• Nicky Nelson has helped reintroduce tuatara to the mainland

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  • Nigel French is investigating the source of E. coli and other pathogens in our waterways

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The Allan Wilson Centre, established in 2002, is one of New Zealand’s seven Centres of Research Excellence and one of two hosted by Massey University. We are a scientific network of over 100 researchers based at five universities and two crown research institutes. Following in the footsteps of the great New Zealand scientist, Allan Wilson, our researchers study the evolution of humans, animals, plants and disease. We are committed to securing the future of New Zealand’s biodiversity and improving human and environmental health.

Uawa Bioblitz Report

Two rare species discovered in Uawa/Tolaga Bay census: Students, aged 5-18, from Tolaga Bay Area School, guided by scientists from the Allan Wilson Centre, DOC, Te Papa, and Groundtruth, collected over 500 species of plants and animals in a 24-hour Bioblitz (12-13 Feb) – a survey of local biodiversity that will inform the restoration project underway there. Excitingly, they detected the presence of bats, the only native land mammal we have, and sighted the NZ Dotterel, a shorebird which is rarer even than kiwi and tigers! Full results will be posted on this site soon. Blitz opens window on species, Uawanui Bioblitz Feb 2015 PhotoGallery and Bioblitz Tolaga Bay

Our People

Ancient DNA: Secrets from the past, by Dr Craig Millar.
Free talk in Nelson and Queenstown. Early forensic and ancient DNA methods could only recover small amounts of DNA information from relatively large quantities of well-preserved tissue. From these humble beginnings, ancient DNA research has now developed into a well-established research field used by biologists, geologists and anthropologists. Recent advances in DNA sequencing methods have led to the retrieval of entire ancient genomes from the extinct New Zealand moa and Egyptian bird mummies. In his talk, Dr Craig Millar will outline...
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Over 200 expatriate New Zealanders gathered at NZ House last week to contribute their DNA to Lisa Matisoo-Smith's ancient ancestry study (The Longest Journey: Africa to Aotearoa). They were spellbound by Lisa's exposition of the journey of modern humans out of Africa, and across the Pacific. Their mitochondrial DNA result will place their maternal ancestors on the deepest branches of the human family tree, going back many thousands of years...learn more. Listen to Kim Hill's interviews with Lisa and Russell Gray on Radio NZ National, 20 June. Africa to Aotearoa and Russell Gray: DNA and language


New Zealand is home to tens of thousands of endemic plant, animal, insect and marine species,
and new discoveries are being made every year — including some creatures we’re too late to see. In the NZ Herald on 6 April Science reporter Jamie Morton looks at 10 new finds. Two AWC researchers, including Director Hamish Spencer... >>
Research body loses millions in funding – Evening Standard, 20 March.
The Allan Wilson Centre, hosted by Massey University, has been left off the Tertiary Education Commission's latest list for renewal as a Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE). In the latest round 13 applicants made a bid to be one of the centres to receive on average $35 million annually in operating expenditure up until 2020. The AWC missed out and from December its funding will cease. “It's going to impact on the science being done around various aspects of the biodiversity of New Zealand, from mathematical investigations right through to molecular genetics, and it will also curtail our community outreach progamme" Director, Hamish Spencer said. ... >>
Polynesia Migration with AWC Principal Investigator and University of Otago Biological Anthropologist Lisa Matisoo-Smith speaking with Graeme Hill on RadioLive on Sunday, 1 March.
Lisa prises legend from fact about who went where when, and how. Some intriguing evidence is emerging of a late migration throughout Polynesia from South Asia very recently... >>
AWC Investigators in the news,
The war on infectious disease is far from over, according to Principal Investigator, Professor Nigel French, in a Dompost opinion piece (26 Jan). Analysing the genomes to gain insight into the evolution of viruses and bacteria, is key to staying ahead... >>
Interview with Terry Burrell,
which includes a lesson with a class of Year 10 students at Onslow College... >>
University of Canterbury has elevated Mike Steel, of the School of Mathematics and Statistics to the status of Distinguished Professor,
a title reserved for professors who demonstrate world-class academic leadership and achievements. This is in addition to receiving the UoC 2014 Research Medal, the highest honour the university’s council can extend to its academic staff, recognising research excellence. Congratulations to Mike - an AWC Principal Investigator and our deputy director... >>
Kim Hill talks to Associate Professor Thomas Buckley,
Principal Investigator at the Allan Wilson Centre, who was one of over 100 researchers from 16 countries who have just published the first paper from the 1KITE study of insect evolution... >>