Our next stop on the Northland Peninsula in New Zealand are Waipu Caves, one of the few places on the islands where you can see glow worms for free. The glow worms, the larvae from a species of gnat that thrives in dark damp places, are some of the most magical sights in New Zealand. The area around Waipu also hosts quintessential New Zealand beauty – weather-sculpted karst rocks, twisted trees, and every shade of green you can imagine. Here are our photos from visiting Waipu, from hiking the area around it to exploring within the cave itself, to finally figuring out how to capture the magic of the glowworms by camera.
Natalie Jing Ma is a biotechnologist and hapa from a loving Michigander mother and Chinese father. She spent her childhood running wild and free, picking up bugs and hanging out in nature (and maybe eating dirt). After participating in the American Legion Youth Environmental Leadership Program, she pursued Environmental Science and Conservation Biology at UCLA, where she studied how plants and bacteria help each other grow and marine biological diversity in Mo'orea. To pursue biological solutions for the environmental problems she studied, Natalie then pursued a PhD at Yale University in synthetic biology. Working under Dr. Farren Isaacs, she studied the "Jurassic Park" problem of engineered organisms potentially escaping their confines and created biological safety mechanisms to address these problems.
When not studying science, Natalie can be found cooking, baking, photographing nature, or dreaming up the future. She loves public speaking, science communication, and the future of space travel. Her favorite animals are the jumping spiders of the family Salticidae.
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