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January/February 2016: A Royal Rose Cushion

Craft article and original tapestry pattern for Creative with Workbox Magazine. Issue 153.

December 2015: Shoot for the Moon

November 2015: I've been busy making a new website and updating the news for the Independent Research Association of New Zealand. Check it out at

See IRANZ's latest enewsletter: Connections. With a round up of research news from New Zealand's independent science sector

November 2015: Cancer sniffing bears

October 2015: Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle in practice

September 2015: Unpacking the Universe

August 2015: Pasta annihilation

Something a bit different. Yes, I know it's antipasto, but that doesn't work for a particle physics joke, does it?

Queen Elizabeth rose tapestry. Credit: Louise Thomas

August 2015: A right royal tapestry

The Queen Elizabeth rose is my favourite. Blousy big pink blooms present themselves mostly in long-stemmed clusters – like chummy little ballerinas, who had dressed themselves with varying success and then can’t go anywhere without their mates. This new pattern is available as a nine-page PDF for NZ$6.90.

July 2015: League of Lock Pickers
It's one of the more unusual commissions I've taken over the years; the June/July 2015 issue of The Shed magazine is featuring a group of Wellingtonians who like to get together to pick locks for fun. They are mainly IT security specialists who have developed an interest in physical security (and finding the flaws in it) as an intellectual pastime. As one of them puts it, "You are solving a puzzle where you can’t see all the pieces".

Allan Wilson Centre
2014 Annual Report

I was pleased to help the Allan Wilson Centre with their annual research report at the end of 2014. I'm very disappointed the Government has not renewed their funding this year and they will close at the end of 2015.

Imaging evolution: Mathematics of life

Marsden Fund winners review:

When genomes collide
The adaptive potential of small populations
Use it or loss it: flight-loss in insects
Evolution of cancer

Biotech Learning Hub Science News

December 2014: Mutating genes to detect cancer
Medical researchers from the UK, the US and Canada have developed a new tool that identifies mutating genes to detect the early stages of oesophageal cancer.

Science Learning Hub
science news
Science news for ages 12 to 16 years

GPS Satellite. Credit: NASA

December 2014: Quantum Clocks
Having the right time is unbelievably important for technologies that involve positioning and navigation such as global positioning systems and space navigation or for synchronisation in the world of high-frequency frenzied financial trading. To get it all exactly right, an international team of physicists is proposing a network of atomic clocks linked at the quantum level, which they say would be more accurate and stable than any individual atomic clock on Earth.

Louise Thomas is a writer who draws. She writes about pretty much anything, but specialises in science issues, winning awards for her science reporting. She also enjoys photography, graphic design, cartooning and drawing, with commissions including botanical drawings and other science illustrations. She is also a needlepoint enthusiast, using wool as a medium for pointillism.

Louise was a regular writer for the Science Learning Hub and the Biotech Learning Hub, and has authored many Royal Society of New Zealand Alpha and Gamma publications for secondary school science programmes.

Louise Thomas
Louise also enjoys writing for young children — two children’s science stories originally published in New Zealand have been published in the United States and Canada.

Louise also contracts for many organisations within the science community—contributing to newsletters, annual reports, research reports and press releases. These include the Allan Wilson Centre, Science New Zealand, CRL Energy Ltd, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, National Science and Technology Roadshow, Victoria University of Wellington, and the Wellington School of Medicine.

She has developed a science communication course, which was launched in 2007, for the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.

Louise has a B.Sc in Earth Sciences from Massey University and a postgraduate certificate in Environmental Management from Victoria University of Wellington. Before becoming a freelance science writer she has worked in mineral observing, soil mapping, and seismic surveying fields, she has written and edited for various organisations including three and a half years as the communications adviser and Web master for the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology (Now morphed and merged into MBIE).

In 1999, Louise was awarded the Science Communicator of the Year by the New Zealand Association of Scientists — "for an outstanding contribution to advancing general appreciation of science in New Zealand".

Other recent work

Texel sheep. Credit: Lene, Storebukkebruse

A genome for ewe

November 2014

Mapping the whole genome of the sheep (Ovis aries) was completed earlier this year. The information is contributing to a myriad of new research projects to improve the health and meat and wool yields from New Zealand’s most populous farm animal. Read more >>

A confocal microscope image of bacteria in a carotid arterial plaque sample. Credit: Lanter, Sauer & Davies

Heart attack bacteria

November 2014

It has long been believed that over-exertion, stress and emotional shock can cause heart attacks in vulnerable people, but the pathway by which this occurs has remained uncertain. Read more >>

Dolomedes sp. preying on a mountain galaxias. Credit: Nyffeler & Pusey
Dolomedes sp. preying on a mountain galaxias (Galaxias olidus) on the bank of North Branch Creek near Goomburra, Queensland, Australia. Credit: Nyffeler M, Pusey BJ

Fish-eating spiders (note the hyphen)

November 2014

It seems that New Zealand, along with many other countries, is home to spiders partial to a fish dinner. In a first of its kind study into fish predation by spiders, a pair of researchers from Australia and Switzerland found that New Zealand’s Dolomedes dondalei was capable of catching little fish. Read more >>

Victoria University of Wellington BSc physics student Merlijn Führhop has been shortlisted for a one-way trip to Mars. Credit: Victoria University of Wellington.

NZ student to Mars?

October 2014

Victoria University of Wellington student, Merlijn Führhop, is in serious consideration for astronaut selection for a manned mission to Mars. But is the mission likely? Read more >>

The flight capability of small insects is something engineers want to harness in micro drones at the scale of a fly. Tiny drones that fly like insects are now becoming feasible due to design evolution and new millimetre-scale manufacturing approaches. Credit: Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, 

Hi tech drones copy nature’s design

17 September 2014

Animals from bees to bats are inspiring the new generation of drones or flying robots, and large military strike drones aside, the robots themselves are getting smaller, with microdrones the size of a bug on a flower to eagle-inspired quadcopters with the ability to snatch up objects at speed.

In June, the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics published an open-access special edition focused on drone research. Fourteen research teams showcased their latest experimental efforts and the nature inspiration behind the technology.

The applications of the drones, inspired variously by flight aspects of flies, bees, moths, pigeons, eagles, bats and even, slightly disturbingly, flying snakes, seem limitless, from those designed to fly in swarms for search and rescue missions to yet others with inner-city courier applications in mind. Yet others are designed to perch as a bird or bug and provide mobile surveillance or to carry sensors for environmental monitoring, such as pollution monitoring. Read more >>

The Chatham Island nīkau (Rhopalostylis aff. sapida) has seeds 175.83 mm2 – more than twice the size of the mainland Nīkau (Rhopalostylis sapida) seeds at 80.79 mm2. Image: Public Domain.

Small islands breed big seeds

11 September 2014

Island gigantism is a phenomenon sometimes seen in animal evolution in such species as the Komodo dragon, Madagascar’s extinct elephant bird and New Zealand’s extinct moa. Researchers from Victoria University of Wellington wanted to see whether the same type of gigantism could also be seen in plants and were able to show that plants that have evolved in island settings grow larger seeds than their mainland relatives.

PhD student Patrick Kavanagh and Associate Professor Kevin Burns from Victoria’s School of Biological Sciences measured the seed sizes of 40 plant speciesendemic to four island groups in the South Pacific surrounding New Zealand, including the Three Kings Islands to the north, the Kermadec Islands to the north-east, the Chatham Islands to the east, and two sub-Antarctic islands to the south – Auckland and Campbell Islands. The seed sizes of the plants were then compared to seed sizes from equivalent plant species measured in various locations around New Zealand. To supplement the field data, seed measurements from Seeds of New Zealand Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons (aka the New Zealand seed atlas) were also used to obtain median sizes. Read more >>

International CCS Seminar
Carbon Capture and Storage: Where are we now? (PDF 5MB)
RSNZ Alpha
Our place in space
Alpha 133: - Royal Society of New Zealand (PDF 750KB)
RSNZ Alpha
The energy we use in New Zealand homes
Alpha 134 - Royal Society of New Zealand

Proceedings of the International CCS Seminar held in NZ. Work included attending the seminar, writing the proceedings and layout design.

Space research in New Zealand. Research in the Southern Hemisphere by the ESA, NASA and others. Work included writing and layout design.

This ALPHA uses science to explore the ways we use energy in our houses and ask questions about the energy issues that face New Zealand in the future.


See my work on earthquakes at the Science Learning Hub

Inside the Earth
Seismic Waves
Moulding the Earth

The science behind special effects
Alpha 130. Client: Royal Society of New Zealand

With today’s technology, imagination is the only limit to what can be created on a movie screen. And nowhere in the world is the imagination more unlimited than at New Zealand’s own WETA Workshop and WETA Digital.
Weta Workshop makes models, props and miniatures, whereas Weta Digital creates virtual characters and computer generated special effects. Audiences around the world were awestruck when the Lord of the Rings trilogy hit the big screen. Trees walked, massive armies of men and elves battled evil Orcs, and through it all marched an unlikely fellowship of brave little hobbits, a tall wizard, brave men, an elf and a dwarf and of course the lurking Gollum(aka Smeagol). The special effects were quite simply amazing, and creating them is not only an art but an exact science. Download (PDF 1,175KB)

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Site last updated: 1 February, 2016.
©  2016 Louise Thomas. All rights reserved.