St. Joseph's School

    Hello Again! I have gotten back home to Memphis safe and sound. I have had some time to unpack, relax, and soak in the warm Memphis sunshine. After leaving Antarctica, I thought it would be great to share my school program with a few of the schools in New Zealand. Some wonderful schools opened their doors to me. Since I was unfamiliar with New Zealand, I asked the students ‘what to do’ or ‘where to go’ each day after my presentations. And let me tell you, their advice was better than any advice a travel agent could give!

    St. Joseph’s School
    The students at St. Josephs were eager learners. I showed off my Antarctic wardrobe and showed them data we have collected on the seals Photo credit: Alex Eilers
    I gave my first school program at St. Joseph’s in Christchurch New Zealand. The school was right by my hotel so I was familiar with the area; I was excited to meet the local kids. St. Joseph’s was a great place to start my next adventure! I spent the entire day telling more than 400 students everything I knew about Weddell seals. St. Joseph’s was the largest school I got to visit. We talked about the clothes I wore in Antarctica, the way we tagged seals, and how we tracked the seals down every year. I mentioned how starved I was for color after the bland Antarctic snow. They suggested I go to the Botanic Gardens of Christchurch, so off I went!
    Christchurch Botanic Gardens
    Does this rose look real to you? It’s actually a giant sculpture made out of metal! The artist did a wonderful job of molding the metal to look as delicate and lovely as a real rose. Photo credit: Alex Eilers

    Botanic Garden:

    After spending all that time looking at endless white terrain, I was ready for some color when I left Antarctica. What better place to indulge my thirst for color than the Botanic garden!

    Botanic Gardens Flowers
    Orchids and Begonias from the Christchurch Botanic Garden. What a feast of color! Photo credit: Alex Eilers
    Once I started walking around, I realized just how many beautiful plants were at my fingertips, but I didn’t touch! These plants were the type that like to be left alone.
    Pitcher Plant
    These carnivorous plants have pitcher shaped leaves that hold digestive enzymes for digesting prey! Photo credit: Alex Eilers
    Cacti are such hearty plants. The spines of the cactus protect herbivores from munching down on the water filled succulent. Photo credit: Alex Eilers
    Some plants were a little more approachable. A worker at the garden was explaining the differences between a male and a female begonia flower. Did you know there were different genders in flowers? Here is what I learned. When plants have separate male and female flowers on the same plant they are called monoecious. Male flowers are the staminate and females are the pistillate. Male flowers have multiple layers of petals while female flowers only have a single layer. Do you have a hypothesis for why this might be?
    Can you spot the male and female flowers? The male flower has more petals and a pistol while the female flower has fewer petals. Photo credit: Alex Eilers
    Begonias Close up
    Here are some more pictures of begonias. Can you still spot the male and female? This gardner was nice enough to give us a little lesson as she trimmed the flowers. Photo credit: Alex Eilers
    There was a special grove within the garden dedicated to the iconic plants of New Zealand. I was most interested in the silver fern. These vibrant beauties were everywhere! I learned that the Silver fern has become the symbol for many of New Zealand’s sports teams like the White Ferns Women’s cricket team and the Silver Ferns netball team. These plants are a great symbol for a sports team. They are hearty and grow to tree sized proportions with thick foliage.
    Silver Fern
    Silver ferns have an unmistakable silver brilliance to their foliage. It’s sometimes used to line roads and walk ways because its silver leaves are so reflective! Photo credit: Alex Eilers
    Some plants were more intriguing because of their shape. As I took a closer look at a Peace lily, I found myself wondering whether the white part was a leaf or a flower. It’s shaped like a leaf but it’s at the top of the stem like a flower. What do you think it is? Take a closer look at the plant and make some observations.
    Peace Lily
    The Peace Lily got its name because the white leaves look like white flags of surrender. Photo credit: Alex Eilers
    It turns out the white part is a special leaf that attracts pollinators to the flower part of the lily. Can you spot the real flower on this plant? The spiny looking part is actually a bunch of tiny flowers! Remember my journal on Blubber where I compared my body size to the size of a Weddell Seal?
    Well, check out this comparison shot!
    Alpine Ash
    This tree is usually found in South America. It is a type of Eucalyptus tree called an Alpine Ash.This tree seemed bigger than my dorm at McMurdo Station. Photo credit: Alex Eilers
    This tree was so large, it seemed unreal! I could barely make out the top of the tree while I was standing underneath it. After the plant-free terrain of Antarctica, it was mesmerizing to be so close to such a magnificent example of plant life. After touring the Botanic Gardens of Christchurch, I felt a little less color deprived. The plants were beautiful and it was nice to walk around without all those layers and my heavy boots! The gardens even had a nice seat waiting for me at the end of my journey. I sat down and soaked up the warm sunshine.
    Alex Lounging in Bean Bag
    The garden had nice big bean bag chairs spread out on the lawn so you could relax while you took in the view. Photo credit: Alex Eilers