Lara has received funding for two research projects that focus on the conservation and monitoring of two of our native bird species - the takahē (Porphyrio hochstetteri) and the kākāpō (Strigops habroptilus).
Takahē genomics project
A grant from the Revive & Restore Wild Genomes Catalyst Science Fund, worth US$53,750, was received by Lara for her takahē genomics project. She will be assessing the genomic diversity of the takahē species by creating a reference genome, and sequencing a representative subset of the remaining population to then understand the impact of inbreeding and deleterious mutations on the species’ overall fitness.
She will be collaborating directly with members of the Department of Conservation’s Takahē Recovery Programme so her results will be directly translated into the conservation management of the species.
The flightless takahē is now found in only two areas of the South Island - Fiordland National Park and Kahurangi National Park in the Tasman district. Today, takahē are classified as Nationally Vulnerable, with a population of just over 400 birds.
To learn more about the takahē recovery programme visit the website of the Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai.
Kākāpō environmental DNA project
Lara has also received a BirdsNZ grant for her kākāpō environmental DNA (eDNA) research project. She will be working in close collaboration with the Department of Conservation’s Kākākō Recovery Team. Together, they will benchmark how accurate non-invasive monitoring of kākāpō is, based on DNA extracted from environmental samples such as soil and water.
This research will help monitor the kākāpō population in the future, and might even help the team to find remaining kākāpō in the wild - if they still exist.
The nocturnal and flightless kākāpō is critically endangered, with a population of just over 200 in the wild. The entire known population was transferred to predator-free islands surrounding Stewart Island and Fiordland in the 1990s.
To learn more about the kākāpō recovery programme, visit the Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai website.
Lara is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Professor Neil Gemmell’s research lab. As well as her takahē and kākāpō research, she is also involved in metagenomics and biodiversity (eDNA) research within the Gemmell lab.
Follow her on Twitter to keep up-to-date with her research adventures.