Evolution research

Our research themes in the area of evolution integrate a range of scientific disciplines, including experimental evolution, parasitology, infectious disease, the evolution of individuality, genetics and proteins. Our interests also span hierarchical levels from genes to chromosomes, to cells, to kin-groups to ecosystems.

Areas of expertise

Adaptive radiation

Adaptive radiation

Adaptive radiation is the rapid splitting of a single lineage into a range of niche adapted types. We are especially interested in the underlying ecological, evolutionary and genetic mechanisms that drive diversification. Our approach is experimental.

 

Evolution of individuality

Evolution of individuality

Cooperation is central to the emergence of multicellular life, however it is unclear how the earliest collectives maintained integrity against destructive cheating types. Our work propagates simple cooperating lineages of bacteria under regimes that reward collective-level fecundity.

Evolutionary genetics

Evolutionary genetics

We work on the genetics of diversification, reverse evolution and rules of genetic evolution. Understanding why selection favours one genotype over another drives much of our work. 

Ecological genetics

Ecological genetics

This area examines genetic bases of traits expressed specifically on plant surfaces. Understanding the biological significance of genetic traits, their contribution to ecological performance and the regulatory networks that control their expression is central to our interests. 

Emergence of infectious diseases

Emergence of infectious diseases

We focus on the origins of disease and the genetic structure of pathogen populations. Of particular interest to us is the kiwifruit pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidae, the human commensal and sometime pathogen Staphylococcus aureus and the community ecology of the cystic fibrosis lung. 

Comparative genomics

Comparative genomics

Understanding the genome is central for studies ranging from disease and cancer to fundamental questions in evolution. By unravelling the information in genomes we are learning to unlock the secrets of life’s building blocks.


Research projects 

Examples of projects from some of the evolution group at Massey University.

The evolution of cancer

The key to understanding some of biology’s most profound problems – the origins of multicellularity; the origins of soma/germ differentiation, of reproduction, of development, even of cancer – could be contained in a better understanding the emergence of primordial life cycles.

Effectiveness of self-sanitising copper in hospitals

Research is taking place to investigate the prevention of healthcare associated infection by applying self-sanitising copper surfaces to items commonly touched in hospitals, which can provide sustained protection against microbial contamination. 

KEY CONTACT

  • Distinguished Professor Paul Rainey

    Distinguished Professor
    New Zealand Institute for Advanced Study

    Email:

Our people working in this area

  • Dr David Aguirre

    Dr David Aguirre

    Senior Lecturer in Marine Ecology - Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences

    Email:

  • Dr Heather Hendrickson

    Dr Heather Hendrickson

    Senior Lecturer - Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences

    Email:

  • Dr Libby Liggins

    Dr Libby Liggins

    Lecturer in Marine Ecology - Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences

    Email:

  • Prof Thomas Pfeiffer

    Prof Thomas Pfeiffer

    Professor in Computational Biology/Biochemistry - New Zealand Institute for Advanced Study

    Email:

  • Distinguished Professor Paul Rainey

    Distinguished Professor Paul Rainey

    Distinguished Professor - New Zealand Institute for Advanced Study

    Email:

  • Dr Sebastian Schmeier

    Dr Sebastian Schmeier

    Senior Lecturer in Bioinformatics/Genomics - Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences

    Email:

  • Dr Xue-Xian Zhang

    Dr Xue-Xian Zhang

    Senior Lecturer - Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences

    Email:

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