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Greenwich Scientist's Work Depicted On New Zealand Coin

Dr. Daniel Ksepka, Curator of Science at the Bruce
Museum, examines Kairuku fossils.
Dr. Daniel Ksepka, Curator of Science at the Bruce Museum, examines Kairuku fossils. Photo Credit: R.E. Fordyce

GREENWICH, Conn. – The newest legal tender in New Zealand is of great interest to Daniel Ksepka, curator of science at Greenwich's Bruce Museum.

Ksepka first described two extinct giant penguins who once roamed the wilds of New Zealand, and have now been selected for the 2014 New Zealand annual coin.

He was the lead author of a scientific paper that first identified and described Kaiurku waitaki and Kairuku grebneffi, the penguin species featured on the coin.

This research was conducted in collaboration with R. Ewan Fordyce, professor at the University of Otago and Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand as well as Tatsuro Ando and Craig Jones. Fordyce discovered the fossils of Kaiurku as part of his extensive fossil collecting for the University of Otago Geology Museum. In 2012, Ksepka and Fordyce collected new Kairuku fossils in the Kokoamu Greensand Formation of New Zealand’s South Island.

“It’s not exactly the same as having your face on a coin, but I quite prefer a coin featuring ancient penguins,” says Ksepka, “It is a thrill to see these species being acknowledged as an important part of the world’s geological history.”

Both Kairuku species appear on the silver coin, which is officially legal tender with a $5 face value. The design features artist Chris Gaskin’s depiction of a Kairuku penguin next to a height chart, emphasizing its tall stature compared with its modern-day counterparts, alongside an image of a Kairuku penguin swimming.

The rim of the coin features the M?ori name, alongside the English translation, which is 'diver who returns with food.'

Does Ksepka keep one of the coins in his pocket?

“Not yet,” he says. “But I’ve ordered one.”

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