nga Manu nature reserve. I got to hold nine tuatara (!) including a Sam, the largest tuatara Sue’s ever seen (980 g) and a 2 year old toot named “Lucky.” The staff at Nga Manu found him around the enclosure as a baby; they didn’t even know the pair had laid an egg. He is named “Lucky” because tuatara don’t have any parental care and are visual hunters – basically they eat anything small that moves, often baby tuatara. In short, Lucky was lucky he wasn’t lunch. He’s also lucky because he features prominently in my facebook picture.
Other good stuff on the science front: I got to go up to Massey University in Palmerston North to talk with a vet there about my cells! I finally know what I’m counting and have whipped through the smears. I had a great meeting with my advisers yesterday and it looks like I’ll be doing some cool stuff. Also, we’re planning our two field trips to get blood from wild tuatara in November. I’m so excited!
Mom: This could be an entire blog post to itself but I’m going to keep it short. My mom came to visit me for a week and a half. It was amazing!!!!!! As most of you know, my mom has had some health troubles over the last year and a half so I was excited that she could get here at all (especially since she was ashed into London causing her trip to be postponed by a week). We went to a great resort near the Bay of Islands, which was gorgeous. We also went to a resort near Rotorua and went on lovely horseback ride around the property. They had a really beautiful waterfall with delicious spring water. I also took my mom on a little hike up to the top of this hill! I was SO SO proud of her for being able to walk up and down hills for 2 hours straight. :D Also in Rotorua we saw thermal hot springs, NZ falcons and a kiwi which was vocalizing!
My favorite part of Rotorua, though, was getting to chat with some of the people who work at the resort. I went with the chef, Eru, on a walk through the forest and he pointed out all the plants that the Maori use in their cooking including pikopiko, a young fern shoot; manuka (the plant which most of the NZ honey is made from); horopito, a peppery like leaf, kawakawa, a basily plant and this vine which tasted like asparagus. It was really interesting getting to chat with him about the different uses of the food and about his family and culture. Also, another guy who worked at the resort was so touched that I was working on tuatara conservation that he gave me a prayer in Maori from his iwi. I framed it and it sits beside my bed.
The best part of the trip, though was in Wellington. I got to introduce Mom to all of my friends and colleagues at the university and Sue showed us around so she got to see all the tuatara at Vic! She even got to hold Spike (the big male tuatara at Vic), see incubating eggs and see a week old hatchling! We also saw the botanical gardens, Te Papa and I took Mom to a rugby game. We agree, much more interesting than American football. Sorry, Dad. We also just watched a lot of “Firefly.” (Read: the entire series.)
Miscellaneous: It was Julie’s birthday a couple weeks ago. We had a lot of fun making tons of cupcakes. They were delish. I am actually learning how to cook and bake. Who knew with my genetics that it was possible for me to make something edible, let alone yummy. To further this food knowledge, Julie took me to my very first food show. If you’re ever going to go to a food show, you should do it in a country that specializes in cheese, wine and olive oil. I’m still in heaven… On Julie’s birthday she bought a car, so the following week we took it up the Kapiti coast for a road trip. We saw some beautiful forests and beaches, and also ate nationally famous Kapiti ice cream. (Are you sensing the trend yet?) I am working off these calories though, hilariously, Julie and I play soccer every Tuesday with a group of people who work at the rock climbing/ kayak place. Suffice it to say, I’m certainly the least sporty person in the group.
- I have a plan for research!!!! Plus I’ve gotten to hold lots and lots of tuatara. My study organism is cuter than yours. And it comes in all different sizes.
- My mom loves me. New Zealand is gorgeous and I’m falling in love with Maori culture. Mom’s falling in love with Spike.
- Rugby >>>>> American football
- Be on the lookout for flying pigs: I’m cooking. And exercising.