Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

News and events archive - 2016

Janice Lord interviewed on the BBC's Planet Earth 2

Monday 5th December, 2016

Janice's recent work on Campbell Island has been made part of the BBC's Planet Earth series on islands.

The clip is available to view on the BBC's website.

Recent publication

Friday 2nd December, 2016

Matt Larcombe has recently published in the CRISO Publishing. Matt's paper is titled Managing Australia’s eucalypt gene pools: assessing the risk of exotic gene flow

Flora Finder updated with common invasive weeds identification

Tuesday 1st November, 2016

The Botany Department plant identification app Flora Finder has now officially launched its weeds expansion with information and images for 80 major New Zealand Weeds at your fingertips. See the Otago University media release for more information about the update. 

Flora Finder can be installed on Apple iOS devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch), with additional details about the application is available the App Store website.

BTNY302 "Ask-a-Scientist" Horopito reports

Wednesday 26th October, 2016

Congratulations Zuri, James & Liam, three students of the department's Plant Interaction class.

The Plant Interactions class conducted experiments on Horopito (Pseudowintera colorata) to gauge the response of leaf redness and anthocyanin content to wounding.

The three best reports in the style of an “Ask-a-Scientist” newspaper article were written by Zuri, James and Liam.

Otago Magazine article on Catchments Otago

Monday 17th October, 2016

Kath Dickinson was recently interviewed for the latest edition of the University of Otago Magazine for her involvement with the Catchments Otago research theme.

Catchments Otago is taking a multidisciplinary approach to helping overcome pressing problems caused by rapid changes in the Central Otago alpine lakes area.

Established in 2016, Catchments Otago recognises that effective water management cannot be achieved in isolation from equitable and appropriate land management. Comprising researchers from diverse disciplines, this University of Otago Research Theme explores management strategies considering environmental, social and economic aspects.

The article can be read online in issue 43 of the magazine, and more information about Catchments Otago can be found on the project’s website.

Deadline extension for summer scholarships

Wednesday 5th October, 2016

The deadline for applications has been extended to Wednesday 12th of October at 3:00 p.m.

More information about the summer scholarships or how to apply can be found on our scholarship information page, or by contacting the department at

October seminar cancelled

Monday 26th September, 2016

Barbara Anderson's seminar scheduled for October has been cancelled.

Recent publication

Monday 26th September, 2016

Congratulations to Matt Larcombe for his recently published paper. Matt's paper is titled Managing Australia’s eucalypt gene pools: assessing the risk of exotic gene flow, and is available on the CSIRO website.

Magnolia Day, August 21, 2016

Tuesday 20th September, 2016

John Steel was recently interviewed for an article published in the Otago Bulletin, covering the university's annual Magnolia Day.

Visit John's article to learn more about the history of the magnolia, and their gradual shift towards earlier blooming.

The magnolia was planted in 1965 by Dr Geoff Baylis, Head of the Department of Botany from 1945 to 1979, and is now dedicated to his memory.

Botany Summer Studentships 2016/2017

Thursday 8th August, 2016

There are several department studentships available to students interested in working with the department. 

Summer Studentships provide support to students who intend to enrol for study at the University of Otago in 2017, and enable you to engage in some form of research based either within the Department of Botany or, through the Department’s links within the Crown Research Institute, Landcare Research.

Check our scholarships page for more information.

Upcoming seminar - Matt Larcombe

Thursday 25th August, 2016

Our next seminar will be given by Dr Matt Larcombe, on the 22nd of September. Matt is a postdoctoral fellow based in the department of botany.

Matt's talk is titled Hybridisation, genetic pollution and speciation in Eucalyptus.

Eucalypts dominate Australian forests and woodlands, making them one of the most ecologically important plant groups on the continent. There are over 900 eucalypt taxa, and interspecific hybridisation is common between closely related species. This propensity for hybridisation has led to concerns about genetic contamination (genetic pollution) of native forests by “locally exotic” plantation eucalypts following a massive expansion of the plantation industry in southern Australia between 1995 and 2010.

More information about Matt's talk and other up coming seminars, visit our seminar page.

2016 Otago Wildlife Photography Exhibition

Thursday 18th August, 2016

The Otago Museum is running a Special Exhibition at the moment, the annual Otago Wildlife Photography Competition.

Of the thousands of submissions, two botany students, Jay Iwasaki and Gregory Nelson, had their photos chosen as part of the exhibit.

Entry to the exhibit is free, and runs from Thursday 9 June to Sunday 16 October.

New map of world vegetation reveals substantial changes since 1980s

Thursday 15th August, 2016

Steve's recent work on biome classification has been covered by Otago's media group. More information about Steve's research is available, along with a copy of the paper.

Recent Publications

Monday 15th August, 2016

Congratulations to Linn Hoffmann for the recent publication of two papers, one in PLoS the other in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and EcologyScience Direct.

The title of the two papers are Seabird guano enhances phytoplankton production in the Southern Ocean and The Growth Response of Two Diatom Species to Atmospheric Dust from the Last Glacial Maximum.

The 2016 Geoff Baylis Lecture - Life on Zealandia, Dr Nick Mortimer

Wednesday 10th August, 2016

This year's lecturer is Dr Nick Mortimer a geologist and petrologist with GNS Science in Dunedin. He has travelled and worked in many parts of on land and offshore Zealandia including Otago, Southland, New Caledonia, the Norfolk Ridge, and Chatham Rise and Islands. He is co-author with Dr Hamish Campbell of the book Zealandia Our Continent Revealed, which explores the geological origins and history of the New Zealand continental land mass. The recognition of Zealandia as a 94% submerged continent in the SW Pacific Ocean provides a new context for many aspects of natural science. The development of Zealandia's distinct cargo of plants and animals has been shaped by its 100 million year geological haerenga from the South Pole to where it is today.

In this illustrated lecture, Nick will paint a picture of Zealandia's ever changing geography and life. He will talk about how geologists make maps of ancient landmasses, and how Zealandia's biota has changed through time.

The Geoff Baylis Lecture is held annually by the Botanical Society of Otago, in conjunction with the Department of Botany. It is named in honour of Dr Geoff Baylis, the first Professor of Botany at the University of Otago.

Speaker Dr Nick Mortimer, GNS Science
Date Wednesday 14th September
Start Time 6:00 PM
End Time 7:00 PM
Talk Location Castle 1 lecture theater, University of Otago

For more information about the lecture, please contact

Up coming seminar

Monday 1st August, 2016

Our next seminar will be given by Professor Indrawati Oey, Head of Department, Food Science, University of Otago.

The title of Indrawati's talk is Maintaining food supply and integrity from farm to fork.

Talks start at 3:30 p.m., 4th of August. More information on department seminars

2016 John Smaillie Tennant Lecture

Wednesday 20th July, 2016

The upcoming Tennant Lecture will be given by Professor Philip Hulme from the Bio-Protection Research Center at Lincoln University. 

The talk is to be held on the 11th of August, 2016 in Archway 4 Lecture Theatre at 6:00pm,

Philips talk is titled From ornamental to detrimental: the causes and consequences of the invasion of New Zealand by non-native plants

More information on the upcoming lecture is available on Tennant Lecture page.

Ask a Scientist

Friday 15th July, 2016

Every few weeks, the Otago Daily Times run the Ask a Scientist column, and the department's Janice Lord has been involved in answering quite a few questions over the years. 

Visit our media page for more of Janice's Ask a Scientist articles.

2016 Prizes, Grants & Awards

Friday 8th July, 2016

For those interesting in finding to further your botanical activities the following prizes, there are several Grants and Awards available. The odds of success are orders of magnitudes better than Lotto!

Visit our Scholarships page for more information.

Upcoming seminar - Dr Chris Brown

Tuesday 28th June, 2016

Our next seminar is set for Thursday the 7th of July, and will be given by Dr Chris Brown, Biochemistry, Otago School of Medical Sciences, University of Otago.

The title of Chris' talk is titles Noncoding RNAs and the complexity of genomes.

More information about Chris' talk is available on our Seminar page.

Our Changing World interview - Paul Guy

Monday 13th June, 2016

Paul Guy was recently interviewed about viruses and Lepidium on air during Our Changing World.

Drop by the Our Changing World web page where you'll find a link to Paul's interview, and an article about some of the work Paul has been involved in recently.

Adventures at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens

Wednesday 18th April, 2016

As part of the New Zealand International Science Festival, the Dunedin Botanic Garden will be hosting an event on Sunday the 10th of July called Adventures at the Dunedin Botanic s Gardens.

More information can be found on the Science Festival Website.

gardens poster

Up coming seminar - Associate Professor Richard Gill

Monday 16th April, 2016

The department's next seminar is set for Thursday the 19h of May, and will be given by Richard Gill, Associate Professor at Brigham Young University, Utah.

The title of Richard's talk is Physical and Biological Filters to Species Expansion: Niche Opportunity in Subalpine and Desert Ecosystems.

In this talk, he will report on the results of two large global change experiments in the subalpine zone of the Rocky Mountains and two US deserts.

More information is available on Richard's talk.

One in five of world's plant species at risk of extinction

Tuesday 10th April, 2016

A global report compiled by members of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, and covered in an article in The Guardian highlights threat to food security and medicine supplies but also reveals 2,000 new species are discovered each year. 

The report warns that one in five of the worlds' known plants are are at risk of extinction, putting food and medicines at risk. 

Two Positions Available - Ecology Teaching Fellow & Professional Practice Fellow

Thursday 28th April, 2016

Two positions in the Ecology Programme, based in the Department of Botany, have opened to applicants. Both have closing data of Monday, 9th of May, 2016.
More information about the two roles can be found on the HR website:

Information on how to apply are available on the Human Resources website.

Upcoming Seminar - Greg Nelson

Thursday 28th April, 2016

Our next seminar will be held by Greg Nelson, MSc candidate.

Greg's talk is on the Ecology and Evolution of the Genus Chionochloa. More information on Greg's talk is available on the Seminars page.

All talks are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in the School of Physical Education seminar room.

The Botany Lawn: a major research plant community

Wednesday 13th April, 2016

Ever wondered why the department has a small patch of lawn growing in the yard?

Usually referred to as the Botany Lawn, it is a long-term research site established by Professor GTS Baylis in 1965. In the period 1965 to the present it has received constant management: no fertiliser or irrigation, and a constant mowing regime, making it unique resource for research.

A article about the botany lawn, written in 2012 by Bastow Wilson is available online.

Woman in Science at Otago

Friday 8th April, 2016

The Department of History's Ali Clark has released an update to her Otago 150 Years website. Ali's article, titled Scientific Woman, covers the work of some early woman academics at Otago, including a number of people closely associated with the department of Botany.

Ali's blog is a fantastic resource covering a huge range of Otago's history.

Call for Applications, Peter Bannister Student Field Grant

Friday 8th April, 2016

Applications are invited for a grant from the Peter Bannister Student Field Grant Fund to assist those enrolled for a PhD, MSc, BSc (Hons) or PGDip at the University of Otago and whose thesis deals with some aspect of botany.

The research project to be supported will be chosen on the basis of appropriateness to the objectives of the Society, namely to encourage the study and knowledge of botany. The grant will be administered through a supervisor's University of Otago account.

The grant is for fieldwork related expenses only. It will not support equipment purchases or attending conferences.

A copy of the application form and rules may be downloaded from the Botanical Society of Otago website

Closing date for applications is 22 August 2016

Contact for enquiries:
PBSFG Administrator
Botanical Society of Otago
P O Box 6214
North Dunedin, 9059
New Zealand

Big Welcome to Matthew Larcombe

Friday 8th April, 2016

A big welcome to Matthew Larcombe who has just started a postdoc with Steven Higgins and David Bryant. Matthew is investigating the biogeography and evolution of gymnosperm and angiosperm trees.

Matthew has come from the University of Tasmania, where in 2014 he completed his PhD on 'Exotic gene flow from plantation to native eucalypts', since then he has been working as postdoc with Brad Potts, focusing on evolutionary genetics and speciation in Eucalyptus.

Wine Currents - Boost for Wine Industry

Wednesday 6th April, 2016

An article in issue 42 of the Otago Magazine covered research undertaken by Associate Professor David Burritt and Professor Indra Oey (Food Science), along with researchers Dr Sze Ying Leong and Alexandra Rozhkova.

Their research covers the use of “pulsed electric field” processing technology in wine making, with the aim of enhancing the quality of wine, and to reduce the need for additives.

The article is available on line.

David Indra
David and Indra with the PEF equipment in the lab.

Recent Publication - Congratulations Max!

Wednesday 6th April, 2016

Congratulations to Max Buxton for publishing his P.G.Dip.Sci. research. Max's article was co-authored by sabbatical visitor Catherine Kleier and his supervisor Janice Lord.

The article, titled "Variation in reproductive investment and floret gender ratios in two gynodioecious mat daisies (Raoulia, Asteraceae)", has been published in the New Zealand Journal of Botany.

Max's article is available to view on the NZ Journal of Botany website.

Upcoming Seminar - Esther Dale, PhD Candidate

Tuesday 22nd March, 2016

Our next seminar will be given by Esther Dale (PhD candidate) on April 7th, starting at 3:30 p.m. Esther's talk is titled Do biome shifts promote lineage diversification?

More information on Esther's talk.

All talks are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in the School of Physical Education seminar room.

Radio New Zealand Interview with David Orlovich

Wednesday 9th March, 2016

David Orlovich was recently interviewed by Alison Ballance as part of Radio New Zealand's Our Changing World programme.

On the show, David discusses the the genetics and evolution of truffle like fungi in New Zealand, and compares this to varieties around the world.

More information is available on the Our Changing World website, and David's whole interview (13 minutes) can be streamed as well.

2016 Botanical Society of Otago Photo Competition

Wednesday 9th March, 2016

The Botanical Society of Otago is holding it's annual photo competition.

More information on the competition can be found online.

Shedding Light on the Night Moth Study

Monday 7th March, 2016

Janice Lord, Max Buxton, Stefanie Barak, and Dr. Barbara Anderson from Landcare Research were recently involved in the launch of "Shedding Light on the Night" moth study programme, at the Clutha Valley School. Shedding Light on the Night is an initiative undertaken in partnership with Landcare Research, the botany and geography departments of the University of Otago and Orokonui Ecosanctuary.

More information on the launch can be found on the ODT and Stuff websites.

Recent Publications

Tuesday 1st March, 2016

Congratulations David Orlovich and Tegan Anderson for the publication of their recent paper 'Cortinarius majestaticus comb. nov.: phylogenetic evidence for the transfer of Descolea majestatica to Cortinarius'.

The abstract and article are available online at

Million Dollar Mouse - Pest Eradication on the Antipodes Islands

Tuesday 23rd February, 2016

Recently, Masters Student Max Buxton has become involved in the Million Dollar Mouse pest eradication programme on the Antipodes Islands.

Max became involved with the project as part of his work done on the role of Moths as pollinators of New Zealand plants, and his work on the Subantarctic islands in 2014.

The project is running a blog with regular updates, and there's a whole lot interesting information available to see on their website, so be sure check it out!

Department Seminar

Tuesday 23rd February, 2016

Dr Will Cornwell, Senior lecturer, University of New South Wales, Australia will be giving a talk on Thursday, March 3rd. The title of Will's talk is What we (don’t) know about global plant diversity.

Global biological databases have two goals: organizing data in such a way that future research projects can target new angles with access to decades of accumulated data, and providing the best global picture of biodiversity available at a given time. We now know more than we have ever before, but compared to the vastness of global biodiversity we still do not know very much, and it is worthwhile, periodically, to take stock of what information we still lack. How much do we know about global plant diversity, and what and where are the most conspicuous blank pages in our encyclopedia of plant life?

More info at

Recent Publications

Tuesday 19th January, 2016

Congratulations to Glenn Moncrieff, William Bond and Steve Higgins for the publication of their article on Revising the biome concept for understanding and predicting global change impacts.

Their article can be viewed online at Wiley.

Winged Australian Visitor Migrates 2000km

Thursday 21st January, 2016

Be sure to check out the Otago Daily Times article covering Max's recent discovery of the Australian bogong (Agrotis infusa) moth at Cardrona late last year.

Enderby Island Research Trip

Tuesday 19th January, 2016

In early December, Msc student Max Buxton (funded by a National Geographic Young Explorer Grant and Peter Bannister Student Field Grant) and supervisors Dr Janice Lord and Dr Barbara Anderson (Landcare), boarded the Tiama, a small yacht, and began the voyage to Enderby Island – an island located at the top of the Auckland Island group in the sub-Antarctic. After almost two days of sailing and a few bouts of sea sickness, the group of scientists and explorers arrived at their destination…but why?

The sub-Antarctic islands are some of the harshest and most remote islands in the world, and harsh and isolated environments tend to have plants with flowers that are small and drab, relying on environmental (e.g. wind) pollination rather than animal (e.g. insect) pollinators. Yet these islands are home to a fantastic array of snbrightly coloured plants found nowhere else in the world. While their New Zealand mainland counterparts are mostly white, the Sub Antarctic islands are home to red-flowering daises (Pleurophyllum criniferum, P. hookeri and P. speciosum), large yellow Bulbinella rossii and blue forget-me-nots (Myosotis Antarctica and M. capitata). However, bees, the most effective group of pollinators, are not present on the islands. Preliminary work by Dr Janice Lord on the sub-Antarctic has shown strange biotic interactions, such as weta and potentially weevils acting as effective pollen vectors. Alongside these examples, moths are strong candidates as possible pollinators.

Very little is known about the moth community in the Sub-Antarctic – with only 45 known species on the Auckland Islands compared to around 1800 described species on mainland New Zealand, with a few hundred more still to be described. During a previous visit, Max and Janice observed a large Noctuid, or Owlet Moth (species unknown) actively foraging upon Bulbinella rossii, with pollen visibly present on the body. However, visitation does not necessarily mean that pollen is actively being removed and transported (thus pollination actually occurring) and no data in relation to moths is available. Max’s Master’s will document both the unique moth fauna of these islands and the role that moths play, if any, as pollinators for the native plants. If moths are indeed found to be pollinators in any capacity, it will be the first documentation of this occurring in the Sub-Antarctic.

At this stage, the moth bodies have been swabbed for pollen and sent to Dr Robert Hoare (Landcare) for accurate identification, with the hopes of one or more of the moths being identified as being a new species to science. At this stage, they cannot confidently confirm nor deny that moths are acting as pollinators in this region, so stay tuned!


From left to right, Barbara Anderson, Max Buxton and Janice Lord on Enderby Island.

Masters in Plant Biotechnology Awarded

Tuesday 12th January, 2016

Congratulations to Liya Mathew on being awarded her MSc in Plant Biotechnology. Liya was supervised by David Burritt and her MSc title was “Understanding the significance of pre-treatment in the post-cryopreservation survival of kiwifruit shoot tips through biochemical and ultrastructural studies”. Well done Liya!.