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Student story

Samuel Aguilar Argüello

20 July 2023

"This country has a wide list of prestigious scientists that work in the field of jumping spider behaviour..."


Watching jumping spiders and analysing their spatial behaviour is all in a day’s work for Samuel. The UC graduate, originally from Mexico, spent his time at UC studying the behaviour patterns of spiders.

“I was comparing the cognitive spatial abilities of different New Zealand species and one Australasian species by performing spatial-related experiments in the laboratory,” he says.

The nature of his studies gave him the opportunity to get out of the classroom and into nature.

“Jumping spiders are generally active during the day, so it is very practical in terms of work schedule. Even though I go to the field to collect spiders, all my research is based on observations in the laboratory.”

His passion for discovery and interest in spiders were a driving force behind his choice of study. Alongside the wealth of researchers available at UC, studying in New Zealand gave Samuel the opportunity to experience the country like a local!

“This country has a wide list of prestigious scientists that work in the field of jumping spider behaviour, to be honest, this was the main reason I applied for a PhD here. The amazing country, nice people and astonishing landscapes were something somehow unexpected but quite favourable. As soon I arrived in New Zealand, I was convinced I made the right decision.

“As part of my PhD I basically exposed spiders to mazes and recorded their behaviour. After finishing the experiments I released the native spider into its natural habitat.”

Although studying abroad can be challenging at times, the close-knit community at UC made it easy for him to connect and engage.

“Due to the diversity of cultures at UC, you don’t feel isolated, people are nice and happy to help. Furthermore, the University puts effort to ease the enrolment process and the usage of the facilities for international students. In this manner, the use of the services is very easy, and any kind of paperwork is straightforward.

“The suitable facilities allow a comfortable stay within the campus. I really enjoyed the calm environment inside the university and the freedom to work until late if it is necessary.”

When he’s not in the lab, Samuel is playing ultimate Frisbee. With trainings twice a week and official team tournaments, the young student is never short of things to do!

“Apart from the outdoors leagues, I have played Ultimate Frisbee in the indoors league that the UCUC (University of Canterbury Ultimate Club) organizes during winter, it is a lot of fun and it is a good opportunity to meet new people.”

Currently Samuel is working for Scion as a Fire Ecologist, researching a range of topics from fire weather to fire behaviour and ecology of fire-prone ecosystems. However, he still collaborates with other scientists in invertebrate behaviour, such as in his last paper ‘Mexican Fruit Flies Wave for Distraction’.

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