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News & Events Archive, 2015

Alan Awarded the Botanical Society of New Zealanad's Allan Mere Award

Wednesday 9th December, 2015

We are delighted to announce that Alan Mark has been awarded the 2015 Allan Mere Award for his outstanding contributions to botany over a life time of distinguished botanical work.

Anthony Wright, President of the New Zealand Botanical Society, will be coming to Dunedin to present the precious greenstone/pounamu Allan Mere to Alan. There will also be a presentation entitled, "Images and Adventures", which will tell the stories and show the places where some of the photos selected for Alan's Book, Above the Treeline, were obtained.

Everyone is invited to come and celebrate this special occasion in the Benham Seminar Room, Room 215, on the second floor of the new wing on the Zoology Building, 346 Great King Street, beside the Captain Cook Hotel.

Please be prompt, as the door will only be held open until 5.30 pm.

Update to the Herbarium Type Specimens Page

Tuesday 24th November, 2015

There has been an sizable update to the Herbarium Type Specimens page, an additional 30 images have been added to the collection online.

The Otago Regional Herbarium was Founded by Professor Geoff Baylis in the 1950s, and is one of a network covering New Zealand. It is now the second largest herbarium in the South Island, and the largest university herbarium in New Zealand.

Any questions about the Otago Regional Herbarium can be directed to

Science Communication Internship Video Projects

Monday 16th November, 2015

As part of the Science Communication's Master of Applied Science Communication (MAppSc), students are expected to apply practical skills learned from their previous Science Communication papers. One part of the course (SCOM404) requires the completion of a significant creative product in the third semester, such as a book, film, or exhibition. 

Scott Bagley, one of Science Communication's students undertook interviews with a number of our current students and staff, interviewing them about the kinds of research work they're engaged in.

Esther Dale

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Greg Nelson

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Jaz Morris & Roly Taylor

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Dr Linn Hoffmann

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A big thanks goes out to Scott for allowing us to use his excellent videos.

Up Coming Talk: Evolution of Plant Sexual Diversity: Natural History to Genomics

Monday 19th October, 2015

Spencer C.H. Barrett. University Professor, Canada Research Chair, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto.

Plants exhibit unrivalled diversity in the ways they reproduce including clonal propagation, self-fertilization, and mating with numerous partners simultaneously.

Understanding plant sexual diversity is of importance for both basic and applied research, and I will show how diverse approaches from Darwinian natural history to genomics have provided novel insights into sex lives of plants.

A PDF copy of the flyer is available.

Date Monday 2nd November, 2015
Time 12 Noon
Audience Public Lecture
Campus Dunedin
Location Hutton Lecture Theatre, Otago Museum
Cost Free

Department Seminar - Dr Ralf Ohlemüller

Monday 19th October, 2015

Dr Ralf Ohlemüller from the Department of Geography is the next speaker in our department's 2015 seminar line up. The Title of Ralf's talk is Should I stay or should I go? Biogeographical consequences of past and future shifts in climate space.

Ralf's talk is on the 29th of October, and more information is available on our Seminars page.

Standing My Ground, - A Voice for Nature Conservation

Monday 12th October, 2015

The department wishes to congratulate Emeritus Professor Sir Alan Mark on the recent publication of his memoirs.

As well as providing an important record of New Zealand’s conservation battles and documenting the life of an outstanding New Zealander, Standing My Ground is an inspiring reminder of the power of individuals to make a difference.

More information on Alan's book can be found on the Otago University Press website, and the Otago Daily Times.

Congratulations to Catriona Hurd

Thursday 8th October 2015

Congratulations to Catriona Hurd a former Associate Professor in Botany (now with the Institute of Marina and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania) for her recent paper in Nature Climate Change.

This study examined responses of diatoms to multiple environmental stressors that mimic conditions we expect to see as climate change progresses.

A significant part of the work reported here was conducted while Catriona was in Dunedin.

More information on Catriona's paper is available on Nature's website.

September News Update

Friday 2nd October 2015

Staff in the department have been busy recently, which has resulted in quite a bit of good news. Here's a quick summary, in no particular order:

David Orlovich and Hasseb Randhawa were nominees for OUSA's annual Teaching Awards. These awards recognise excellence in teaching, demonstrating and tutoring, as identified by students. Well done David and Haseeb.

Alan Mark's book, Standing My Ground: A Voice for Nature Conservation, was reviewed on Radio New Zealand. A very informative review of the book and a great reminder of Alan's massive contribution to both ecology as a science and environmental stewardship.

Botany staff were involved in two successful bids for University "Research Themes". Kath Dickinson (along the Department of Zoology's Phil Seddon and Gerry Closs) were successful in their bid for a Research Theme on Integrated Catchment Management. Paul Guy was involved in another successful bid called "Ag at Otago". These bids were over subscribed, so it's great that we're involved in two successes here! These research themes are financially supported  for 5 years. Great news and a great opportunity to develop collaborations across the university.

And in other news: Hollywood acknowledges that Botanists are awesome, which coincidentally is timed nicely NASA's VEG 1 experiment.

Type Specimens at Otago Regional Herbarium

Monday 21st September 2015


There has been a significant update to the Type Specimens available to view on our Herbarium pages. Please visit the Type Specimens page to see a sample of some of the collections available in the Otago Herbarium.

This is a work in progress, so images will be added as they come available. High resolution images can be made available on request.

Questions about the specimens can be directed to, and further information can be found on our Herbarium pages.

The department would like to thank Mike Thorsen for capturing these images for us.

September Seminar - Professor Clive Ronson, Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Monday 21st September 2015

Professor Clive Ronson, from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology will talking at our up coming seminar on Thursday 24th of September. The title of Clive's talk is 'Recognition in the Mesorhizobium-Lotus symbiosis – how rhizobia sweet-talk their way into plants.'

Legumes inoculated with compatible rhizobia form nodule primordia from new cell divisions in the root cortex in response to Nod factors produced by rhizobia, and simultaneously a bacterial infection process targets these primordia.

More information is available.

2015 Student Colloquium

Monday 7th September 2015

Keep Friday 9th of October reserved in your calendar for the 2015 student Colloquium!

The event is open to all, please RSVP via the on-line form. So come along and hear what research our students have been working on.

The event runs from 10am until 2 pm, and will be based in the Physical Education seminar room, room 214.

A special thanks to the Botanical Society of Otago for sponsoring the colloquium, and our guest lecturer Angela Brandt, from Landcare Research.

John Smaillie Tennant Lecture

Monday 7th September 2015

This year, the John Smaillie Tennant lecture is being given by Professor David Bowman, School of Biological Sciences at the University of Tasmania.

David's talk is titled Humans and fire in Australian food webs from the Pleistocene to the Anthropocene.

More information on David's talk can be found on our seminars page. All welcome.

Wednesday 7 October, 2015
Time 6:00pm
Audience Public Lecture
Campus Dunedin
Location Archway 2 Lecture Theatre, University of Otago
Cost Free

Baylis Lecture Speaker Professor Steven Higgins. The discovery of slowness: life in the plant lane.

Monday 7th September 2015

Professor Steven Higgins, our head of department is giving the 13th annual Geoff Baylis Lecture.

The title of Steven's talk is The discovery of slowness: life in the plant lane.

Plants do many fantastic things, but they do them slowly, which make it difficult for us to appreciate them. How then will plants cope with rapid environmental change and our short attention spans?

Plants are reputedly obedient. After all they stand still and wait to be counted. But this apparent obedience masks their power as the true engineers of our planet and their disregard for human beings. It is an open secret that plants made the planet we now find so cosy—they manipulated the atmosphere, created soil and shaped our climate. Plants are of course under appreciated, and for good reason, for unlike competing deities it took plants more than seven days to achieve their wonders. But before the Anthropocene such slowness was not persecuted. Back in deep time, better did not mean faster. In deep time plants were afforded the time to evolve their way out of crises, re-engineering the world as they went. But the rules of the game are changing, our world is faster and the next crisis will not play out on geological time scales. How will plants deal with being forced into the fast lane?

Hosted by the Botanical Society of Otago, in conjunction with the Department of Botany.

Drinks and nibbles from 5:15 pm in the Castle Concourse.

Wednesday 9th September, 2015
Time 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Audience Public
Event Category Sciences
Event Type Public Lecture
Campus Dunedin
Department Botany
Location Castle 1 Lecture Theatre, University of Otago, Access from Albany Street
Cost Free
Contact Name David Lyttle (BSO)

September Seminars - Kyrin Hanning & Kyle Hemming

Monday 7th September 2015

Two of our honours students Kyrin and Kyle will be giving a joint seminar on the progress and outcomes of their honours projects.

Kyrin Hanning, Plant Biotechnology, University of Otago

Investigating genetic instability in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803.

Spontaneous mutations in a Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 strain provided a unique opportunity to evaluate the importance of several genes. Phenotypes associated with light intensity, temperature, photoperiod and metabolism were investigated, and the potential of different mutations to contribute to these phenotypes was assessed. The implications of rapid spontaneous mutations for cyanobacteria in research and biotechnology will be discussed.

Kyle Hemming, Department of Botany, University of Otago

Mung bean performance under salinity-stress following electropriming treatment.

Testing if a novel electropriming technique, using a pulse electric field (PEF) treatment, improves mung bean seedling performance under adverse environmental conditions.

Summer Studentships 2015/2016

Friday 28th August 2015

There will be one Department of Botany based, two Landcare Research based, Summer Studentships available in 2015/16.

Summer Studentships provide support to students who intend to enrol for study at the University of Otago in 2016. These Summer Studentships 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. A Summer Studentship can be a very good way to gain practical experience in botany and they can often lead to further research opportunities.

Value: $5,000 (tax-free) for 10 weeks over summer commencing around 9th November 2015 with the latest finishing date being 19 February 2016.
To apply: please complete the application form which can be downloaded from

August Seminar - Sir Alan Mark

Friday 14th August 2015

Emeritus Professor Sir Alan Mark will be giving a seminar on Thursday 27th of August in the Physical Education Seminar Room 213/214, at 55 Union Street West, starting at 3.30pm.

The title of Alan's talk is "Advocating for nature conservation in New Zealand: Is there a dilemma?"

Alan will discuss several of his research projects in pure and applied ecology and their relevance to sustainable management in a range of indigenous ecosystems, with relevance to nature conservation, over his professional career as an academic plant ecologist.

More information on Alan's talk is available.

Lettuce in Space?!

Thursday 13th August 2015

NASA's VEG-01 experiment reached a milestone recently, with several astronauts eating the first ever fresh lettuce grown entirely in space (although within relative comfort of the International Space Station).

The video below shows Scott Kelly, Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui enjoying a sample of the first crop.

A brief overview of NASA's Veg-01 experiment can be found on Arstechnica, or for more information, visit NASA's website.

Tree Domination of the World’s Savannas May Slow Down

Thursday 13th August, 2015

Steve Higgins' recent paper on the possible reduction in the rate of tree growth in savannas has been in the news lately. Work done in the Kruger Park suggests nitrogen cycling will significantly slow as trees advance, and that this may in turn limit the rate at which trees encroach into savannas.

More information on Steve's paper can be found on the Otago website, and at

July Seminar - Dr Heidi M. Meudt, Research Scientist, Botany, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Tuesday 21st July, 2015

Dr Heidi M. Meudt, Research Scientist from Te Papa will be giving a talk on Thursday 30th of July at 3.30 p.m.

Heidi's talk will cover Integrative systematics and evolution of New Zealand flowering plants.

More information on Heidi's talk is available on our seminars page.

PhD Project-Effect of ocean acidification on natural Southern Ocean phytoplankton communities

Tuesday 30th July, 2015

Tina and Linn seek a student interested in beginning a PhD on the Effect of ocean acidification on natural Southern Ocean phytoplankton communities.

More information about the PhD project is available on our scholarships page.

June Seminar - Gregory Nelson, PhD Candidate, University of Otago, Dunedin

Monday 22nd June, 2015

Gregory Nelson, PhD Candidate, University of Otago, Dunedin

Thursday 25th June, Physical Education Seminar Room 213/21455 Union Street West 3.30pm.

How does niche occupancy change through evolutionary time for diverse New Zealand clades?

More information about Greg's talk is available on our seminars page.

May Seminar - Dr Adrian Monks Landcare Research, Dunedin

Tuesday 26th May, 2015

Dr Adrian Monks, Landcare Research, Dunedin

Thursday 28th May Physical Education Seminar Room 213/21455 Union Street West 3.30pm.

Climate cues, nutrient hits and the mechanics of mast seeding

The importance of the mast seeding strategy to the autecology of masting species and as drivers of ecosystem processes is now widely appreciated, especially given the conservation implications of masting in New Zealand. However, mechanistic explanations for masting dynamics have historically eluded us, holding back our ability to accurately predict the spatiotemporal variability in mast seeding and future mast scenarios under a changing climate.

More on Adrian's talk is available

Congratulations Jaz

Wednesday 19th May, 2015

The Otago Institute's Postgraduate Travel Award competition was a resounding success. The presentations were temporarily postponed while additional seating was located to accommodate the large number of attendees.  

The quality of presentation were excellent, with Jaz's talk, genome mutation and pH-stress tolerance in a cyanobacterium deficient in Photosystem II activity, placing second. 

Otago Institute for the Arts and Sciences postgraduate talk

Wednesday 6th May, 2015

Congratulations to Jaz Morris for making it as a finalist in the 2015 Otago Institute Postgraduate Travel Award.

The Otago Institute, a branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand, offers scholarships to assist young Otago/Southland researchers to travel overseas as part of their post-graduate study. The monetary award is of $1500 to the winner and $500 to one runner-up, and is to be used to support travel.

Talk title: The acid test: genome mutation confers pH-stress tolerance in a cyanobacterium deficient in Photosystem II activity.

The public talk will be held on the 14th of May, in the Kakapo room at the Otago Museum.

The Red Flanders Poppy, ANZAC remembrance 2015

Friday 24th April, 2015

Poppies have always been associated with sleep and peace due to their opiates.

The Red Anzac Poppy Papaver rhoeas has come to symbolise peace because it was one of the first plants to appear after the mud-fields of WW1 fell quiet.

Its small seeds can last 80 years in the soil.


This Herbarium specimen was collected in Turkey in 1916.

Janice Lord Awarded the 2015 Leonard Cockayne Memorial Lecture Tour

Tuesday 22nd April , 2015

Dr. Janice Lord has been awarded the 2015 Leonard Cockayne Memorial Lecture Tour for her work on the floral biology in New Zealand alpine and subantarctic zones. Janice joins a small group of academics to be awarded the honour.

More information on Janice's talk, titled "Flowers in the fridge: Floral biology in New Zealand alpine and subantarctic zones", is available on The Royal Society website.

The Leonard Cockayne Lectures are to commemorate the life and work of Leonard Cockayne by the encouragement of botanical research in New Zealand.

April Seminar - David Orlovich

Tuesday 22nd April , 2015

Dr. David Orlovich will be giving a seminar on the 30th of April, in the Physical Education seminar room (213/214), 55 Union Street West at 3:30 pm. 

David's talk is titled "Exploring the canopy soil microhabitat".

More information on David's talk can be found on our seminar page.

Recent PhD Submissions

Tuesday 24th March , 2015

Congratulations to Rocio Suarez Jimenez and Christa Miller on submitting hardbound copies of their theses!

Rocio's thesis is titled “The ecology of the invasive kelp Undaria pinnatifida: functioning at an ecosystem level”. Rocio is currently in Spain with her parents and family, busily revising manuscripts and submitting new manuscripts from her thesis. She plans to apply for funding for postdoctoral fellowships. We wish her all the best for her future career!

Christa's thesis, is titled “The impact of introduced flowering species on alpine plant-pollinator networks in southern New Zealand”. Christa now works for MPI in Biosecurity, is writing two papers and plans to attend a conference in Perth, Scotland later in the year.

Botany's de Beer Gallery Collection available online

Monday 23rd March, 2015

As part of our 90th celebrations in late 2014, the library Special Collections curated an exhibition about the department.

We're pleased to announced that the exhibition, titled Botany: Our Heritage, Our Future is available to view online. A Celebration of Teaching and Research at the University of Otago, Dunedin, ran between 11 September - 5 December 2014, at the de Beer Gallery, University of Otago Library.

The exhibit records more than 90 years of the department's history, and is well worth a visit;

Ten Surprising Food Facts

Friday 20th March, 2015

Be sure to check out this recent ODT article by Dr Jocelyn Eason on 10 surprising facts about popular Kiwi foods. Jocelyn was a Botany student, and is now Plant and Food Research's General Manager Science Food Innovation.

March Seminars

Monday 9th March, 2015

The second seminar of 2015 is being given Dr Simon Jackson from the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Otago.

Simon's talk will cover characterization of the response of Synechococcus 7002 to nitrogen limitation.

More information on Simon's talk can be found on our seminars page.

Congratulations to Steve and Robert on the Publication of their Recent Paper in Nature Climate Change

Monday 2nd March, 2015

A paper by Robert Buitenwerf (now at Landcare Research) and Steven Higgins was published in Nature Climate Change today. The paper analyses 30 odd years of satellite data on leaf phenology and shows that most of the land-surface has undergone substantial change phenological behaviour.
The paper is currently highlighted on the front page of Nature Climate Change (hurrah for Botany!).

More information on their paper can be found in the university press release.

Robert and Steve's article is available to view online at Nature Climate Change's website.

Visit us on Facebook

Tuesday 24th February, 2015

To help us better communicate with students in the department, and members of the public, the we have started our own profile on Facebook.

So come visit us and post a comment at

First Seminar of 2015, Dr Robert Hofstede

Wednesday 2nd February, 2015

First talk of 2015 is by Dr Robert Hofstede, Visiting researcher to the department. Robert is a Consultant to International Organisations in Tropical Nature Conservation and Environmental Policy

Robert's talk is titled 'Nature Conservation in South America: a love story'.

Keep up to Date with the Department's Copier and Print Changes

Wednesday 10th December, 2014

There are changes coming to the way the department manages printing and copying for both staff and students. More information is available about these changes on the Print and Copy page.

Information on the Print and Copy page will be updated as we progress.

Hear Steve and Kath on the National Programme’s Our Changing World

Thursday 4th December, 2014

Recently both Steve Higgins and Kath Dickinson were interviewed by Allison Ballance on Radio New Zealand National’s Our Changing World programme.

Their interviews cover some of the research projects they have been involved in. Steve discusses invasive pest species in and their economic and environmental impact on New Zealand, and Kath discusses the importance of domestic gardens in supporting biodiversity, and how a little knowledge of native species passed to gardeners can help maintain this diversity.

More information about Steve’s and Kath’s research, and to hear their interviews, visit the Our Changing World webpage.

Botany Department 90th Celebrations

From the 10th to the 12th of September 2014, members of the department - both past and present - celebrated the 90th year of Botany at the University of Otago.

A brief history of the department is available on our About page

More information about the event can be found on the 90th celebrations page.

Botany - Our Heritage; Our Future, A celebration of 90 years of Botany teaching at the University of Otago

Tuesday 9th September, 2014

We welcome all to join us in celebrating 90 years of teaching and research excellence at the Central library's Charles Brasch Court

The Special Collections is running a unique assortment of historic objects showcasing the history and development of the Department of Botany over its 90 years.

The collection will be available for viewing from 11th of September to the 5th of December 2014. More information available. 

Quinoa Page update

Thursday 4th September, 2014

Paul's Quinoa page has Received some updates, so be sure to visit.

Janice Lord's Radio New Zealand interview about Flora Finder now available

Thursday 24th July, 2014

Recently Janice Lord was interviewed by Radio New Zealand National’s Alison Ballance about the development of Flora Finder, the New Zealand native plant identification tool.

The interview covers a number of topics, including Flora Finder’s development, and its recent use as part of the International Science Festival’s BioBlitz.

Janice’s interview is available to download or stream from Radio New Zealand National’s Our Changing World page.