A NorthTec student has discovered the larvae of a group of flies that have never been found in New Zealand before.
Kelsie Hackett studies environmental management in Whangārei and was working on a project for a freshwater ecology paper this year when she made the discovery.
Hackett did a field study on Matakohe-Limestone Island, focusing on the macroinvertebrate communities lurking in one of the island's ponds to learnhow important the man-made water feature was for aquatic invertebrates.
That is where she found the larvae: "It's a species of Dasyhelea," Hackett explained.
Although the adult flies have been seen in New Zealand, the discovery is significant to the environmental industry.
Her research results were confirmed by a senior authority on New Zealand's freshwater macroinvertebrates.
"This is a great achievement as larvae from this genus has never been observed in New
Zealand before," Dr Olivier Ball, NorthTec environmental management tutor, said.
"Not only that, Kelsie's study also discovered the larval habitat of this species in this country."
Freshwater macroinvertebrates are often tiny and can be overwhelmingly abundant.
This particularly applies to midge larvae – a type of small fly – with more than 100 species found in New Zealand's freshwater systems.
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Hackett said after collecting her samples, she went to the laboratory to identify the macroinvertebrates, which was straightforward until she came across one particularly small midge.
It did not fit anything in abooklet aboutthe known species of New Zealand freshwater macroinvertebrates.
After spending hours outside of class, Hackett was able to trace the origins of the larvae back to the Dasyhelea.
Hackett said she was pleased that her discovery is being recognised by environmental scientists in New Zealand.
She began studying at NorthTec in the NZ Diploma of Environmental Management Level 6 at the start of the year, driving by her passion for New Zealand's environment and native species. "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."