Associate Professor Priscilla Wehi, Centre for Sustainability, University of Otago and Director of Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre of Research Excellence in Complex Systems
(Te Apārangi Sponsored Speaker)
Priscilla Wehi is an ecologist based at the Centre for Sustainability at the University of Otago. She is a terrestrial ecologist, a parent, and a writer, and takes great joy being outdoors. She is currently a Visiting Scholar at the University of Cambridge.
Ecological practice is seeking new tools to help understand ecosystems and protect biodiversity in our increasingly changing world. We sometimes think of these new tools in technological terms, but here, I show how Indigenous knowledge can be integrated with other ecological approaches to advance our understanding of the world around us. I explore some of the Indigenous knowledge associated with a common lowland forest tree in New Zealand, and the many holes occupied by wētā that live on it. I will talk through the natural history relationships between tree wētā, pūriri moth larvae and the tree Carpodetus serratus (putaputawētā, also often called marbleleaf). I’ll talk about the holes on these tree trunks, how often they are occupied by wētā, and the likely effects of wētā on the tree, all alluded to in Indigenous naming practices for the tree. The observations and data show us a powerful and beautiful juxtaposition of ecological traditions that also helps us to unpack one example of the ecological knowledge embedded in Māori plant names.