Addicted to Bryozoans

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Abigail Smith
Vivien Dwyer
Susan Nunn Susan Nunn
Brittany Sue Mason


Most people are familiar with the shells of large molluscs: clams, scallops, mussels, oysters, snails, päua. It may seem surprising that almost every group of marine creatures produces at least some
kind of skeletal structure – biomineralisation is everywhere in the sea. Vertebrates like us make our skeletons from what we eat, but invertebrates like urchins, barnacles, worms and corals make
their skeletons straight out of seawater. Despite that common origin, there is huge variation in their shapes and sizes and textures. When they die, shells break up into fragments, littering the seafloor with evidence of the past.


I decided to come to New Zealand to work with Prof Cam Nelson, a world authority on temperate-latitude shells and the sediments that come from them, to try to understand more about calcareous algae. Why would a plant that needs the sun make itself a coat of armour? 

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Author Biographies

Abigail Smith, Marine Science at Otago University

Abigail Smith came to New Zealand in 1988 to carry out her PhD research on bryozoans at the University of Waikato. She has been lecturing and supervising research students in marine science at Otago University since 1992, during which time she has also published over 70 scientific articles and given more than 100 talks, most of them on bryozoans. She has been active in the International Bryozoology Association, the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society and the New Zealand Ocean Acidification Community. While she loves her work, she never lets it get in the way of her hobbies: cricket, knitting and making jam.

Vivien Dwyer, Dunedin School of Art at Otago Polytechnic.

Vivien Dwyer is a recent graduate with an Master of Visual Arts. She has been an artist for some years and returned to Art School after her children grew up and became independent. She works in textile art with a special focus on printmaking and felting.

Susan Nunn Susan Nunn, Dunedin School of Art at Otago Polytechnic.

Susan Nunn completed her Bachelor of Visual Art (Hons) at the Dunedin School of Art in 2016. She works predominately in textiles and has previously taken part in similar collaborations in art and science.

Brittany Sue Mason

Brittany Sue Mason immigrated to New Zealand in 2011, and completed her BFA at the Dunedin School of Art with a concentration on jewellery design and metalsmithing in 2013. Her artwork is deeply influenced by the tiny textures and patterns of the natural world.