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  • Rights: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato
    Published 28 June 2018, Updated 14 April 2020 Referencing Hub media

    Quantitative ecologist Dr Barbara Anderson and members of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtepoti introduce the Ahi Pepe MothNet project.



    The MothNet project – Ahi Pepe MothNet – is a collaboration between a group of scientists, educationalists and then of course all the schools. So at the moment, we have schools from across the South Island. We started here at the Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtepoti, and we had four schools from Otago for our first pilot scheme. Then we expanded to the whole of the South Island, and we’ve now got funding to take Ahi Pepe to the whole of Aotearoa. So we are a large network of people that is working to engage the public with moths and to further the coolness of moths. And moths are really good ecological indicators, so that’s why we’re focusing particularly on what’s happening with our moths in New Zealand, where they are and how they are doing. So looking at abundances, whether they’re declining, whether they’re increasing and where they’re changing so that we can see what’s happening with our species with all sorts of environmental change – so habitat loss, climate change, light pollution is a big one with moths.


    The byproduct of learning about moths is our appreciation for their role in the ecosystem, our student understanding of how they treat moths, knowing that they are a living creature, and they of course layer their cultural lens on top of the science as well. What we have learned from the Ahi Pepe MothNet project is the specialist knowledge, the processes, the gathering of data, using equipment that we have not seen before, putting that equipment together and making sure that we’re placing them correctly in the school environment.

    So working through that problem solving has been a big element, with batteries not working, so the lights are not working at night, so not attracting the moths. Lengthy times when you have to repeat things because of the elements. So the cool thing about that is knowing this is a different part of science – it’s not we’re inside and we can control things. We’re at the mercy of nature, and so the weather plays a big role in it. We have to make sure we get the phases of the Moon right and the climate so that we get a good collection of moths. And because sometimes the students are a bit pōuri, a bit sad that they haven’t caught enough moths, but when you unpack why that is, that’s when that problem solving for the next experiment is solved, so many processes come into play.


    It’s the best thing you’re going to do if you get somebody there to teach you. Like, if you get the opportunity, take it – just take it. Because if you don’t, you’re going to miss out on so much cool stuff and all the planning and everything. You get to see so much moths. Maybe in your area, it’s super rare, so it’s good for you to check them out, and it’s a really, really good opportunity.

    Dr Barbara Anderson
    Dr Robert Hoare
    Tiahuia Kawe-Small
    The tamariki of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtepoti

    Ahi Pepe MothNet
    Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research

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