A novel way of learning – and a quirky and worthwhile gift – has come about through the innovative efforts of three people associated with the School of Biological Sciences (SBS).
Leilani Walker, a doctoral candidate in SBS, was working with Emma Scheltema, an SBS graduate, on a book project for the Entomological Society of New Zealand when she had a great idea: to produce a set of playing cards featuring New Zealand insects.
“I thought this could be a novel way of disseminating a bit of information about New Zealand insects to people outside of academic fields,” says Leilani.
She and Emma approached the Entomological Society of New Zealand for funding (which it granted in 2015), and the cards were completed during 2016.
Emma produced the beautiful illustrations, while Leilani selected the species to be included and, with input also from research fellow, Dr Chrissie Painting, wrote some basic information about the natural history to go on the website along with the cards.
The card deck features 52 native insects.
Leilani says she started out studying insects but has since defected to work on New Zealand sheet-web spiders (Cambridgea). “I grew up playing cards from Scum and Speed during school breaks and 500 for hours over the summer. Combining my love for insects with a favourite pass-time seemed like a natural step and I hope we can use the deck to spread a bit of love for our native insect fauna, which we just don’t hear enough about”
Emma has always been fascinated by insects and hopes the cards “will help to get people interested in learning about (and conserving) our rich, diverse and often weird native creepy crawlies, easily missed amongst the birds and cetaceans”.
Chrissie, as a research fellow with SBS, says she spends her time “pondering about weapon evolution in insects and arachnids. While I now work on whacky long-legged harvestmen I will always have a soft spot for the New Zealand giraffe weevil, which was the focus of my PhD research. I’ve been lucky that my research has taken me to some exciting places around the globe, which is great because I love to travel and spend my time discovering new charismatic mini-fauna.”