International research links and the hosting of major
international science conferences are boosting Dunedin's
image as the wildlife capital of New Zealand, scientists say.
The University of Otago is hosting the Seventh Southern
Connection Congress, a week-long multidisciplinary gathering
involving more than 300 researchers from 35 countries, which
starts today. The 20th Biennial Conference on the Biology of
Marine Mammals will also be held in Dunedin this year and
is expected to attract 1200 people. It is believed to be only
the second time the conference has been held outside North
Otago University botany head Prof Kath Dickinson, co-convener
of the Southern Connection Congress, said that gathering
would bring many people to Dunedin for the first time,
including about 200 from abroad.
The natural science congress - being held in New Zealand for
only the second time- focuses on ''Southern Lands and
Southern Oceans: Life on the Edge?''Dunedin's hosting of such
events highlighted the city's high standing for its wildlife.
There was also a further ''marketing opportunity'' to promote
the greater Dunedin area as ''the biodiversity capital of New
Zealand'', she said.
''We really have something to be very proud of.''
The recent finding of several lichen species and one fungus,
not previously recorded by scientists, by Otago PhD
researcher Lars Ludwig, near central Dunedin also highlighted
the city's remarkably high plant biodiversity, she recently
The presence of the congress also underscored the city's and
Otago University's internationally respected research
strengths in many disciplines including botany and geology,
Associate Prof Liz Slooten, of Otago zoology department, who
chairs the organising committee for the Biology of Marine
Mammals conference, said many people would be ''really
surprised'' to see so many overseas researchers visiting
Dunedin when the five-day event began on December 9.
New Zealand was a marine mammal ''paradise'', being home to
several species found nowhere else in the world, and Dunedin
itself was a ''very special place'' for marine biodiversity.
Dunedin was New Zealand's wildlife capital-''of the major
cities, we're it,'' she said.
Of the country's main cities, Dunedin had unrivalled easy
access, after a short car ride, to a wide range of
distinctive native wildlife, including the royal albatross
and New Zealand sea lions, mammals found in no other country
in the world.
And New Zealand's biodiversity was ''really valued'' by
overseas scientists coming to the conference.
It sometimes took the arrival of people from overseas to
remind local people ''just how special'' their area was, she