Friday, 7 March 2014

All for a good cause- taking action!

One of the big things that I am trying to do with my 'science' is getting people (in particular my students) involved with REAL science projects.
I want them to see how doing small things can lead to big things and that by doing 'something' it can make a difference.

In a few months time the Rotokare Trust are planning on re-introducing a population of Tieke (Saddleback) and Popokatea (whitehead.) This is a mammoth undertaking logistically, financially and emotionally.
The saddleback has been absent from the skys of Taranaki for over 150 years. They were almost extinct altogether as recently as 1964 where they only existed on one island (Hen Island in the Hen and Chicken Islands.)
Since then the birds have been carefully looked after and slowly being translocated back into more areas in NZ.
The birds that will be calling Rotokare home are coming mainly from Little Barrier Island and a few from Bushy Park (a fenced sanctuary near Wanganui.)

One of the logistical issues we face moving these birds from such a distance is food. We may need to feed them for between 7-12 days depending on weather.

So what do these birds like to eat you ask?

these wee creatures- meal worms. For the translocation we will need about 40,000 of them!! Most of that amount will be purchased from a supplier, but we are aiming to breed as many as we can. The worms will also be used for feeding lizards and when we are monitoring our North Island Robin (I will write a blog about this adventure next month)
So, back to the meal worms.
Melissa had started a breeding programme at the lake before I started, and one of the jobs I have taken on is to feed them and sort them. One thing about meal worms is that they grow quite fast, meaning that I started to see numbers multiplying soon after I started.
We have our worms set up in a set up in a set of plastic drawers (with vents on the side)
There is no way that we will be able to produce the amount of meal worms we need on our own! So, we have enlisted the help of our community. The Rotokare Community is full of people happy to help out in any way needed, so there were plenty of willing hands when we put out the request to help with the meal worms.
Melissa and I gathered the equipment we needed and started creating 'home kits' we also spent part of one sunday at the lake with the volunteers that were working that day to help them create their own.
Ryan (my son) creating one of his boxes
2 sets of boxes ready to come home with us.
Worms added and fed for a week.
When we bought our first lot of worms home they were approximately 10mm long, 2 weeks later they have tripled in size! They live in our hot water cupboard (which must be the perfect temperature)
Another couple of weeks and they should be starting to move into the next phase of their lives- pupa.
If anyone reading this post would like to join the crusade to feed our birds, please let me know! We can supply everything you need :)
Ryan's class are going to help us out and look after a set of worms for us and my school are soon to start as well! While we aren't able to promise any reward for being part of this breeding programme, we hope that in the future we can pay our helpers back by inviting them out to the lake to see the birds, help with Robin monitoring or feeding the lizards.
Engaging our children with science is one of big pushes in science education, I think the meal worm breeding is such a good opportunity to show how important science is, how much fun it can be and how small actions can have big impacts.
With the onset of cooler weather, Melissa and I decided that our worms may be getting colder, on Friday afternoon I decided to insulate our drawers ... it won't be winning any design awards but hopefully it will keep the worms a tad warmer so they keep breeding.

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