Karamu High School students discovered a fungal species new to science as part of the Landcare Research Unlocking Curious Minds project last year and the research paper was formally published last month.

The new yeast fungus was named Candida vespimorsuum by the students after five of the 32 young biologists were stung by wasps within five minutes of looking for material.

Biology teacher Andrea Roberts said the excitement shown on their faces when a new species was found was amazing.

“It is not often they get to name something new and then also be published on a scientific research paper. It was very cool and exciting for them.”

The project was about raising awareness of fungal diversity and function in New Zealand and encouraged students to find and name something that no one had seen before.

With the assistance of mycologists at Landcare Research the selected students headed into White Pine Bush Scenic Reserve to collect a range of specimens such as leaves and bark before they were taken back to the lab.

Students then prepared cultures from swabs of the surface of collected specimens and the colonies arising were subcultured and sequenced before a new species was identified.

Ten of the 32 students were sent to Auckland to meet the scientists and got to see all of the processes involved at the labs.

“They learnt specific scientific skills and it worked in getting the kids excited about fungi. Most of the students have left school now and I still get photos from them of fungi they have found,” said Ms Roberts.

“It has turned a random thing on the side of the road into something interesting. They are much more engaged and interested.”

Landcare Research mycologists prepared the necessary data to support requirements for formal scientific publication of their chosen name and the scientific papers were published last week.

Karamu High School was one of three schools involved in the project and was the only high school.

The other two involved were Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Kaikohe from Kaikohe and Rongomai School from Auckland.

Ms Roberts said the project was a great success and the school was thrilled to be involved.

“We have more exciting things happening at school and we are looking at research along similar lines.”

Source: NZ Herald


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