No Flies on this NorthTec Student!

24 October 2019

No Flies on this NorthTec Student!

Image: Kelsie Hackett at her Microscope

A NorthTec Environmental Management student has discovered the larvae of a genus (group) of flies that have never been found in New Zealand before.

Although the adult flies have been seen in New Zealand, this discovery is significant to the environmental industry. With a lot of persistence, hard work and dedication, Kelsie Hackett is pleased that her discovery is being recognised by Environmental Scientists in New Zealand, and will be featured in the next publication of journal, “The Weta.”

Earlier this year, Kelsie decided to focus a project for her Freshwater Ecology paper on Matakohe-Limestone Island – specifically, the macroinvertebrate communities lurking in one of the ponds.

Kelsie was interested to know how important this man-made pond was for aquatic invertebrates. Freshwater macroinvertebrates are often tiny and can be overwhelmingly abundant. This particularly applies to midge larvae (a type of small fly), with over 100 species found in New Zealand’s freshwater systems.

After collecting her sample, Kelsie set about identifying all of her macroinvertebrates, which was straightforward until she came across one particularly small midge - it did not fit anything in the booklet containing the known species of New Zealand freshwater macroinvertebrates. She admitted to bewilderment but not defeat.

After spending hours outside of class time trawling through images of larvae in books and on the Internet, Kelsie proudly announced that she had discovered the real identity of this particular individual. “It’s a species of Dasyhelea.” This was later confirmed by a senior authority on New Zealand’s freshwater macroinvertebrates.

Environmental Management tutor, Dr Olivier Ball says, “This is a great achievement as larvae from this genus has never been observed in New Zealand before. Not only that, Kelsie’s study also discovered the larval habitat of this species in this country.”

Kelsie began studying at NorthTec in early 2019 in the NZ Diploma of Environmental Management Level 6. She says her passion for New Zealand’s environment and native species drove her to complete this course.

“What is great about this programme is how hands-on it is. We complete fieldwork and gain real experience in the industry we are wanting to get into that looks really good for employers!”

She says, “What I love most about being in the conservation industry is that you can come home at the end of the day and know that you’ve done something that’s important. What you work for every day matters. You’re making a difference.”
Read more about this discovery in “The Weta”

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