So, the Biogeography of New Zealand? Piece of cake. I’ve never been here, but I know about the Kiwi, and…hmmm. That’s actually maybe all I know. Oh, the tuatara. Right, so I know two species native to New Zealand. What could go wrong?
There’s this thing that I love to do, called “teaching what you don’t know.” It means I get to learn SO MUCH AMAZING STUFF by helping my students learn it. In this case, I had a three week respite while a local colleague taught the class every thing about NZ geology. Ever heard of greywacke? Me neither, but I have now. A whole bunch of greywacke. It’s sandstone (but grey in color) and forms the rocky backbone of New Zealand. So, while the students were learning all about rocks and faults running under the city (yikes) and volcanoes and earthquakes, I was cramming up on endemic species. And now, three weeks in, I’m able to answer most of the student questions so far. I think they are probably asking me the easy ones. On Monday, someone asked me, “What are the insects…?” Answer: Weta. See, I knew that. It’s working.
The first species I met was the tui, which the program leader likens to mockingbirds, but they are way cooler than that! Iridescent black and with a funny little white feather dewlaps, and the craziest songs–that part is like a mockingbird. A mockingbird on steroids. Also, the beer of the same name isn’t bad. On Monday the class takes a field trip to a local sanctuary that maintains an amazing predator-proof fence. I went two weeks ago to check it out. Lots of fern trees, 10 new to me bird species. There is so much out there, and THIS is why you study, or teach, abroad. Plus, when I get home, it’ll be almost spring. I’m missing out winter this year.