5 minute DNA analyses, no experience required
Molecular genetics and evolution at UNITEC (NSCI 6748)
DNA barcoding workshop
Capability building in the South Pacific (Fiji)
barcoding NZ Whitebait
Developing DNA-based tools to conserve New Zealand whitebait
I am interested in promoting the study and application of molecular ecology by proposing hands-on experiences and developing participatory science projects that are community-focused.
This page presents the teaching activities, science outreach events and professional workshops that I have been offering in New Zealand and in the Pacific region.
To keep up to date with my activities, follow me on twitter: @Zelpapang
Studying the diet of wētā to design wētā friendly primary schools
Whitebait are the juveniles of five native species of galaxiid fish that migrate from the sea upstream in spring. Three of these species are considered to be declining, a fourth is classified as threatened and only one is of least conservation concern. However, juvenile forms cannot be identified morphologically and all five species are caught and sold under the name whitebait and end up in our plates.
The aim of this project is to develop a DNA-based diagnostic test to identify the different species of whitebait and to detect the presence of threatened or declining species in whitebait and in streams. By doing so, we hope to help protect the declining and threatened species of whitebait. I wrote a short letter about whitebait for the journal Science in 2016: Political priorities.
This project is conducted in collaboration with students of Kauri Flat School. In a world first, we recently extracted environmental DNA from the mucus of juvenile whitebait at the school. The next step is to detect whitebait DNA from water, first in a tank and then from streams.
For this project, funding has been obtained from The Royal Society of New Zealand, Unitec Institute of Technology and CALTEX Australia. Live fish have been kindly provided by the Mahurangi Technical Institute.
The project proposes to use wētā motels, which are wooden refugia that simulate natural galleries used by wētā and other invertebrates in trees. They have a hole that is big enough to let wētā in, but too small for its predators (mice, rats). Wētā motels constitute a tool for the conservation of wētā, but also for the monitoring of these animals and for science outreach.
The Wētā Watcher project aims to engage students from primary schools in South Auckland to carry out a research project on the ecology and conservation of tree wētā. Wētā are a well-known and iconic group of New Zealand insects and are useful indicators of environmental health and in particular the effects of exotic predators.
The project aims at monitoring the presence of tree wētā on the schools' grounds and determine their diet by carrying out DNA analyses of their droppings.
56 little scientists from three Auckland schools have been participating in the project. The project was featured on Māori TV and presented as a poster at the New Zealand Ecological Society Conference in 2016.
This project was funded by SouthSci a branch of the Curious Mind programme. Further funding is currently being sought to extend the project at national scale.
Introducing DNA-based identification to the public