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Health Sciences staff profiles

Natalie Forsdick

PositionPhD Candidate
DepartmentDepartment of Anatomy
QualificationsMSc (Evolutionary Biology)
Research summaryEvolution and conservation of New Zealand’s rarest wading bird, the kakī (black stilt)
TeachingNatalie has been a guest lecturer for BIOA401 (Advanced Biological Anthropology), and a lab demonstrator for CELS191 (Cell and Molecular Biology), BIOL112 (Animal Biology), ZOOL221 (Animal Designs for Living) and ZOOL222 (Evolutionary Biology).
Memberships
  • Co-convenor, Department of Anatomy Emerging Researchers Group Committee
  • Council member, Birds New Zealand
  • Member, Society for Conservation Biology

Research

The 2017-2018 summer has been a bumper breeding season for one of the world’s rarest waders, kakī or black stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae). The population has grown from a low of approximately 23 birds in 1981 to over 100 wild adults today. As kakī experienced such an extreme population bottleneck, genetic information has become an essential resource for the Department of Conservation Kakī Recovery Programme to determine the best actions to maximise genetic diversity and minimise inbreeding.

One concern for the current population is the impact of past hybridisation between kakī and poaka/pied stilts (H. himantopus leucocephalus) on the kakī genome. When kakī numbers have been historically low, interbreeding between the two species has occurred resulting in fertile hybrids with intermediate plumage morphology and reduced fitness. Previous research using a small number of genetic markers indicated that hybridisation has had no detectable impact on the kakī genome.

Recent advancements in DNA sequencing technology have allowed us to sequence and assemble a draft kakī genome. From this, we are generating a high resolution genomic marker set for interspecific comparisons, allowing investigation into whether hybridisation may have produced any signature on kakī diversity and fitness. This genomic assessment will be used to determine best-practice conservation management for kakī, and to measure impacts of hybridisation in other threatened species.

Additional information

Publications

Galla, S. J., Forsdick, N. J., Brown, L., Hoeppner, M. P., Knapp, M., Maloney, R. F., … Steeves, T. E. (2019). Reference genomes from distantly related species can be used for discovery of single nucleotide polymorphisms to inform conservation management. Genes, 10(1), 9. doi: 10.3390/genes10010009

Forsdick, N. J., Cubrinovska, I., Massaro, M., & Hale, M. L. (2017). Genetic diversity and population differentiation within and between island populations of two sympatric Petroica robins, the Chatham Island black robin and tomtit. Conservation Genetics, 18(2), 275-285. doi: 10.1007/s10592-016-0899-1

Wilkinson, M., & Forsdick, N. (2017). A conglomeration of stilts: An artistic investigation of hybridity. Junctures, 2017(18), 35-40.

Almojil, D., Arias, M. C., Beasley, R. R., Chen, Y., Clark, R. W., Dong, Y., … Forsdick, N., … Zhu, W. (2016). Microsatellite records for volume 8, issue 2 [Microsatellite records]. Conservation Genetics Resources, 8(2), 169-196. doi: 10.1007/s12686-016-0549-4

Journal - Research Article

Galla, S. J., Forsdick, N. J., Brown, L., Hoeppner, M. P., Knapp, M., Maloney, R. F., … Steeves, T. E. (2019). Reference genomes from distantly related species can be used for discovery of single nucleotide polymorphisms to inform conservation management. Genes, 10(1), 9. doi: 10.3390/genes10010009

Forsdick, N. J., Cubrinovska, I., Massaro, M., & Hale, M. L. (2017). Genetic diversity and population differentiation within and between island populations of two sympatric Petroica robins, the Chatham Island black robin and tomtit. Conservation Genetics, 18(2), 275-285. doi: 10.1007/s10592-016-0899-1

Wilkinson, M., & Forsdick, N. (2017). A conglomeration of stilts: An artistic investigation of hybridity. Junctures, 2017(18), 35-40.

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Journal - Research Other

Almojil, D., Arias, M. C., Beasley, R. R., Chen, Y., Clark, R. W., Dong, Y., … Forsdick, N., … Zhu, W. (2016). Microsatellite records for volume 8, issue 2 [Microsatellite records]. Conservation Genetics Resources, 8(2), 169-196. doi: 10.1007/s12686-016-0549-4

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