Peter Dearden

Associate Professor Peter Dearden leads Southern Genes. He is the director of Genetics Otago. Peter was trained at Victoria University, PhD at Imperial College, University of London. He then worked in the Wellcome (now Gurdon) institute and the Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge; the Zoology department, University of Western Ontario; and returned to New Zealand and the University of Otago in 2002. Peter is a researcher in the Laboratory for Evolution and Development, and Otago site leader for the National Research Centre for Growth and Development. Peter's research is centered in Evolution and Development, Epigenetics and Developmental plasticity. Peter is on Twitter @peterkdearden

Does exercise change your DNA? - Genomics Aotearoa

Feb 03, 2015

Peter K. Dearden   Last week, on Facebook, an interesting article from the New York Times was being shared. The headline read “How Exercise Changes Our DNA”, and, despite the provocative title, the article underneath was pretty good.  The article explains how a recent published experiment showed that exercise changes some aspects of our DNA. To uncover what they mean we need to delve into the murky waters of epigenetics. We all have a genome, the sequence of DNA that encodes all our genes and is present in almost every one of our cells. Our genome contains information that is encoded in the order of bases (different chemicals) in the DNA. We inherit this sequence of bases from our parents, but, in the main, it doesn’t change. As an aside, the ‘in the main’ bit is a touch … Read More

Defining Genetic Modification. - Genomics Aotearoa

Aug 05, 2014

Peter K. Dearden I have been doing a lot of travelling recently, and have become increasingly perplexed by the term ‘electronic device’ and what to do with them on planes. Some say turn off all your devices; does that mean heart pace makers, insulin pumps, and calculator watches? Some say you can have small ones on and others off. All too confusing! The problem is one of definition. Having a too broad definition of ‘electronic device’ means silly things happen. The same applies to ‘genetic modification’. Our definition in law is very broad and process defined, which means that a recent High Court decision has incredibly broad consequences. The problem is that the definition of genetic modification in New Zealand Law, as described in the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, is the following; Genetically modified organism means, unless expressly … Read More

Sex and inbreeding (in bees). - Genomics Aotearoa

Jun 24, 2014

Peter K Dearden Tomorrow I am speaking at the National Bee Keepers Association conference in Whanganui and thought I might write a bit about what we have been doing to help me get things clear. Much of my research work is on bees; trying to learn how they work, trying to find new ways to protect them and, occasionally doing research to help the beekeeping industry. Beekeeping is a reasonably large business in New Zealand, making over $100 Million per annum in bee-related exports. More importantly, it is estimated that Bees bring $5.1 Billion each year to the New Zealand economy through pollination. Bees are a vital part of our primary production sector and we need to care about them. Bees in New Zealand are undergoing, or have had, a kind of population crash. This is due to the incursion … Read More

Two legs better than four - Genomics Aotearoa

May 13, 2014

Peter K. Dearden Perspective is an important thing in understanding science. I, like everyone else on earth should, have an interest in the evolution of our species. I am struck by the conundrum that we seem very different from our nearest relatives, yet genetically we are very similar. I bet a lot of that is about perspective. It is easy to see difference when we are close to the problem, more difficult to see it when we are further away. Spotting the differences between us and chimpanzees (5-7 million years diverged) is pretty easy for us. Spotting the difference between hoverflies and bees (350 million years diverged), is much harder, judging from the number of beekeeping sites with lovely pictures of hoverflies. Bipedalism has been cited many times as a key aspect of human evolution. The idea being that walking … Read More