Unlocking Curious Minds supports projects that excite and engage New Zealanders who have fewer opportunities to experience and connect with science and technology.
School students have identified, named and published papers on three new yeast species in a scientific journal read by adult researchers all over the world.
The three research papers, published in the scientific journal Fungal Planet (external link) this week, are based on findings from students at Rongomai Primary School, Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe and Karamu High School.
Each paper, one per yeast, highlights the origins of the students’ chosen name for the yeast they found, as well as what makes the yeast distinctive enough to be classed as a new species.
Rongomai Primary (external link) students named their yeast Rongomai-pounamu, which means ‘treasure of Rongomai’ when translated.
The students at Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe (external link) named theirs ngohengohe, which is based on their school motto E rere, kia koi, kia ngohengohe - ‘Fly, be onto it, be humble in your success’.
At Karamu High School (external link) pupils spotted a third yeast new to science but were stung by wasps when collecting it from the forest, hence they named it vespimorsuumm - Latin for ‘wasp stings’.
"I am so happy our students are experiencing the value of science," says Marea Timoko, Tumuaki at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe. "It's so special that the students named the fungus Rhodotorula ngohengohe; they really are humble in their successes."
The students carried out this research as part of the Unlocking Curious Minds project Discover New Life, with help from fungi experts at Landcare Research. (external link)
“They’re really into it and are so chuffed to see their names on the paper,” says Peter Buchanan, science team leader in Systematics (discovering and categorising living things) at Landcare Research. “Some of them are even saying now that they want to be mycologists and study fungi when they’re older.”
“Behind the scenes the actual science required for the paper was substantially more than we realised, so it’s particularly satisfying to get to the point where it’s now available for world use.
“I think this really has the potential to stimulate other scientists in the world to consider this approach. This is not normally done and I think it’s good to show that it can be.”
Peter and his team are now working with Kura Kaupapa Māori to create and publish a booklet written in Te Reo about Māori knowledge and uses of fungi, which is also funded through Unlocking Curious Minds.