Regional | Environment

South Auckland students latest Weta watchers

Three South Auckland schools are learning about the weta, their habitat, and their diet in an effort to attract the creepy crawlies to live on school grounds. Rongomai, Baird's Mainfreight and Dawson schools took part in a series of science experiments today to learn more about the species by assessing weta DNA.

Students from the South Auckland collective are studying creepy crawlies to encourage more weta to live on school grounds.

Programme Coordinator Nick Pattison  says, "We have three different schools coming together, they have little weta motels, which is a little house for a weta, and they put them around the school grounds to see if there are weta living in their environment and if there are weta what they are eating."

The Participatory Science Platform Weta Project, run through Unitec, was launched today with an interactive science workshop at Baird's Mainfreight Primary School. Students became scientists and learnt about weta DNA.

"DNA is inside of us and its inside the cell where the nucleus is and I also learned about ... the wetas faeces or poo and we got to crush them up and test the DNA," says student Daize Puaha.

Pattison says, “"From there we can see what they're eating. If they're eating certain plants then we're able to theoretically plant more in our school grounds to encourage weta.”

The schools have set up weta hotel boxes like this one to investigate the number of weta in the area. A hammock underneath the box catches weta frass (droppings) that the children collect for DNA testing.

Students hope more weta come to live at their schools so they can look after them and keep researching.