20 Dec 2012

A Portrait of Aotearoa

From Our Changing World, 9:40 pm on 20 December 2012

This year, secondary school students from around the country were invited to take part in a gene-sequencing project, A Picture of Aotearoa, designed to introduce young people to the next generation of genome sequencing technology by mapping the genetic makeup of New Zealand’s soils. The project is led by Justin O’Sullivan from the University of Auckland and the Liggin's Institute and Austen Ganley from Massey University’s Albany campus, and sponsored by Massey University, the New Zealand Microbiological Society, Custom Science and Roche. It aims to produce a snapshot – or “census” – of all the microbial life in our soils. The data, mapped to show the scope and variation of soil bacteria nation-wide, will help scientists better understand bacterial ecology and issues relating to soil health, and it will be published in a peer-reviewed journal. The project follows up from a pilot project carried out last year when a small group of students tested soils at Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel. Alison Ballance catches up with project co-ordinators Austen and Justin as well as participants Rachel Heenen, head of science and pupil Alex Saywell, both at Epsom Girls Grammar School and science teacher Paul Scott from Mercury Bay Area School.