In the fortnight that I’ve been back in Toronto, I’ve been catching up with my online work now that I’m back on the rapid & reliable download side of the digital divide, and also digesting and reflecting on my pretty epic four-month trip.
While visiting YorkU’s international partner, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, for four weeks, I took a three-day trip to New Zealand, to meet a colleague, Dr. Vic Metcalfe, who I first got to know through social media, as a fellow woman in STEM. I asked Vic if a weekend trip was a crazy idea, and she explained that lots of New Zealanders head to Melbourne and Sydney for a long weekend.
So, I headed to Christchurch, where the evidence of the recent deadly earthquakes could be seen in the condemned buildings & wide swathes of green space. I was very excited to be introduced to the amazing biodiversity of a very distant part of the world that I have read and written about, but never experienced in an immersive way by an expert scientist 👩🏼🔬 and science communicator. I also knew, from twitter, that Vic’s dad, Lawrie, who, sadly, died last year, was one of New Zealand’s foremost botanists and horticulturalists. I was excited to learn more about his books.
I arrived in Christchurch with a list of species that I hoped to see, and I spent the entire time fangirling over the biodiversity. Here’s some of the highlights.
Birds - kea, takahe and kiwi
Yes, I was excited about the indigenous plants that are only found in New Zealand, but I was based in the EGI in Oxford, where I learned about the birds. Many of the flightless birds are extinct while others are rare and endangered, so I knew that I would be seeing some birds in captivity, in order to catch a glimpse. BUT, Vic took us to Arthur’s Pass to see the famous alpine parrot, the kea, star of many YouTube videos.
Vegetation - alpine meadows, Nothofagus and Tree Ferns
My next Wikipedia page — for Lawrie Metcalfe
Learning about Victoria’s father and his work was a real privilege.
Lawrie was an early advocate for the importance of indigenous flora. The herbarium at Christchurch Botanic Garden is named after him.