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Upcoming events

Seminars may be held in different locations, so please check the location information for each talk.


Jaz Morris

Department of Botany, University of Otago

Feeling stressed? It's time to change your genome! Spontaneous mutation in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803.

The discovery 35 years ago that the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 could be easily genetically modified, and the breakthrough publication of its genome in 1995, meant that Synechocystis 6803 has become the lab mouse of photosynthesis studies. This simple, unicellular bacteria offers an outstanding model system for the study of photosynthesis, in particular the water-plastoquinone oxidoreductase Photosystem II (PS II), which you can thank for the oxygen you've inhaled in reading this abstract. Synechocystis 6803 has been spread to labs around the world, and deliberate gene knockouts have revealed much about the important PS II protein complex. However, genomic mutation in supposed 'wild-type' strains, and in PS II mutants that display an enigmatic pH-sensitive phenotype, reveals an 'elephant in the room' - cyanobacteria are prone to genetic divergence, and appear to modify their genome in fascinating ways, all in order to maximise their growth.

Time and location

Talk canceled


Dr. Evelyn Armstrong

NIWA Research Unit, Department of Chemistry, University of Otago

Subantarctic Phytoplankton: Their responses to change.

Phytoplankton form the base of marine food webs and while providing energy for higher trophic levels during photosynthesis, they also produce half of the oxygen in the atmosphere. In the ocean phytoplankton are exposed to a myriad of drivers, such as temperature, nutrients and light, which may increase or decrease the phytoplankton growth or other physiological processes. We are investigating the effect of these drivers on the physiology of subantarctic phytoplankton at levels expected due to climate change in that region. We have exposed phytoplankton to varied drivers, both singly and in combination, and over short and long time scale. Temperature experiments have shown that subantarctic phytoplankton can grow at future projected summer and winter temperatures, although community composition may change. Coccolithophores grown in future light and pH conditions over hundreds of generations have adapted but no longer grow at the same rate when transferred back into current conditions. The results of these and other studies will be presented.

Time and location

Wednesday, June 7th, 12.00pm Benham Seminar Room (B215), Department of Zoology.


Professor Aoxue Wang

College of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Harbin, China

Can we create the versatile tomato resistant to many diseases, and even tolerant to cold?

Time and location

Thursday, May 11th, 1.00pm Benham Seminar Room (B215), Department of Zoology.

Dr. Angela Brandt

Postdoctoral researcher, Landcare Research

Products of history: Immigration timing of New Zealand plant ancestors affects present-day communities

Using dated molecular phylogenies to estimate order of arrival of plant ancestors to New Zealand, I show that early-arriving lineages tend to dominate communities in both relatively young (alpine) and older (forest) ecosystems. Moreover, evidence suggests this pattern persists in anthropogenically created habitats (secondary grassland created by forest clearing). However, non-native species invasion may alter the role of evolutionary history in shaping New Zealand’s plant communities.

Time and location

Wednesday, May 3rd , 12.00pm, Benham Seminar Room (B215), Department of Zoology.


Rohan Allen

PhD Candidate, Department of Botany

The Ecological and Evolutionary Significance of Genetic Diversity in Phytoplankton Responses to Oceanic Climate Change.

Marine phytoplankton are responsible for approximately 50% of global primary production, and play a critical role in global biogeochemical cycling and trophic energy transfer. Climate change is causing rapid changes in the marine environment, raising questions about how these important microbes will respond. Here I will discuss what we know about phytoplankton responses to oceanic climate change, and how genetic diversity may be a key piece missing from the puzzle.

Time and location

Wednesday, April 5th, 12.00pm, Benham Seminar Room (B215), Department of Zoology.



Professor Ulf Molau

Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: about the new platform IPBES

The Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was launched as a UN initiative in 2012. The creation of IPBES has been a decadal process within the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD). Many observers regard IPBES as the “little sister” of the climate panel IPCC; however, structure and goals are quite different. In my seminar I will provide the background of IPBES and the circumscription of Ecosystem Services (or - in more relaxed language - “Nature’s Benefits to People). Major tasks and ongoing assessments will be presented, all based on the IPBES Conceptual Framework. The seminar will also provide some NZ examples from our current contribution to the thematic assessment “Land Degradation and Restoration” to be finalized in 2018.

Time and location

Thursday, March 9th, 3.30pm, Benham Seminar Room (B215), Department of Zoology.

Professor Elisabeth Cooper

Institute for Arctic and Marine Biology, Faculty of Biosciences, Fisheries and Economics, University of Tromsø, Norway.

High Arctic ecosystem responses to changes in snow cover.

The Arctic is experiencing increased temperatures and precipitation, especially in winter. Snow acts as an insulator, and depth changes affect the enhancement of thermally dependent reactions, such as microbial activity, affecting soil nutrient composition, respiration, and winter gas efflux. Snow depth and spring temperatures influence snowmelt timing, determining the start of plant growth and forage availability.

Mild periods in winter followed by a return to freezing have negative consequences for plants and invertebrates, and the resultant ice layers act as barriers to vertebrate foraging, triggering starvation of herbivores and their predators. Knock-on effects between seasons and trophic levels thus have important consequences for biological activity, diversity, and ecosystem function.

Elisabeth will present some of her work on ecosystem responses to changing snow dynamics on Spitsbergen, Svalbard, High Arctic Norway.

Time and location

Thursday, March 2nd, 3.00pm Hunter Centre, 279 Great King Street, Room 122