Friday, 9 March 2012

PhD Week 1: Irenimus and subalpine plateaux

Denniston Plateau
The Denniston Plateau

The first weekend of my PhD was spent on the Denniston Plateau on the West Coast, doing nothing to do with my studies. I was there to participate in a BioBlitz organised by Forest and Bird to raise awareness about the plateau at the same time as finding more about the biota of the area. I focussed on weevils, as is my want, and had a very enjoyable couple of days in one of New Zealand's lesser-known environments. Probably the highlight for me was finding a couple of specimens of Icmalius abnormis a weevil which I haven't collected before and which is in a group on which I'm doing a little work on the side.

Icmalius abnormis

It was back to reality on Monday, and the week was spent doing work on my proposal. This is a document that outlines the intended course that the next three years of my life will take, and goes into some detail as to how exactly I will do what I intend to do. As you can imagine, the document will be rather lengthy, but the overall aim of my project is as follows.

Unidentified species of Irenimus

My PhD will involve looking revising the taxonomy of the New Zealand grassland weevil genus Irenimus. There are approximately 50 species in the genus, but their identification is very difficult, relying primarily upon descriptions written around 100 years ago. The larvae feed on plant roots, while adults feed on vegetation and pollen. Some species can be found in modified pasture, reaching pest levels in some situations. In addition, they are frequently found to be non-target hosts of parasitic wasps introduced to control other pest weevil species. There are a number of interesting ecological questions, such as their degree of host-plant specificity (especially larval host-specificity), what adults and larvae are feeding on in modified pasture, and what sort of parasitoids attack them. However, all of these questions rely on being able to identify the weevils with confidence and accuracy. This is the aspect that I will be focussing on over the next three years. I expect that it will be challenging, but I also expect that it will be enjoyable and am looking forward to seeing where this project will take me, how it develops, and how our knowledge of these creatures will increase.

Marra M. 2008. Quaternary fossil beetles from New Zealand. New Zealand Entomologist 31:5–16

Stephens PA, Buskirk SW, Martinez del Rio C. 2007. Inference in ecology and evolution. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 22(4):192–197

Wild AL, Maddison DR. 2008. Evaluating nuclear protein-coding genes for phylogenetic utility in beetles. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 48:877–891

The Atavism—Sunday spinelessness: How could I forget Phronima?

Carl Boettiger: Theoretical Ecology and Evolution—Is your phylogeny informative?

Scherer K. 2012. What good is religion anyway?. The Listener 3747

Psalms 13–17; Daniel 1

Cricket: New Zealand vs South Africa 1st test match

Gotan Project—Tango 3.0

Comback Kids—Turn it Around

1 comment:

Jennifer C. GirĂ³n said...

Hello Samuel,

I am a former student of Dr. Nico Franz.
I would like to invite you to read the Blog I wrote during my M.Sc. research on the genus Apodrosus at
I think you can find some posts useful for your research. I would also like to offer you my disposition to share and discuss entimine morphology.
Take care and keep posting!