David Winter

Geek of many colours, kiwi postdoc-ing in the US. Doesn't quite understand how anyone can do science without wanting to tell the world about it. David is on Twitter @TheAtavism

Your questions – epigenetics - Sequencing The Tuatuara Genome

Oct 02, 2013

It’s time for us to answer another of your questions about tuatara, evolution and the science of genomics. This time, a question from Sciblog’s on Darcy Cowan “What about epigenetic markers? How important are these when considering if all the genomic information has been captured?” We had better start answering Darcy’s question by saying what epigenetics is. What, if anything, is epigenetics? So far, this blog has focused on discussing how and why we are trying to determining the sequence of the tuatara genome. Of course, there is much more to an organism that its DNA. Indeed, every cell in a tuatara has the same genome* but those cells come in many different forms, and combine in various ways to produce the different organs that keep the tuatara’s day-to-day biology ticking over. Clearly, DNA alone can’t tell us how … Read More

What we already know – a tuatara transcriptome - Sequencing The Tuatuara Genome

Aug 14, 2013

We are not starting from scratch in our mission to understand the genetics of tuatara. Scientists have been working on these creatures for more than a hundred years, and in that time plenty of researchers have used tuatara DNA to try to understand the world. For the most part, these studies have used DNA sequences as witnesses to evolutionary history, rather than data from which to understand the day-to-day biology of tuatara. Hilary Miller is one researcher who has taken a genetic approach to understanding how tuatara work. In her postdoctoral research at Victoria University, Hilary sequenced and analysed tuatara MHC genes. These genes play an important role in the immune system of vertebrates,  helping their carriers develop immunity to diseases they encounter during their lives. Populations that contain many different variants for each of the MHC genes are … Read More

Your questions – How many species? - Sequencing The Tuatuara Genome

Jul 19, 2013

Here’s the first in our series answering your questions about the project. We start with a question from Maggy Wassilieff, who wants to know about the tuatara population living on North Brother Island in the Cook Strait: Could you comment on the current understanding of the Brothers Is Tuatara? Is it a separate species? How long has the Brothers Is tuatara been isolated from other nearby populations? Just what is a species anyway? If we want to know how many tuatara species there are, and whether the North Brother Island population is distinct from other tuatara, we first need to know just what we mean by “species”. It may come as some surprise to learn that there isn’t a simple answer to this question. Biologists have spent at least 150 years grappling with what we now call the “species problem”, … Read More

Interview with Graeme Hill - Sequencing The Tuatuara Genome

Jul 18, 2013

Neil’s take-over of the New Zealand media scene continues apace. This weekend Neil and Graeme Hill from Radio Live had a chat about the project , Allan Wilson’s impact on evolutionary biology and where the tuatara fits into the New Zealand fauna. Read More

Tuatara genome project in the news - Sequencing The Tuatuara Genome

Jul 05, 2013

Neil was on Radio New Zealand National this morning, discussing the tuatara genome with Kathryn Ryan That’s not the first bit of media interest in the project, so here, for those of you who just can’t get enough tuatara news in your life, is a list of stories on the project from other sites: Radio Kim Hill had Neil on her Saturday Morning show for a discussion about tuatara, evolution and biology in the genomic age. This morning’s spot on Nine to Noon Newspapers, magazines and the web Rebecca Priestley wrote about the project in her Listener Column The Otago Daily Times ran a news story last year Toby Manhire covered this blog in his “The Internaut” column in the Listener One of the first pieces on the New Zealand Association of … Read More

Any questions? - Sequencing The Tuatuara Genome

Jul 03, 2013

This blog is very much for you, the reader. We’ve been really pleased with the reaction to our opening few posts, and especially happy that readers have asked us questions about the project. I’ve forwarded those questions on to the people that can best answer them, and hope to dedicate a post to those answers next week. There is still time for more. If there is something you’ve always wanted to know about tuatara, some aspect of genetics or genomics you’ve never quite understood or if one of our opening posts left you wondering about something let us know. You can comment on this post, use the contact form to send a message privately or tweet to us at @tuataragenome, however you send your question we’ll do our best to have an expert provide you an answer. Read More

An update from the boss - Sequencing The Tuatuara Genome

Jul 01, 2013

It’s about time this blog moved from the abstract to the concrete. Now you know why we are sequencing the tuatara genome, and have an idea about how we’ll go about doing it, it’s time to meet the boss and hear how the project is going so far. Neil Gemmell is the leader of the tuatara genome project. Neil is a professor in the Department of Anatomy at Otago University, where he and his lab study the biology of  reproduction from the level of genes all the way up to the consequences of reproductive biology on ecology, evolution, conservation and economics. I asked him a few questions about the project, and how it’s going:  How did you end up heading the tuatara genome project? This happened through a rather fortuitous sequence of events. I was at an international meeting of scientists … Read More

First find your tuatara (or how to sequence a genome) - Sequencing The Tuatuara Genome

Jun 25, 2013

So, now we’ve told you why we’re so keen on sequencing the tuatara genome you might want to know exactly how we are going to do it. As the project goes on we will get the experts working on each stage to describe exactly what they’re up to, and how it’s going. But we also want to give you a broad overview of how the project will proceed. Here then, in five simple steps, we present a guide to sequencing a genome: 1. First, find a tuatara   Genome sequencing projects are easier if you use DNA from a single representative of the species you are studying. For tuatara, getting that representative isn’t entirely easy. Although they once lived pretty much everywhere in New Zealand, tuatara are now almost entirely restricted to offshore islands (the only … Read More

Sequencing the tuatara genome - The Atavism

Jun 17, 2013

Things have been quite around here for a while. Largely for the typical boring reasons, the pressure to get work done and on to journals that might publish it leaving little spare time. On top of that the non-science time I've had lately has ...