Phoenix Group

Evolutionary Ecology & Genetics

Lara Shepherd

The overarching theme of my research is elucidating the evolution of New Zealand’s biota. I have worked on both plants and birds.

Research Interests:

  • Domestication and translocation of native New Zealand plants. We are using DNA data to investigate the domestication by Maori of four endemic New Zealand plant species (karaka, whau, rengarenga and coastal kowhai). The aims of this research are to determine the number of times and location where each species was brought into cultivation and the way in which domestication has shaped genetic diversity in the cultivated populations. A further aim is to infer pre-European Māori settlement routes and mobility

Collaborators - Robin Atherton, Simon Cox (Massey University students), Peter Lockhart, Nick Roskruge (Massey University) and Peter de Lange (DOC).

  • Hybridization and its effect on phylogenetic reconstruction. We are developing a multi-locus dataset for the hybridizing genus Pseudopanax using next-generation sequencing.

Collaborators - Josie Monaghan, Josh Collins (Massey University students), Leon Perrie (Te Papa), Kathi Huber, Vince Moulton (University of East Anglia), Barbara Holland (University of Tasmania),

  • Phylogeography, phylogeny and biogeography.

Collaborators - ferns: Leon Perrie and Patrick Brownsey (Te Papa), Mike Bayly (University of Melbourne), John Thomson (University of Sydney), Barbara Parris (Fern Research Foundation); kowhai: Peter Heenan (Landcare Research), Peter de Lange (DOC), Pseudopanax: Leon Perrie (Te Papa); kiwi: Trevor Worthy (University of New South Wales), Alan Tennyson (Te Papa), Paul Scofield (Canterbury Museum), Kristina Ramstad (Victoria University of Welllington); weka: Steve Pilkington and Steve Trewick (Massey University)

  • Barcoding and community ecology on Little Barrier Island.

Collaborators: Ben Myles, Jon Waters (University of Otago) and Alexei Drummond (University of Auckland)

Pseudopanax lessoniiLara collecting Pseudopanax lessonii samples at Surville 5109


Sophora tetrapteraLara collecting Sophora tetraptera samples on Wakarara Road


Entelea arborescens

Entelea arborescens

Selected Publications:

Shepherd LD and Perrie LR (in press) Microsatellite DNA analyses of a highly disjunct New Zealand tree reveal strong differentiation and imply a formerly more continuous distribution. Molecular Ecology

Shepherd LD, McLay TGB. (2011) Two micro-scale protocols for the isolation of DNA from polysaccharide-rich plant tissue. Journal of Plant Research 24: 311-314.

Perrie LR, Ohlsen DJ, Shepherd LD, Garrett M, Brownsey PJ, Bayly MJ. (2010) Tasmanian and Victorian populations of the Australasian fern Asplenium hookerianum result from independent dispersals from New Zealand. Australian Systematic Botany 23: 387-392.

Atherton RA, McComish BJ, Shepherd LD, Berry L, Lockhart PJ. 2010. Whole genome sequencing of enriched chloroplast DNA using the Illumina GAII platform. BMC Plant Methods 6: 22 doi:10.1186/1746-4811-6-22

Perrie LR, Shepherd LD, de Lange PJ, Brownsey PJ (2010) Parallel polyploid speciation: distinct sympatric gene-pools of recurrently derived allo-octoploid Asplenium ferns. Molecular Ecology 19: 2916-2932.

Lambert DM, Shepherd LD, Huynen LJ, Beans-Picon G, Walter G, Miller CD (2009) The molecular ecology of the New Zealand huia. PLoS ONE 4(11): e8019. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008019

Shepherd LD, de Lange PJ, Perrie LR (2009) Multiple colonizations of a remote oceanic archipelago by one species: how common is long-distance dispersal? Journal of Biogeography 36: 1972-1977.

Perrie LR, Shepherd LD (2009) Reconstructing the species phylogeny of Pseudopanax (Araliaceae), a genus of hybridising trees. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 52: 774-83.

Shepherd LD, Perrie LR, Brownsey PJ (2008) Low-copy number nuclear DNA sequences reveal a predominance of allopolyploids in a New Zealand Asplenium fern complex. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 49: 240-248.

Shepherd LD, Lambert DM (2008) Ancient DNA and conservation: Lessons from the five species of endangered Kiwi of New Zealand. Molecular Ecology 17, 2174-2184.

Shepherd LD, Holland BR, Perrie LR (2008) Conflict amongst chloroplast DNA sequences obscures the phylogeny of a group of Asplenium ferns.  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 48, 176-187.

Shepherd LD, Perrie LR, Brownsey PJ (2007) Fire and ice: volcanic and glacial impacts on the phylogeography of the New Zealand forest fern Asplenium hookerianum. Molecular Ecology 16, 4536-4549.

Shepherd LD, Lambert DM (2007) Relationships and origins of the New Zealand wattlebirds (Passeriformes, Callaeatidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 43, 480-492.

Shepherd LD, Lambert DM (2005) Mutational bias in penguin microsatellite DNA. Journal of Heredity 96, 566-571.

Shepherd LD, Millar CD, Ballard G, Ainley DG, Wilson PR, Haynes GD, Baroni C, Lambert DM (2005) Mutational drive and microevolution over a 6000+ year period. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102 (46): 16717-16722.