Our Changing World



Stories about science and nature from out in the field and inside the labs across Aotearoa New Zealand.

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1080 episodes

The Noises Islands – Part 2

This week, Claire Concannon returns to the Noises Islands in the Hauraki Gulf. While conservation action on the islands has led to thriving terrestrial ecosystems, under the water, it's a very different story. Listen to learn how the marine environment has declined around the Noises, and what might be done to reverse it.

Mar 22
The Noises Islands: Part 1

The Noises are a conservation success story in the Hauraki Gulf. Claire Concannon joins a team surveying the wētāpunga, seabirds, and other flora and fauna that now thrive on these predator-free islands.

Mar 15
Sleeping on the job

We all get some – but are you getting enough? Claire Concannon investigates the science of sleep and meets a pilot-turned-sleep-researcher helping the aviation industry ensure crew on long-haul flights get some shut-eye.

Mar 08
Bats vs cats

New Zealand's native long-tailed bat, pekapeka-tou-roa, is going strong in Franklin, south of Auckland. But these tiny mammals are threatened by introduced predators, especially cats. Producer Liz Garton goes on a bat hunt and learns about locals' efforts to keep their pekapeka neighbours safe.

Mar 01
When plans change

Not everything goes to plan on research trips. And when the trip is to a remote island aboard a navy ship designed to help with disaster relief, and happens to overlap with one of the worst weather disasters in New Zealand... well, things are going to change. Claire Concannon tells the story of Operation Endurance 2023 on Campbell Island.

Feb 22
A pair of tyrants

This week we're travelling back in time 66 million years ago with producer William Ray, to a time when dinosaurs roamed. Join William as he meets two Tyrannosaurus rex fossils at the Auckland Museum and uncovers the story behind the bones.

Feb 15
The sex life of spiders

They can hunt, they can fish, they build little nurseries for their babies. Oh and some of them also engage in a bit of sexual cannibalism. Claire Concannon goes on a nighttime stroll in Kirikiriroa Hamilton to meet some fascinating spiders, and learn all about the weird world of spider reproduction.

Feb 08
Bonus: Bug of the Year 2023 causing lab tension

With the Bug of the Year 2023 competition coming to the closing stages, it’s not surprising that things are getting heated. In this breaking news story we learn how voting preferences have caused a rift in the Painting lab.

Feb 08
The secret life of sea sponges

What do marine biologists get up to? Some Evans Bay Intermediate school students are learning all about it at the Victoria University Coastal Ecology Lab. Claire Concannon tags along to listen in, and to catch up with Professor James Bell to learn more about his research on sea sponges.

Feb 01
Green data storage, green walls

Claire Concannon investigates how luminescence and specialised materials could be key to our growing data storage needs, and visits a test site for native vertical gardens that could cloak the walls of Wellington's city buildings.

Jan 25
Summer science: Two stories from the ocean

In the final instalment of our summer science series, we bring you two stories from the ocean. First we have a story on marine noise pollution from Victoria University of Wellington Centre for Science in Society student, Xanthe Smith. Then, we have an episode on pāua from RNZ podcast Voices, presented by Kadambari Raghukumar.

Jan 18
Summer science: Rabbits and other pests

We continue our summer science series with an episode from RNZ’s The Aotearoa History Show. In the first episode of season two, the show burrows into the story of rabbits and other pests introduced to New Zealand.

Jan 11
Summer science: The hunt for New Zealand's tenth meteorite

As part of our summer science series we bring you an episode of The Otago Chronicles podcast, hosted by Max Balloch. In this episode, Max talks to Associate Professor James Scott from the University of Otago Department of Geology about looking up at the night sky and the hunt for what would’ve been New Zealand’s 10th meteorite.

Jan 04
Gene editing for pest control and the genetics behind weight gain

Two stories about genetics produced by students at the University of Otago's Department of Science Communication. Amanda Konyn investigates whether gene editing has a role in future pest control, while Richard Marks explores why the "eat less, move more" approach to weight loss isn't really working.

Dec 21, 2022
Monitoring methane - a New Zealand space mission

MethaneSAT is the first New Zealand government funded space mission. A joint project between the United States and New Zealand, the project will see a methane sensing satellite launched into orbit. Science journalist Peter Griffin finds out why and how.

Dec 14, 2022
Conservation successes in the Cook Islands

The kākerōri or Rarotongan flycatcher is a South Pacific conservation success story. Once reduced to just 29 birds, it has been rescued from the brink of extinction by a rat control programme managed by the land-owners of the Takitimu Conservation Area in the Cook Islands. Alison Ballance visits to find out more.

Dec 07, 2022
Planning for Aotearoa's genomic medicine future

If the future of healthcare is personalised genomics, how can we ensure that it is used to lessen inequities, rather than strengthen them? This week, Our Changing World speaks to two of the co-leaders of the Rakieora programme – a pilot to develop a New Zealand specific national database for genomic research.

Nov 30, 2022
Genome sequencing and the pandemic

Genome sequencing has become a household term during this pandemic. This week, we explore how it became an important tool in the fight against Covid-19.

Nov 23, 2022
Sunfish secrets

Sunfish are the world's largest bony fish species – and yet scientists know little about their lives. This week, Our Changing World meets a sunfish researcher unravelling mola mysteries and dives into the weird world of sunfishes as a museum specimen is examined and prepared.

Nov 16, 2022
Sunshine science: the power and peril of the sun’s rays

Summer is on its way, and this week we're exploring both the power and the peril of the sun. First, we visit the Ultrafast Laser Lab to learn about efforts to create better solar panels. Then, we hear about one professor's quest to teach kids about sun safety using an ultraviolet dosimeter you can wear on your wrist like a watch.

Nov 09, 2022
What feathers can tell us about the past lives of seabirds

Behind the scenes at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, a "menagerie" of specimens is a treasure trove for curator Dr Matt Rayner, who is researching how the Hauraki Gulf's seabirds are faring using clues from very old feathers.

Nov 02, 2022
Why has this river of Antarctic ice stalled?

How do you drill through 600m of thick Antarctic ice? Using hot water, of course. In this episode from the 2020 series Voices from Antarctica, Alison Ballance joins researchers hoping to solve the puzzle of why a giant river of ice has stalled.

Oct 27, 2022
Space sounds and jungle noises: The otherworldly song of Weddell seals

Weddell seals have returned to breed near Scott Base in Antarctica after a decades-long absence. On land, they're blubbery lumps. But underwater, they're graceful dancers and ethereal singers. A team of scientists is finding out more about the under-ice lives and habits of Weddell seals. Alison Ballance joins them in this episode from the award-winning series Voices from Antarctica.

Oct 20, 2022
Deep dives and epic journeys: Return of the emperor penguins

A team of NIWA scientists eagerly awaits the return of 19 emperor penguins carrying high-tech data loggers and video cameras. What will the data captured reveal about the penguins' secret lives at sea?

Oct 13, 2022
Emperor penguin secrets

Revisit the frozen continent with us in this mini rerun of the Voices from Antarctica series. This week, Alison visits Cape Crozier to meet a colony of emperor penguins – and the team of scientists studying them.

Oct 06, 2022
It's a trap! The prickly prize of ongaonga

It's spectacularly spiky and delivers a painful – or even deadly – sting. Why are a team of conservationists growing and planting up Orokonui Ecosanctuary near Dunedin with more and more native tree nettle, ongaonga? It's all because of a pretty little pollinator called the kahukura, or red admiral butterfly, and its prickly preferences. Claire Concannon visits Orokonui to learn more about the ongaonga-kahukura relationship, as well as new research investigating whether these native butterflies are the victims of a sneaky ecological 'trap'.

Sep 28, 2022
A send-off for SOFIA, the flying observatory

We're saying farewell to the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (aka SOFIA) this month. The mission, which was partially based in Christchurch, wraps up after a decade of observing comets, stars, planets, and the moon. In July 2017, Alison Ballance boarded the Boeing 747 with a flying telescope for one of its research flights.

Sep 21, 2022
Future forest industry

In a future that is free of fossil fuels, where will we source all the products that we get from the petroleum industry? Scientists at the forest research institute Scion think that trees might provide the solutions we need.

Sep 14, 2022
Fascinating fungi and pesky pathogens

In a room in the Manaaki Whenua building in Auckland are rows and rows of shelves, with cardboard boxes containing an array of weird and wonderful dried fungi. Claire Concannon visits to learn how and why these specimens are kept, and finds out about its sister culture collection, which is helping in the defense against invading plant pathogens.

Sep 07, 2022