The research project Geological dates and evolutionary rates: using river vicariance to pinpoint the pace of molecular change is a Marsden-funded project, and a collaboration between the zoology and geology departments at the University of Otago. Biologist Jon Waters is the principal investigator, and geologist Dave Craw is an associate investigator.
DNA clocks provide an important method for determining time-scales of evolution. But the pace at which these clocks tick can be difficult to measure, particularly because DNA evolves at different rates in different species, and because rates may perhaps vary over time (time-dependency). Up until now, DNA clocks have been calibrated using ages of fossils, island formation, and a range of dated geological events. However, each of these methods potentially lacks precision for a variety of reasons, so this research project seeks to establish calibrations across a range of geological ages using a new, more precise method: river evolution.