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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

    Dr Barbara Anderson, leader of Ahi Pepe MothNet, discusses the science protocols used in the project. One of the questions the project is trying to answer is whether vegetation restoration projects change moth community and diversity.

    Note: In this video, you’ll see the tracks left by an animal on the ink pad Tahu Mackenzie is holding. In this case, this was not a pest – this track was left by a very pregnant tuatara dragging her belly!



    So, what have we got here? Have we got anything?

    Ahi Pepe MothNet – it’s about moths – but it’s also about science. So what we’re trying to convey at this level is not just facts and figures. We want the broader understanding of science. Science is about being curious, science is about asking questions and science is the best way we have of finding out things, of answering questions.


    So this one here is Graphania lignana. So these ones here are all cousins. They are all in the same whānau.


    There are five important parts to making a science experiment. We have the question, a treatment, a control, a response variable and replication.

    And those are the five basic tenets of a science experiment. And the first part is a question, you have to have a good question. And children have the best questions. And all the others, they follow through from that. That’s the protocol of how we get the evidence, how we know that the evidence is really telling us the truth, how we take away fact and fiction.

    The Ahi Pepe MothNet project started off with a smaller Participatory Science Platform project looking at the question of artificial light and how that affects the moths and the moth diversity.

    This year, we’ve been looking at vegetation restoration. So one of our project partners is Orokonui Ecosanctuary. So when we do a vegetation restoration project, obviously we’re planting native plants. But how does that affect the whole ecosystem? So that’s our question. By doing that vegetation restoration project, are we actually changing the moth community and the moth diversity? Are we restoring that along with the plants? Or do we need to do something else? Or is it really not possible to restore the moth community? We don’t actually know because no one’s looked at that.

    It’s a more complicated design because we have an aim in mind, which for this school is Orokonui Ecosanctuary. That’s the aim of what we would like to get to, that’s our mature forest, that’s our reference site. And then here at the school, we take a treatment and of course there’s the control. So that’s just out in the playing field, so it’s where we haven’t got the native vegetation, we’ve just got grass and introduced species.

    So, the treatment here is where we’ve started planting native vegetation, and that will grow up, we hope, to be like Orokonui Ecosanctuary. And the other important part of Orokonui Ecosanctuary is the predator-proof fence – so there isn’t all those predators that are eating the moths, whereas here, we still have the predators.


    At kura, there’s heaps of predators, and they could catch them, and there might not be the same amount, and the trees are way smaller than the trees at Orokonui. And at Orokonui, there’s way more moths because there’s no predators, and the trees are huge there, and it’s a way better environment for them.

    We put out tracking tunnels. We put peanut butter in the middle of the tracking tunnel, and there’s ink as well. So, when the animal goes in, they will leave footprints and then they’ll eat the peanut butter, and go back out, and then after a day, you take it out and see if anything has walked out. We’ve got hedgehogs, we know that, and heaps and heaps of kiore – mouse and rats and that.


    The big replication is that we’re able to get schools from across the South Island involved, each doing exactly the same experiment – treatment and control – and they each have their own reference site. And each of those schools then becomes a replicate in our bigger experiment.

    Dr Barbara Anderson
    Dr Robert Hoare
    Tahu Mackenzie
    The tamariki of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtepoti

    Ahi Pepe Mothnet
    Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research
    Orokonui Ecosanctuary

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