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A glossary of science-related words.

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Māori word for seafood.


A person, group or being that acts as a carer, guardian, protector and conserver.


A Māori term that encompasses ideas about care and guardianship of the sea, sky and land – the environment. Kaitiaki refers to those who carry out kaitiakitanga such as tangata whenua (people of the land).


A white clay mainly made up of the mineral kaolinite. It is used extensively in the production of ceramics.


A clay mineral derived from the chemical weathering of feldspar minerals found in rocks such as granite.

Kármán line

An imaginary line that sits at 100 km above the surface of the Earth. It is used to define the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.

karst landscape

The word ‘karst’ comes from a German word used to describe stony limestone landscapes. It is the distinctive surface and underground landforms such as caves, fluted rock outcrops and dolines or sinkholes that the term ‘karst’ implies.


Respected tribal elder(s).

kaupapa Māori

Generally refers to a foundation of understanding and knowledge created by Māori that expresses Māori aspirations, values and principles.


1. Kelvin temperature scale - An SI (international system of units) temperature scale used by scientists. It goes up in the same steps as the Celsius scale, but starts at absolute zero (-273.15 °C). 2. kelvin - A unit of temperature named after William Thomson (1824–1907), known as Lord Kelvin. It is equivalent in size to a degree Celsius and forms the basis of the Kelvin temperature scale. The starting point of this scale, absolute zero, is the lowest temperature that can be achieved.


A family of fibrous structural proteins. It is a key component of hair and nails. It also forms into tough, insoluble and unmineralised tissues found in reptiles, birds, amphibians and mammals.


A mixture of solid organic chemical compounds found in sedimentary rocks. When heated, it forms the base for the formation of oil and gas

key competency

One of the capabilities people need to live and learn today and in the future.

keystone species

A species that has a greater impact on the community of organisms in an ecosystem than you would expect in relation to its abundance. The removal of a keystone species often has a dramatic effect on the ecosystem.


New Zealand endemic sea urchin.


The study of motion.


Relating to motion or movement.

kinetic energy

The extra energy of an object that it possesses due to its motion.

kinetic-molecular theory of matter

The theory has been developed to explain experimental observations of the behaviour of solids, liquids and gases. The two major assumptions that underpin the theory are that all matter is composed of tiny particles and that these particles are in constant motion.


A division used in the Linnean system of classification or taxonomy.


A type of rat introduced to New Zealand by Polynesian settlers.


(kn) A unit of speed still used in meteorology as well as maritime and air navigation. An aircraft or vessel travelling at 1 knot along a meridian travels 1 minute of geographic latitude in 1 hour – 1 kn = 0.514 m/s.


A type of native fish. There are three known species in New Zealand – giant, banded and shortjaw.


Māori for ‘fold’ or ‘loop’; the spiral shape based on an unfurling fern frond.


Small marine crustaceans that are found in all the world's oceans.


Māori word for an elderly woman, grandmother or female elder.