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Upcoming events hosted by or involving Genetics Otago will be listed here. Please check back regularly for updates. A calendar of events that may be of interest to our members can be found at the bottom of this page and in the sidebar of other pages on this site, please note that this includes events hosted outside of Genetics Otago.

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Calendar of Events

The below is a calendar of events hosted by GO as well as events hosted by others that may be of interest to our members. If you have an event you would like us to include please contact us here.

Bioc Special Seminar Series – Dr Nathan Kenny @ St David Seminar Room B
Jan 27 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am

Dr Nathan Kenny, Oxford Brookes University:

The freshwater sponge Ephydatia muelleri: a new tool for tracing genome evolution across the animal tree of life.

Genomes of non-bilaterians are vital for understanding the evolution of animal multicellularity and the origin of the first metazoan-specific cell types. However, within the non-bilaterian metazoans, such as sponges, ctenophores and cnidarians, only a handful of genomes have been sequenced, and most are too fragmented to allow firm inference of the genomic characters of the earliest animals. To address this longstanding problem, we sequenced and analyzed the 326 Mb genome of the freshwater sponge Ephydatia muelleri to high contiguity, capturing its 23 chromosomes on 24 scaffolds.

E. Mueller has a metazoan-typical genome architecture, highly shared synteny with chordates, and representative levels of DNA methylation. E. Mueller is also a widespread, highly practical model system. Its well-assembled genome and ready utility as a model allows testing of hypotheses about gene duplication and adaptation to novel conditions, as well as providing a firm anchor for exploring the genomic evolution of animal life.

Biochemistry Special Seminar : Dr Alana Alexander @ St David Seminar Room B
Jan 28 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Dr Alana Alexander, Department of Anatomy, University of Otago

Linking past to future: using genomics to ‘time-travel’

Molecular approaches are useful for inferring how populations have responded to selective pressures and past environmental change. My research utilises the “time-traveling” ability of genomics, advanced computational tools, and behavioural, ecological, and biogeographic data to make inferences about the processes influencing genetic diversity within and among populations. These inferences range from global spatial and deep temporal scales (e.g. selection and the worldwide impact of climate fluctuations on global sperm whale populations over the last 125,000 years), to regional spatial scales across recent time scales (e.g. processes influencing the movement of genes and individuals across hybrid zones over the last few decades).

As a Māori scientist, I also maintain a strong interest in ensuring that my research can be used to support kaitiakitanga and rangatiratanga of resources within the rohe of iwi and hapū.

Biochemistry Special Seminar : Dr Kiel Hards @ St David Seminar Room B
Feb 2 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Dr Kiel Hards, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, University of Otago

Understanding synergy, mutualism and redundancy in microbial metabolism

From enzymes to ecosystems, biology exhibits cooperative behaviours at all levels. Whether it is enzyme cooperativity or plant pollination, the biological responses of multiple factors tend to be greater than the sum of their isolated components. However, reductionist approaches to bacterial physiology tend to overlook the intra- and inter-organism relationships of metabolic pathways, leading to unexpected outcomes in vivo or in situ. Increased understanding of these phenomena are required for diverse research outcomes, ranging from improved rationale design of antibiotics to enhanced understanding of global gas cycles.

In this seminar, I will cover three recent projects where I am reconstructing the molecular interactions of microbial metabolic pathways at various levels:

  • Interspecies electron transfer and its role in supporting pathogen-commensal interactions
  • Functional redundancy in terminal oxygen reduction and the need for dual inhibition in Tuberculosis therapies
  • Mixotrophy in thermoacidophilic methanotrophs and why extremophiles retain metabolic flexibility
Biochemistry Special Seminar : Dr Louise Bicknell @ St David Seminar Room B
Feb 3 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am

Dr Louise Bicknell, Department of Pathology, University of Otago

Genetic insights into human brain and body development

We are interested in how genetic variation in our genomes influences our development and lifetime health, with a particular focus on rare Mendelian disorders of brain and body growth. We use exome and genome sequencing of NZ and overseas patients as a starting point to identify and characterise candidate disease-causing variants using a variety of molecular biology techniques. Our studied conditions are “one-in-million”, so we rely heavily on international collaborations to strengthen our genetic evidence.

In this seminar I will give an overview of the different research projects we are undertaking, linking together the clinical, genetic and molecular knowledge we have gained from our study of human genetic syndromes. Particular emphasis will be on our long-term study on Meier-Gorlin syndrome and DNA replication, and our more recent research into NZ families with microcephaly (reduced brain size), where we have discovered novel disease genes such as a splicing component, and histones.

Quantitative Genetics Symposium @ Mellor Seminar Room 2.15
Feb 9 @ 9:30 am – 5:30 pm

This one-day symposium will bring together researchers from a wide range of applications of quantitative genetics in the Otago region (including collaborations), such as

  • Genetic improvement for primary industries, e.g., horticulture, viticulture, forestry, or farming.
  • Biomedical and forensic research, where quantitative genetics is used extensively in research and forensic applications, and increasingly for medical diagnostics and interventions.
  • Conservation and biosecurity sectors, particularly for the management of rare and/or endangered species, and for utilisation of host resistance for post-border responses to biosecurity threats.

More info here:

Department of Botany Seminar Series @ Benham Seminar Room, Room B215, Benham Building
Apr 14 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

See attached PDF for details of each weeks seminar:

Department of Botany Seminar Programme S12021

Dept of Pathology: Meet the Speaker Lunch @ Bielschowsky meeting room
Apr 16 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Early & Mid Career Scientists and Postgraduate Students are invited to meet with Kiel before his seminar, to find out how he got to where he is today. Bielschowsky meeting room, 12-1pm (snacks included!) Please RSVP to Glen Reid ( as there is a limited capacity.

Pathology Department Seminar @ D'Ath Lecture Theatre
Apr 16 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Interspecies electron transfer mediates energy generation in pathogen- commensal communities
Dr Kiel Hards
Department of Microbiology & Immunology University of Otago

The human microbiome is a consortia of microorganisms in and on our bodies that is often called our most underappreciated organ. In reality, the microbiome is far more complex than a single organ and issues in our microbiome can affect diverse health issues including cancer, diabetes, mental health, infections and sleep quality. Several studies have been able to describe what makes up our microbiome, defining our “good” and “bad” bacteria, but few studies have investigated how these microbes interact with each other and ourselves. Recently, it has been suggested that metabolic interactions within the microbiome may influence our ability to acquire community- and hospital-acquired infections, including those by Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus agalactiae and Enterococcus faecalis. This has highlighted a process where different bacteria make and share electricity for generating energy by cellular respiration, known as interspecies electron transfer. In this talk, I will discuss recent data from my group that suggests the common probiotic Lactococcus lactis stimulates respiratory energy generation in S. agalactiae by interspecies electron transfer. This suggests that genes from other bacteria may be essential for opportunistic pathogens in vivo. By understanding the critical functions of our microbiome, we can better understand the various diseases affected by microbiome dysfunction and design microbiome directed treatments for these disorders.


Department of Botany Seminar Series @ Benham Seminar Room, Room B215, Benham Building
Apr 21 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

See attached PDF for details of each weeks seminar:

Department of Botany Seminar Programme S12021

Genetics Otago Postgraduate Retreat @ Staff Club
Apr 23 all-day