Visiting researcher to lecture on avoiding 'conservation by numbers'

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Dr Helen Taylor is giving a free public lecture on conservation genetics in Whanganui this month.
Dr Helen Taylor is giving a free public lecture on conservation genetics in Whanganui this month.

Conservation genetics specialist and inspiring speaker Dr Helen Taylor will share some of her research findings at a lecture in Whanganui on October 26.

Dr Taylor, a research fellow in conservation genetics at Otago University, will be at Bushy Park later this month to carry out research into the genetics of hihi (stitchbird), a threatened species that was reintroduced to the forest sanctuary in 2013.

While she is in Whanganui, Birds New Zealand (Whanganui Branch) and Bushy Park Trust are hosting a public lecture by Dr Taylor on "Avoiding conservation by numbers: how genetics can help save threatened species".

Spokesman Peter Frost said Dr Taylor is a dynamic and inspiring speaker, able to motivate aspiring young researchers.

"The talk will be particularly relevant to those Year 12 or 13 students who may be aiming to go to university to study conservation biology or genetics," Mr Frost said.

"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 a species will survive.

"Dr Taylor 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."

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

Her current research focuses on how inbreeding affects male fertility in birds. She is also interested in the effective integration of genetics into conservation management.

The talk will be at 7.30pm on Thursday, October 26, at the Davis Lecture Theatre, Whanganui Regional Museum. Free entry.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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