I am a Massey University bioinformatician and molecular biologist who is interested in a range of molecular and evolutionary questions mostly related to ecological genomics. I’m particularity excited by the opportunities next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies provides us to better understand genes and genomes in non-model but ecologically relevant organisms.
The organism we play with in the lab is a small cosmopolitan parasitoid wasp called Nasonia vitripennis (Nasonia). Nasonia is an important developing model system for genetic research and has several advantages her more famous hymenopteran the Honey bee. Firstly, being about the size of a match head and having relatively large family sizes Nasonia is easy to rear in a laboratory setting. Secondly, Nasonia will happily inbreed, simplifying the generation of isogenic lines (for bees sex is a very complex affair!). Thirdly, although the social antics of Honey bees are intriguing, these interactions can muddy the interpretation of experimental data.
Another really interesting aspect of Nasonia is its reproductive biology. Being a parasitoid wasp, Nasonia manipulates its host (normally filth flies) in ways that enhance the fitness of its progeny. This parasitoid lifestyle make Nasonia a potential biocontrol agent for fly pests in an both agricultural and urban settings. We are also particularly interested in gaining a better understanding the molecular nature of changes that occur in host physiology once it has been stung by a Nasonia female. As these process involve lipid, carbohydrate, and immunity pathways, study of parasitoid venoms could lead to molecules useful in drugs used to treat human disease such as cancer, hypertension and diabetes. More information on the venom projects is found on the venom page.
Ineffectual disclaimer: As my employer is not paying me outside my ‘7.5 hour’ work day, these opinions and views on work and life are mine alone.