Professor Robert Poulin
Since arriving here from Canada in 1992, I have established a research programme in parasite ecology and evolution that focuses on broad questions and not on any particular taxa. Currently, our research has three main branches, reflecting my main long-term interests. First, we investigate the forces shaping the evolution of parasites, in particular the evolution of life history traits such as body size and fecundity, host specificity, the ability to manipulate host behaviour, and the complexity of the transmission pathways. Second, we are studying the role of parasites in freshwater and coastal marine ecosystems, i.e. how they affect community diversity and productivity and food web stability, and how parasitism may interact with climate change to influence the properties of ecosystems. Third, I have long been exploring large-scale patterns of parasite biodiversity and biogeography, in the hope of better understanding the processes behind the diversification and distribution of parasites and diseases.
Dr Eddy Dowle (Research Fellow)
Originally from Otago, I completed my PhD at Massey University (New Zealand) in 2014. Following my PhD, I took up a short-term position at the Cawthron Institute in Nelson before moving to the USA to work at the University of Colorado. My previous work has focused on using genomic techniques to explore genetic diversity and environmental adaptation in several invertebrate species. But I have broad research interests in evolution, genomics and development. My current work at Otago (in collaboration with Prof. Neil Gemmell, Anatomy Dept.) focuses on using genomic techniques (transcriptomics and bi-sulphite sequencing) to understand how nematomorph and nematode parasites manipulate their normally terrestrial arthropod hosts to seek water. Visit my website.
Dr Amandine Sabadel (Research Fellow)
Hi everyone, my name is Amandine, and I am originally from France, where I completed a BSc in chemistry and a MSc in nuclear chemistry at the Université Montpellier II. I then moved to Vancouver, Canada, and worked at the NRC/CNRC on the development of proton-exchange membrane fuel cells. After a year there, I relocated to the other side of the world to complete a PhD in marine isotope biogeochemistry from the University of Otago, Dunedin, in 2015. Fast-forward a few years of postdoctoral experience, I am now a Research Fellow at the University of Otago and an isotope consultant at the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric research (NIWA), Wellington. It is hard to fit my research interests into one category as I work across a lot of different fields of research, but overall, I consider myself an isotope bio-geo-eco-chemist! I am joining the Parasite Lab as I was awarded a Marsden Fast-Start grant to investigate the trophic interactions between a parasite and its host(s), using compound-specific stable isotope analyses.
Dr Priscila Salloum (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)
Born and raised in Brazil, I completed a BSc and teaching degree in Biological Sciences, at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), where I also did a MSc in Molecular Biology and Evolution. I moved to the University of Auckland to undertake a PhD, unravelling population genomics of brooding chitons that raft in kelp. My PhD showed me the power of genomics as a tool to understand diversity and evolution, and raised many questions that would require further genomic resources to be generated. This led me to a short postdoc sequencing a chiton genome and transcriptome, also at the University of Auckland. My main research interest is understanding the diversification of phenotypes and the role of different factors (genetics, environment, and microbiomes!) on evolution. Now at the University of Otago, I will be using the genomics toolbox to better understand the role of microbiomes in manipulating the phenotype of parasites and their hosts, as a window to understand phenotype diversification driven by the composition and abundance of microbial communities. Visit my website.
Antoine Filion (PhD student)
Coming from the infamous poutine world of Quebec (Canada), I graduated as a bioecology technician in Montreal where I first had the chance to take a glance at the parasite world by doing an internship on parasite abundance in Corsica streams (University of Corsica, France). Afterwards, I decided to continue my parasite studies further at the Université du Québec in Trois-Rivières (UQTR), where I did my BSc and MSc on biotic and abiotic variables driving the abundance and prevalence of two genera of trematodes, Apophallus and Crepidostomum, in an economically important fish, brook charr (Salvelinus fontinalis). At this point, I became really captivated about the multiple interactions in the environment that were influencing pathways of parasite transmission! Therefore, I intend to pursue my research in this area by studying the outbreak synchrony of the main parasites that cause malaria, Plasmodium spp., in their two main hosts, mosquitoes and birds, by using non-invasive sampling methods (e.g. thermal cameras). By doing so, I aim to provide new knowledge to be used for conservation purposes, as well as a better understanding of parasite transmission dynamics and inter-species synchrony patterns in natural systems.
Upendra Bhattarai (PhD student)
I am from Nepal, where I completed a BSc in agriculture from Tribhuvan University (2005-2009). I got my Masters degree from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, in Ås, Norway (2010-2012). My thesis research was on the effects of infection by the fungus Neozygites floridana in female Tetranychus urticae mites on the sexual behaviour of males, conducted at the Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research. I also worked there as a research technician (part-time) for about a year. My first PhD was in Agricultural Entomology and Pest control from the Northwest A&F University in China (2014-2018). My research focus then was on the mechanism of altered behavioural responses (hyperactivity and tree-top disease) in lepidopteran larvae induced by their pathogenic baculoviruses. I am now in my Second PhD at the University of Otago. My research focuses on the molecular basis of suicidal water-seeking behaviour in arthropod hosts induced by parasitic nematodes.
Jerusha Bennett (PhD student)
Kia Ora, I grew up in Geraldine, NZ, and received my BSc here at the University of Otago. I then completed a MSc in Ecology, again at Otago, focusing on cestode parasites of the New Zealand rough skate, Zearaja nasuta, and determining their trophic transmission routes. Following this, along with Bronwen Presswell, I investigated the biodiversity of parasites in birds and fishes of New Zealand. This work involved taxonomy and new species descriptions, and the use of genetic markers to resolve life cycles. This research was (and still is) conducted in partnership with Otago Museum, and serves to assemble what will become New Zealand's largest parasite collection. At present, I am doing a PhD that expands on this past work: I aim to map parasite transmission patterns on the entire food web of the Otago coastal ecosystem, using genetic tools to match larval and adult helminth stages across all major food chains. This work will not only resolve the partially known life cycles of some parasites, but no doubt also identify many new species.
Daniela de Angeli Dutra (PhD student)
Hello, I'm a biologist from Brazil (and no, I do not know how to dance samba). I obtained a Masters degree in Ecology from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG). Throughout my studies, I conducted laboratory research in the Parasitology department at the Institute of Biological Sciences. During this period, I dedicated myself to the study of hemoparasites of the order Haemosporida infecting wild animals, investigating the interaction between hosts, parasites and the environment in which they live. These studies allowed me to acquire knowledge about the various ecological interactions between parasites and their vertebrate and invertebrate hosts, providing me with an interdisciplinary perspective between ecology, evolution and parasitology. Now, for my doctorate, I intend to evaluate the importance of bird migration for the transmission of avian haemosporidians, and for their local diversity and prevalence.
Xuhong Chai [Rose] (MSc student)
I am originally from China. I came to New Zealand for a working holiday in 2012 and in the end managed to live here. I worked for several years in a factory and then realised I really wanted a job where I could use my brain instead of just fast hands. Being a Zoologist was always my childhood dream, so I decided to go to study at the University of Otago in 2017. Fascinated by how parasites can manipulate host behaviour, I contacted Robert to volunteer in his lab to learn more about the topic. I have been volunteering in Robert's lab since 2018 and developed an interest in the ecology and evolution of parasites. I have just completed my Bachelor of Science degree with a Zoology major and Ecology minor in 2019. Now I'm starting my Master of Science degree focusing on deep-sea parasites. I hope to investigate the parasite communities of different species of rattail fish and also the co-evolutionary history of different species of trematodes with their rattail hosts.
Dr Bronwen Presswell (Scientific Officer & Lab Manager)
I am from the UK where I gained a Masters in Advanced Methods in Taxonomy and Biodiversity at the Natural History Museum, London. For my PhD at Glasgow University and the NHM, I studied the morphological and molecular systematics of Indian caecilians at the intraspecific level. I currently investigate the identities and life cycles of parasitic helminths that are found in, and on, New Zealand wildlife, from invertebrates to fishes, elasmobranchs and birds. The parasitic worms of NZ wildlife have not been well studied, and I continue to find and describe new species all the time, and complete life cycles for species known only as larvae. A collaboration with the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital has allowed me access to their deceased birds, which have yielded hundreds of parasite specimens, forming probably the largest parasite collection in New Zealand, which has been submitted to the Otago Museum. Using molecular, histological, scanning electron microscope and other methods I hope to fill a few gaps in our knowledge of this parasite fauna.