Dunedin, New Zealand
Dunedin, New Zealand

The University of Otago in Dunedin is New Zealand's oldest university. It had over 21,000 students enrolled during 2011.The university has New Zealand's highest average research quality and in New Zealand is second only to the University of Auckland in the number of A rated academic researchers it employs. It topped the New Zealand Performance Based Research Fund evaluation in 2006.Founded in 1869 by a committee including Thomas Burns, the university opened in July 1871. Its motto is "Sapere aude" . The Otago University Students' Association answers this with its own motto, "Audeamus" . The university's graduation song Gaudeamus igitur, iuvenes dum sumus... acknowledges students will continue to live up to the challenge if not always in the way intended. Between 1874 and 1961 the University of Otago was a part of the University of New Zealand, and issued degrees in its name.Otago is known for its student life, particularly its flatting, which is often in old sub-standard houses. The nickname Scarfie comes from the habit of wearing a scarf during cold southern winters. The Scarfie term is also referenced in the movie Scarfies. Wikipedia.


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News Article | May 9, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

The resurrection of vanished species - through cutting-edge technologies such as gene-editing - should be targeted towards recently extinct species rather than ancient ones, according to a leading University of Otago conservation biologist. In a guest editorial newly published online in the journal Functional Ecology, Philip Seddon of the University's Department of Zoology suggests that long-gone species such as the woolly mammoth would not be the best focus for de-extinction efforts. Seddon says the prospect of resurrecting species through cloning or genetic reconstruction through tools such as CRISPR gene-editing has caught the imagination of scientists and the public alike. "However, while the idea of resurrecting mammoths, for example, might hold a 'wow-factor' appeal, efforts would likely be better directed instead towards species where the conservation benefits are clearer. "The ecological niches in which mammoths - or moa for instance - once lived, no longer exist in any meaningful way. If we were to bring such species back, apart from just as scientific curios, these animals would likely be inherently maladapted to our modern eco-systems." Instead, using cloning techniques to re-establish 'proxies' of species that have recently become extinct should be the focus, along with determined efforts to prevent endangered species dying out in the first place, he says. "The money and considerable effort required to resurrect, reintroduce, and manage in the wild, viable populations of once-extinct species means there will inevitably be fewer resources available to manage threats facing the very many species that are currently at risk of dying out, but could still be saved." Seddon suggests that de-extinction projects will inevitably be pursued. "The reality of the idea is too sexy to ignore, and it could be driven by aesthetic, commercial, scientific, or some other hitherto unanticipated imperatives and motivations," he suggests. Seddon concludes that there are two principal messages arising from the articles. "The first is that the risks and the uncertainties involved will be hugely reduced, and hence the likelihood of achieving a conservation benefit from the production and release of resurrected species will be enhanced, if de-extinction candidates are drawn from the most recent extinctions. "Second, and perhaps most importantly, extinction of any species marks a significant threshold that once crossed, cannot be fully reversed, despite the apparent promise of powerful new technologies. "Our primary conservation objective must therefore be, as it always has been, avoiding species loss, and one the most significant contributions to be made by 'de-extinction technology' might well be to prevent extinctions in the first place."


News Article | May 9, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

The resurrection of vanished species - through cutting-edge technologies such as gene-editing - should be targeted towards recently extinct species rather than ancient ones, according to a leading University of Otago conservation biologist. In a guest editorial newly published online in the journal Functional Ecology, Philip Seddon of the University's Department of Zoology suggests that long-gone species such as the woolly mammoth would not be the best focus for de-extinction efforts. Seddon says the prospect of resurrecting species through cloning or genetic reconstruction through tools such as CRISPR gene-editing has caught the imagination of scientists and the public alike. "However, while the idea of resurrecting mammoths, for example, might hold a 'wow-factor' appeal, efforts would likely be better directed instead towards species where the conservation benefits are clearer. "The ecological niches in which mammoths - or moa for instance - once lived, no longer exist in any meaningful way. If we were to bring such species back, apart from just as scientific curios, these animals would likely be inherently maladapted to our modern eco-systems." Instead, using cloning techniques to re-establish 'proxies' of species that have recently become extinct should be the focus, along with determined efforts to prevent endangered species dying out in the first place, he says. "The money and considerable effort required to resurrect, reintroduce, and manage in the wild, viable populations of once-extinct species means there will inevitably be fewer resources available to manage threats facing the very many species that are currently at risk of dying out, but could still be saved." Seddon suggests that de-extinction projects will inevitably be pursued. "The reality of the idea is too sexy to ignore, and it could be driven by aesthetic, commercial, scientific, or some other hitherto unanticipated imperatives and motivations," he suggests. Seddon concludes that there are two principal messages arising from the articles. "The first is that the risks and the uncertainties involved will be hugely reduced, and hence the likelihood of achieving a conservation benefit from the production and release of resurrected species will be enhanced, if de-extinction candidates are drawn from the most recent extinctions. "Second, and perhaps most importantly, extinction of any species marks a significant threshold that once crossed, cannot be fully reversed, despite the apparent promise of powerful new technologies. "Our primary conservation objective must therefore be, as it always has been, avoiding species loss, and one the most significant contributions to be made by 'de-extinction technology' might well be to prevent extinctions in the first place."


Hohmann-Marriott M.F.,University of Otago | Blankenship R.E.,Washington University in St. Louis
Annual Review of Plant Biology | Year: 2011

Energy conversion of sunlight by photosynthetic organisms has changed Earth and life on it. Photosynthesis arose early in Earth's history, and the earliest forms of photosynthetic life were almost certainly anoxygenic (non-oxygen evolving). The invention of oxygenic photosynthesis and the subsequent rise of atmospheric oxygen approximately 2.4 billion years ago revolutionized the energetic and enzymatic fundamentals of life. The repercussions of this revolution are manifested in novel biosynthetic pathways of photosynthetic cofactors and the modification of electron carriers, pigments, and existing and alternative modes of photosynthetic carbon fixation. The evolutionary history of photosynthetic organisms is further complicated by lateral gene transfer that involved photosynthetic components as well as by endosymbiotic events. An expanding wealth of genetic information, together with biochemical, biophysical, and physiological data, reveals a mosaic of photosynthetic features. In combination, these data provide an increasingly robust framework to formulate and evaluate hypotheses concerning the origin and evolution of photosynthesis. Copyright © 2011 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.


Ireton K.,University of Otago
Open Biology | Year: 2013

Several bacterial pathogens, including Listeria monocytogenes, Shigella flexneri and Rickettsia spp., have evolved mechanisms to actively spread within human tissues. Spreading is initiated by the pathogen-induced recruitment of host filamentous (F)-actin. F-actin forms a tail behind the microbe, propelling it through the cytoplasm. The motile pathogen then encounters the host plasma membrane, forming a bacterium-containing protrusion that is engulfed by an adjacent cell. Over the past two decades, much progress has been made in elucidating mechanisms of F-actin tail formation. Listeria and Shigella produce tails of branched actin filaments by subverting the host Arp2/3 complex. By contrast, Rickettsia forms tails with linear actin filaments through a bacterial mimic of eukaryotic formins. Compared with F-actin tail formation, mechanisms controlling bacterial protrusions are less well understood. However, recent findings have highlighted the importance of pathogen manipulation of host cell-cell junctions in spread. Listeria produces a soluble protein that enhances bacterial protrusions by perturbing tight junctions. Shigella protrusions are engulfed through a clathrin-mediated pathway at 'tricellular junctions' - specialized membrane regions at the intersection of three epithelial cells. This review summarizes key past findings in pathogen spread, and focuses on recent developments in actin-based motility and the formation and internalization of bacterial protrusions. © 2013 The Authors.


Gillespie L.D.,University of Otago
Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online) | Year: 2012

Approximately 30% of people over 65 years of age living in the community fall each year. This is an update of a Cochrane review first published in 2009. To assess the effects of interventions designed to reduce the incidence of falls in older people living in the community. We searched the Cochrane Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma Group Specialised Register (February 2012), CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library 2012, Issue 3), MEDLINE (1946 to March 2012), EMBASE (1947 to March 2012), CINAHL (1982 to February 2012), and online trial registers. Randomised trials of interventions to reduce falls in community-dwelling older people. Two review authors independently assessed risk of bias and extracted data. We used a rate ratio (RaR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) to compare the rate of falls (e.g. falls per person year) between intervention and control groups. For risk of falling, we used a risk ratio (RR) and 95% CI based on the number of people falling (fallers) in each group. We pooled data where appropriate. We included 159 trials with 79,193 participants. Most trials compared a fall prevention intervention with no intervention or an intervention not expected to reduce falls. The most common interventions tested were exercise as a single intervention (59 trials) and multifactorial programmes (40 trials). Sixty-two per cent (99/159) of trials were at low risk of bias for sequence generation, 60% for attrition bias for falls (66/110), 73% for attrition bias for fallers (96/131), and only 38% (60/159) for allocation concealment.Multiple-component group exercise significantly reduced rate of falls (RaR 0.71, 95% CI 0.63 to 0.82; 16 trials; 3622 participants) and risk of falling (RR 0.85, 95% CI 0.76 to 0.96; 22 trials; 5333 participants), as did multiple-component home-based exercise (RaR 0.68, 95% CI 0.58 to 0.80; seven trials; 951 participants and RR 0.78, 95% CI 0.64 to 0.94; six trials; 714 participants). For Tai Chi, the reduction in rate of falls bordered on statistical significance (RaR 0.72, 95% CI 0.52 to 1.00; five trials; 1563 participants) but Tai Chi did significantly reduce risk of falling (RR 0.71, 95% CI 0.57 to 0.87; six trials; 1625 participants).Multifactorial interventions, which include individual risk assessment, reduced rate of falls (RaR 0.76, 95% CI 0.67 to 0.86; 19 trials; 9503 participants), but not risk of falling (RR 0.93, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.02; 34 trials; 13,617 participants).Overall, vitamin D did not reduce rate of falls (RaR 1.00, 95% CI 0.90 to 1.11; seven trials; 9324 participants) or risk of falling (RR 0.96, 95% CI 0.89 to 1.03; 13 trials; 26,747 participants), but may do so in people with lower vitamin D levels before treatment.Home safety assessment and modification interventions were effective in reducing rate of falls (RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.97; six trials; 4208 participants) and risk of falling (RR 0.88, 95% CI 0.80 to 0.96; seven trials; 4051 participants).


Bates A.E.,University of Otago
Nature communications | Year: 2010

The thermal characteristics of an organism's environment affect a multitude of parameters, from biochemical to evolutionary processes. Hydrothermal vents on mid-ocean ridges are created when warm hydrothermal fluids are ejected from the seafloor and mixed with cold bottom seawater; many animals thrive along these steep temperature and chemical gradients. Two-dimensional temperature maps at vent sites have demonstrated order of magnitude thermal changes over centimetre distances and at time intervals from minutes to hours. To investigate whether animals adapt to this extreme level of environmental variability, we examined differences in the thermal behaviour of mobile invertebrates from aquatic habitats that vary in thermal regime. Vent animals were highly responsive to heat and preferred much cooler fluids than their upper thermal limits, whereas invertebrates from other aquatic environments risked exposure to warmer temperatures. Avoidance of temperatures well within their tolerated range may allow vent animals to maintain a safety margin against rapid temperature fluctuations and concomitant toxicity of hydrothermal fluids.


Winterbourn C.C.,University of Otago
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - General Subjects | Year: 2014

Background Small molecule fluorescent probes are vital tools for monitoring reactive oxygen species in cells. Scope of review The types of probe available, the extent to which they are specific or quantitative and complications in interpreting results are discussed. Major conclusions Most commonly used probes (e.g. dihydrodichlorofluorescein, dihydrorhodamine) have some value in providing information on changes to the redox environment of the cell, but they are not specific for any one oxidant and the response is affected by numerous chemical interactions and not just increased oxidant generation. These probes generate the fluorescent end product by a free radical mechanism, and to react with hydrogen peroxide they require a metal catalyst. Probe radicals can react with oxygen, superoxide, and various antioxidant molecules, all of which influence the signal. Newer generation probes such as boronates act by a different mechanism in which nucleophilic attack by the oxidant on a blocking group releases masked fluorescence. Boronates react with hydrogen peroxide, peroxynitrite, hypochlorous acid and in some cases superoxide, so are selective but not specific. They react with hydrogen peroxide very slowly, and kinetic considerations raise questions about how the reaction could occur in cells. General significance Data from oxidant-sensitive fluorescent probes can provide some information on cellular redox activity but is widely misinterpreted. Recently developed non-redox probes show promise but are not generally available and more information on specificity and cellular reactions is needed. We do not yet have probes that can quantify cellular production of specific oxidants. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Current methods to study reactive oxygen species - pros and cons and biophysics of membrane proteins. Guest Editor: Christine Winterbourn. © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Taylor D.R.,University of Otago
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology | Year: 2011

A biomarker provides a window on underlying disease activity. This is helpful when the pathology, treatment response, or both are heterogeneous or when trying to interpret nonspecific respiratory symptoms in patients with comorbidities. The successful application of a biomarker result is critically dependent on the specific question being addressed and the performance characteristics of the biomarker in relation to that question in the context of pretest probabilities. Negative prediction might be the best way to use a biomarker, such as a D-dimer, pro-brain natriuretic peptide, and exhaled nitric oxide. In this review the role of biomarkers in airways disease (notably induced sputum eosinophils and exhaled nitric oxide) is considered in relation to risk stratification, identification of treatment responders, identification of a clinical phenotype, monitoring of disease, and new drug development. © 2011 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.


Ruffman T.,University of Otago
Developmental Review | Year: 2014

This paper provides a minimalist framework for understanding the development of children's theory of mind (ToM). First, I provide a critical analysis of rich interpretations of ToM tasks tapping infants' understanding of perception, goals, intentions, and false beliefs. I argue that the current consensus that infants understand mental states is premature, and instead, that excellent statistical learning skills and attention to human faces and motion enable infants' very good performance, and reflect an implicit understanding of behavior. Children subsequently develop an explicit understanding of mental states through talk from parents and siblings, their developing language abilities, and their developing distinction between self and other. The paper also examines corollary theories such as the idea that there are subsystems of a theory of mind (ToM), that infants use rules on false belief tasks, that minimalist theory is post hoc, and that parallel onset of success on different ToM tasks indicates an underlying ToM. The paper concludes by considering previous arguments against minimalist interpretations of infant performance. © 2014 Elsevier Inc.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: ERC-STG | Phase: ERC-2016-STG | Award Amount: 1.50M | Year: 2017

Bacteria have a range of immune mechanisms, but it is unclear why this diverse armamentarium evolved. The most important immune mechanisms are (1) Surface Modification (SM) (2) Abortive infection (Abi) (3) Restriction Modification (R-M) (4) CRISPR-Cas and (5) prokaryotic Argonaute (pAgo), all of which can occur as stand-alone mechanisms or in combination. The individual mechanisms differ in key aspects, such as their fitness costs (constitutive versus inducible), specificity (indiscriminate versus specific), the recipient of the benefits (individual versus group), the speed of de novo resistance evolution (rapid versus slow), and heritability of immunity. Here I will take a combined in vitro and in vivo approach to tease apart the variables that drive the evolution of these diverse stand-alone and integrated bacterial immune strategies in nature, and examine their associated co-evolutionary dynamics. I focus on three ecological variables that are consistently important in host-symbiont co-evolution: (1) force of infection (2) spatial structure (3) presence of mutualists (plasmids). First, I will perform in vitro manipulations using Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA14 variants that carry either single or multiple immune mechanisms. Next, I will sequence metagenomes, transcriptomes and viromes of microbial communities from environments that differ in ecological variables that are important in vitro, to examine their importance in vivo. Key ecological mechanisms identified in the first two parts of the project will be used to guide mesocosm experiments to experimentally confirm that these mechanisms are the drivers of the observed patterns of resistance and co-evolution in nature. Finally, I will share my data with mathematical biologists to generate theoretical models to predict and manipulate the evolution of bacterial immune mechanisms, which will facilitate tailored species protection in agriculture and industry.

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