Avoiding Conservation by Numbers: how genetics can help save threatened species

Conservation is often a numbers game – if we increase the size of a threatened species’ population, we consider this a conservation success. Unfortunately, population growth is not always the full story; factors such as genetics have a big part to play in whether or not a species will survive.

Dr Helen Taylor, research fellow in conservation genetics at the University of Otago and passionate science communicator, will explain what happens to the genetics of populations when they get very small, why this is a problem, and what we can do about it.

Using examples from her own research, Dr Taylor will take us on a journey that encompasses inbred kiwi in Marlborough Sounds, collecting bird sperm on remote islands, and gene editing technologies that could revolutionise conservation in New Zealand and globally.

Think genetics is just about big words and family trees? Think again!

This is a free event, organised by the eResearchNZ conference and Catalyst. Please register at connect@catalystnz.org.

Helen Taylor is a research fellow in conservation genetics at the University of Otago. Originally from the UK, she conducted her PhD research on inbreeding depression in little spotted kiwi at Victoria University of Wellington. Helen’s current research focuses on how inbreeding affects male fertility in birds. She is also interested in the effective integration of genetics into conservation management and is part of the IUCN Conservation Genetics Specialist Group. Helen has travelled the South Island with the lab in a box schools project and was the 2016 winner of the 180 seconds of science video competition. Helen blogs at http://sciblogs.co.nz/wild-science/ and is on twitter @helentaylorcg. You can find out more about her research at http://helentaylorscience.weebly.com/.

Credit: Andrew Digby
Credit: Andrew Digby

Helen robin fieldwork

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