The Open Lab popped up at Otari-Wilton’s Bush  on Sunday in the newly refurbished Cockayne House.   Karin Mahlfeld and Natasha Evans, the Open Lab founders, played host to a diverse group of invertebrate enthusiasts of all ages.

Children alongside equally curious parents sifted through leaf litter collected with the help of Dave Roscoe from within the bounds of the park.  Petri dishes were filled with debris and an assortment of visible mini beasts were examined under the microscopes.   Some critters previously overlooked due to their minute size scuttled into view.

Bronze beetles, mites, common earth worms, and micro snails were identified.     One young girl who was very taken with her discovery of a micro snail is sure to be following Karin’s footsteps in no time!

Those not engaged with the leaf litter scooped freshwater invertebrates into petri dishes and ice cube trays.  Stoneflies were the most numerous as well as Caddishflies in the freshwater sample taken form Kaiwharawhara Stream near the Troup Lawn. One boy, so excited about what he was discovering announced with pride each time he scooped up a different species.   He even managed to look at the spent exoskeleton of a few mayfly.   From our lay observations of the types of macro invertebrates present the stream appears to be in reasonable health. For more information on using macro invertebrates to assess stream health visit this site.

The Open Lab is pleased to be able to cater to a group that ranged from children as young as three to those continuing their research in retirement.   Stimulating interest and awareness in biodiversity and invertebrates in particular is what Open Lab is all about.

Karin later gave a short presentation on Micro Snails.   Karin’s personal collection of pinned micro snails were popular and Dave’s photography displayed on posters made them larger than life.  People were encouraged to pick up and examine the diverse range of species including macro snails such as the Wainuia.

Click here to have a listen to this interview “An Extraordinary Diversity of Land Snails” on Radionz to hear more about the unsung micro snails!

Many thanks to David Roscoe, Margaret Crimp and Andrew Evans for your time during the session.   We’d also like to thank The Clinic – Ngaio School’s community learning space for the loan of their equipment.   And of course to Otari- Wilton’s Bush and Wellington City Council for providing a space to pop up in!

This is the second time the Open Lab has run.  We’ll be returning to Zealandia during the school holidays and plan to be at the zoo late November.  On the 8th of November we’ll be popping up at the Pest Fest!

Story by Natasha Evans


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