Monica Vallender

Monica is a first-generation student from a rural background, completing a PhD in genetics with the University of Otago and AgResearch. Monica is co-supervised by Prof. Neil Gemmell and Dr Alana Alexander at the University of Otago, and Dr Shannon Clarke and Dr Ken Dodds at AgResearch.   

Monica completed her BSc at Otago University, majoring in genetics with a focus on forensics, biological chemistry and molecular biology. After a summer research project with the AgResearch bioinformatics team, Monica accepted an offer to begin a 1-year postgraduate degree jointly supervised by AgResearch and the University of Otago. Her project examined the population structure and diversity of New Zealand Chinook salmon in collaboration with the Cawthon Institute, who provided the findings to Fish and Game NZ to support their current management strategies.

Monica has since upgraded this project. First to a master’s degree and then to a PhD. Monica’s PhD is titled Applied Genomics of New Zealand Chinook Salmon and focuses on two major projects:  population genetics and sexual selection, both within the overarching theme of applied bioinformatics and genomics.

The first project within Monica’s PhD is continuing the work on population genetics of free-living Chinook salmon in New Zealand. Monica’s interest here is to reveal the genetic structure of NZ Chinook salmon meta-population and investigate evolutionary changes that have occurred. Monica’s second major project looks at Cryptic Female Choice (CFC). This project aims to discover the gene or region in Chinook salmon that allows female salmon to identify and select specific sperm that fertilise their eggs through CFC. This continues from earlier works by Patrice Rosengrave and Cornelia Geßner in the Gemmell lab and utilises next generation sequencing technology. 

Monica’s research interests include bioinformatics and applied statistics, quantitative genetics, and evolutionary biology. Monica intends to continue working on applied genomics in the future. 

Monica by her poster at a conference in July 2023.
Monica by her poster at the SMBE conference in Ferrara, Italy, July 2023.

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