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Health Sciences staff profiles

Allison Miller

PositionPhD Student
DepartmentDepartment of Anatomy
QualificationsBSc (University of California) MSc (University of Guam)
Research summaryEvolution and conservation of one of New Zealand’s most cryptic fishes, the pouched lamprey (piharu)
  • New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society
  • Genetics Society of Australasia Inc.
  • Birds New Zealand


As a PhD student, Allison will utilise genotyping by sequencing (GBS) methods to better understand the taxonomy, viability, and health of New Zealand lamprey (Geotria australis) populations. The New Zealand lamprey (kanakana) is a customary fishery and her research will fill multiple key knowledge gaps while providing insight on ways to restore and enhance piharu / kanakana populations around New Zealand.

Allison is working in collaboration with National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) Principal Scientist of Freshwater Fish Dr Cindy Baker. She is supervised by Professor Neil Gemmell and is based at the University of Otago.

You can help Allison and her research on kanakana through two Citizen Science Projects she is running.

Do you, or others you know, spend time near rivers or streams? If yes, there are two citizen science projects you might be able to contribute to!

Citizen science projects are activities sponsored by a wide variety of organisations so non-scientists can meaningfully contribute to scientific research. In Allison's case, sightings of kanakana around the country are valuable pieces of information.

iNaturalist Lamps for champs is a site for collecting vital Southern Hemisphere kanakana distribution data. Where are kanakana found in the Southern Hemisphere? iNaturalist Lamps for champs citizen scientists are asked to "Add an Observation" about a kanakana they find in the wild to help answer this question.

Help out here:
iNaturalist Lamps for Champs

Alongside this project, FISHYbites is another citizens science project for collecting much-needed information about the health and feeding preferences of Southern Hemisphere fishes. Have you see something FISHY in your backyard stream? For example, an odd bite mark on a fish, or red markings on a kanakana? This could be a lamprey bite or Lamprey Reddening Syndrome. FISHYbites citizen scientists are asked to keep a look out for these marks on fishes and lampreys and to "log the bite" if they see them.

Help out here:
FISHYbites website

Information on these projects will be used by natural resource managers to improve their management strategies and better protect the species. This protection is particularly important now, since kanakana numbers are decreasing due to habit alteration, disease, and climate change.

Additional details


Miller, A. K., Timoshevskaya, N., Smith, J. J., Gillum, J., Sharif, S., Clarke, S., … Gemmell, N. J., & Alexander, A. (2022). Population genomics of New Zealand pouched lamprey (kanakana; piharau; Geotria australis). Journal of Heredity. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1093/jhered/esac014

Komai, T., Miller, A. K., & Malay, M. C. D. (2022). Three new species of pagurid hermit crabs (Decapoda: Anomura: Paguroidea) from the Northern Mariana Islands, Micronesia. Zootaxa, 5099(5), 563-585. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.5099.5.4

Miller, A. K., Mifsud, J. C. O., Costa, V. A., Grimwood, R. M., Kitson, J., Baker, C., … Gemmell, N. J., & Geoghegan, J. L. (2021). Slippery when wet: Cross-species transmission of divergent coronaviruses in bony and jawless fish and the evolutionary history of the Coronaviridae. Virus Evolution. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1093/ve/veab050

Miller, A. K., Baker, C., Kitson, J. C., Yick, J. L., Manquel, P. E. I., Alexander, A., & Gemmell, N. J. (2021). The Southern Hemisphere lampreys (Geotriidae and Mordaciidae). Reviews in Fish Biology & Fisheries. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s11160-021-09639-x