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We have three core research areas:

1. Biodiversity & Conservation


Genetic diversity varies significantly between populations and regions. Determining the extent and distribution of genetic variation provides precise information that can be used to direct conservation actions, for example, the most genetically diverse and unique populations can be identified, which enables conservation priorities to be determined and proper management set in place. The preservation of genetic diversity in endangered species is important because long-term survival depends on species maintaining sufficient genetic variability to facilitate adaptation to new environmental pressures including habitat modification. Decreasing genetic diversity can result in   inbreeding depression, the breakdown of reproductive processes and diminished evolutionary potential – factors ultimately contributing to extinction.

Current research projects:

  • Conservation genetics of threatened New Zealand plants
  • Conservation genetics of New Zealand native vertebrates
  • Safeguarding maximal extant genetic variation
  • Conservation and population genetics of terrestrial Invertebrates
  • Reproductive technologies for conservation of native frogs and lizards

2. Molecular Systematics 

DNA sequence information provides some interesting insights into the evolutionary history (phylogeny) of our native species. New Zealand was once part of the supercontinent Gondwana but has been isolated by oceanic barriers for at least 80 million years. Because of our isolation, diverse landscapes and latitudinal range from subtropics to subantarctic, New Zealand has a largely endemic, unique flora and fauna.   Phylogenetic studies provide a framework for understanding the origins and patterns of genetic diversity among groups of species and reveal a remarkable history of arrivals, dispersals, adaptations and extinctions.

Current research projects:

  • Molecular systematics of New Zealand native invertebrates
  • Molecular systematics of New Zealand fungi and bacteria
  • Glacial refugia in the South Island of New Zealand

3. Biosecurity

New Zealand has some of the worst cases of environmental damage caused by introduced pests. Biosecurity-related research is focused on preventing further introductions of unwanted organisms and controlling, managing or eradicating them should they arrive in the country. Molecular applications include the use of non-invasive DNA methods for monitoring existing pest populations, enhancing the effectiveness of   biocontrol agents, developing novel methods for pest control, and the use of DNA diagnostics to identify unwanted organisms.

Current research projects:

  • Molecular approaches to monitor and enhance biological control
  • Pest monitoring using non-invasive DNA methods
  • Wildlife forensics
  • Wildlife disease diagnostics and monitoring.
  • Pest control technologies
  • Diversity of MHC loci in the brushtail possum and their applicability in immunocontraceptive population control

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