Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon

PhD graduand Ravneel Chand caps off his postdoctoral studies this weekend, having achieved what he came to Ōtepoti Dunedin to do – find a useful way to help look after a unique environment.

He will graduate from Otago this week with a PhD in Environmental Toxicology after having researched fertility control using oral contraceptives for possums – in effect, a possum “pill”.

He believes his work has proven it would be a less intrusive way to curtail Aotearoa New Zealand’s possum population, that would also have less impact on other species than the more traditional methods.

Having grown up in a unique environment he knows the value of protecting such places, and when he left his home in the “beautiful Fiji Islands” for Ōtepoti Dunedin in 2019, Chand was determined to find a way to help look after the environment.

“Through this study, I sought to provide a solution that would be more targeted at species-specific, minimizing potential risks to other animals and the environment,” he says.

His preliminary evidence suggested the basal activity and protein content of the major drug-metabolizing enzymes differed in possums compared to other test species such as mice, rats, birds and humans.

“This finding opened-up exciting possibilities for achieving the ultimate goal of potential target-specific fertility control method tailored specifically for possums in New Zealand.”

He believes his research addresses a critical environmental and agricultural challenge.

“Possums pose a significant threat to New Zealand’s biodiversity and agricultural productivity, and finding an effective and humane method of controlling their population is important for sustainable management,” he says.

Through exploring and developing targeted fertility control techniques, a balance can be struck between conservation efforts and the well-being of both native wildlife and human activities.

“Ultimately, I am driven by a desire to help protect New Zealand’s unique ecosystem while minimizing negative impacts on other species.”

He believes his research represents an opportunity to make a “meaningful difference” in environmental management.

Chand says he decided to study at Otago because of its “excellent reputation” in toxicology studies.

“The University is known for its strong research profile and dedicated faculty in the field.”

Studying in New Zealand also appealed to him given the country’s commitment to environmental protection. He also used the time to become deeply involved in the University community.

He was elected chairperson of the Otago Postgraduate Association (OPA) as well as the Otago University Students’ Association postgraduate representative.

These roles enabled him to work closely with a diverse group of postgraduate students, advocating for their needs and concerns, and helping to foster a sense of community and support.

He also served as the Pacific Postgraduate representative.

“Being the voice of the Pacific postgraduate students has been an incredible responsibility and privilege. It allowed me to connect with students from different Pacific Island nations, understand their unique perspectives, and address their specific challenges,” he says.

“This role opened my eyes to the richness of cultural diversity on campus and strengthened my commitment to promoting inclusivity and representation.”

Back to top