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Botany’s Team Motany celebrates a double Marsden success

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Botany's Associate Professor David Orlovich (left)and Dr Matt Larcombe are thrilled with their department's success in the recently announced Marsden funding round - and are among eight members of the department's Motany team supporting Movember.

Head of Botany Associate Professor David Orlovich still has a smile on his face after receiving the good news of his team’s recent Marsden Fund grant success.

The Department of Botany have an extra good reason to celebrate as Dr Matt Larcombe also received a Marsden Fast-Start grant for his research in understanding how ecology impacts the evolution of patterns of species diversity.

Associate Professor Orlovich and Dr Tina Summerfield’s project will seek to discover and understand the genetic mechanisms that have given rise to a rich diversity of colourful truffle-like fungi in native forests.

“New Zealand's native beech forests depend on native symbiotic fungi for survival, so this project will be a big step in our research on native fungi,” Associate Professor Orlovich says.

"We are all contributors to making the world a better place, and to achieve our research aims we use a wide range of tools from genetics and biochemistry to remote sensing, in the lab and field, and increasingly computational tools to analyse big data sets."

The team’s recent research has focused on discovering new species of truffle-like fungi and their close mushroom relatives, and this project will compare genetic changes across mushroom-truffle species pairs to gain an understanding of the common genetic mechanisms that give rise to New Zealand's unique truffle species.

The Head of Department says Botany’s double Marsden success reflects the close alignment of the values and goals of staff and students with the wider community, who want to live sustainably and leave the world a better place.

“We are all contributors to making the world a better place, and to achieve our research aims we use a wide range of tools from genetics and biochemistry to remote sensing, in the lab and field, and increasingly computational tools to analyse big data sets.”

Dr Larcombe says receiving the Fast-Start will help facilitate important collaborations with top scientists in Australia and Europe and improve the quality of the science undertaken.

“Ultimately I’m motivated to understand how plants evolve, why they exist where they do, and how that’s likely to change in the future. This grant will allow me to do that for the next three years,” Dr Larcombe says.

Associate Professor Orlovich acknowledges the work of many colleagues, especially Dr Tina Summerfield, Dr David Chyou and Dr Chris Brown, as well as many students who have all contributed to this success for Botany.

“Inspiring students to discover the natural world is one of my main motivators,” Associate Professor Orlovich says.

“Doing research such as this helps me better understand fungi, plants and our forests, putting me in a better position to tell people about how amazing and wonderful it all is!”

For the month of November, the Botany pair have also joined six others in the department participating in Movember for men’s health awareness. Please follow their moustache progress and support this great cause here.