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

There’s a little black spot on the sun today… - Genomics Aotearoa

Jun 13, 2012

Peter K. Dearden … as The Police used to sing. Currently they are sunspots, but last week, as you all well know, it was Venus transiting the sun. This event was used as an excellent excuse to run a symposium in Gisborne to discuss the future of science and scholarship in NZ, as well as its role in society. This symposium, driven by the late great Prof Sir Paul Callaghan, took up much of my time last week, and much thought this week. The symposium kicked off with a remarkable day … Read More

Giant Jurassic Fleas! - Genomics Aotearoa

Mar 07, 2012

Peter K. Dearden. One of the fun things about my field of research is that it is broad; I find myself reading papers on paleontology as often as genetics and development. Paleontology often discovers remarkable things, as seen in a recent article in Nature (Huang, D., Engel, M. S., Cai, C., Wu, H. & Nel, A. Nature  (2012)). The paper describes some fantastic fossil insects from two Chinese sites, the Jiulongshan Formation in Inner Mongolia, and the Yixian Formation, Liaoning province. Those of you with an interest in Dinosaurs … Read More

Review of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, by Eric Carle - Genomics Aotearoa

Feb 22, 2012

Peter K Dearden. Some books are redolent of your childhood, steeped in long summer days, percolated in the smell of banana, and infused with the sharp sting of skinned knees. For me such books are Proust’s ’Le Temps retrouvé’ , Hobbes ’Leviathan’ and Eric Carle’s classic ’The Very Hungry Caterpillar’. It does us good to return to these childhood classics in our later lives to reminds us of all that we failed to become. And so, with a feeling of profound nostalgia (or neuralgia) I recently opened ’The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ and plunged into its depths. The book tells, in taut, spare, pithy, phrases, the childhood story of a caterpillar born on the wrong side of the tracks. It is Carle’s genius that allows him to make the social situation of the caterpillar clear, without ever directly referring to the … Read More

Interview with a Science Communicator: Helen Abbott - Genomics Aotearoa

Mar 29, 2011

by SM Morgan. For the first interview of the year I bring you a daughter of Christchurch, and a little celebration of academic achievement in amongst the tragedy. Helen Abbott completed her honours degree at the University of Otago in 2008 in the first class, and was accepted into the postgraduate medicine degree at the Dunedin School of Medicine. Her honours degree and undergraduate studies were focused in Biochemistry and her research project was involved in discovering novel patterning mechanisms in the honeybee oocyte under the supervision of Dr Megan Wilson, and Assoc. Prof. Peter Dearden. Helen, resplendent in her Grad Regalia, 2009. Now in her fourth year of medicine, Helen maintains an active … Read More

Sitting in Glass Houses - Genomics Aotearoa

Mar 25, 2011

Sitting in Glass Houses; drinking tea and planning World Domination (aka Thesis Completion). by SM Morgan. I am at that stage of the PhD. Contemplating completion and what the heck comes after. There is always talk about the glass ceiling still present in industry for women and the issues surrounding women and science, especially during post-doctoral positions. (1, 2, 3). It is at this point where they, as a group, seem to fall off the scientific academic bandwagon. That being the age of child bearing and marriage, the impending desire for houses, families and stability. As a young woman, aiming for scientific academia as a career, these things naturally both scare and annoy me. I thought we had gotten past all of that? And yet — the inequality still remains. I want to be a … Read More

What is Neurofibromatosis? - Genomics Aotearoa

Mar 23, 2011

by Mary Gray, PhD Student, Clinical Genetics Research Group I was reading this article a few days ago and felt inspired to write a few words about one of the most common genetic diseases that few people know about. Neurofibromatosis type one has a world wide incidence of 1/3000 people, meaning that around 1300 or so New Zealanders could be affected by this disease. People with Neurofibromatosis type one (NF1) can have a very mild form of the disease and may not know they have it, or they can be very severely affected by the disease. Features of NF1 disease include pigment abnormalities where a person may have many ‘cafe-au-lait’ spots (coffee and cream coloured spots 2-5cm wide) and freckling especially around the arm-pits. Some people have scoliosis (curved spine), osteoporosis and pseudoarthosis (a non-healing fracture) of the … Read More

Book review – The Grand Design - Genomics Aotearoa

Mar 22, 2011

The Grand Design – by Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow Reviewed by SM Morgan. I love it when things are so profound, so amazing that they bend your mind. Things so great and incomprehensible that you just stare, slack jawed into the ether whilst the gears in your brain frantically try to process the new thought, sight, theory or fact. I call this state mind blow. And indeed, to quote from an expert: ’Good luck getting your mind un-blown!’ (Sheldon – you knew that). I am struck with this mind state far less often that I would like — I love finding out new things. Truly amazing, beautiful, wondorous new things. Or seeing something you have always known, in a completely, crazy new light. Imagine, for a moment, … Read More

Are newly evolved genes as important as ancient ones? - Genomics Aotearoa

Mar 18, 2011

by Tamsin Jones. We share about 70% of our genes with fruit flies. Those 70% are old, ancient genes, that were present in the common ancestor of flies and humans. We share many, many genes with most animals, and these conserved genes are thought to be the ones controlling all those really important processes necessary for life. What about the other 30% though? Are they necessary for life? Could we live without them? An article published in Science at the end of last year explores that very question – are newly evolved genes essential or dispensable? New genes are often thought of as performing relatively minor functions. It makes sense, really – the ancient genes that we all share, that all animals share, must be the really important ones that we can’t do without, like the … Read More

Science Horror-scopes: March - Genomics Aotearoa

Mar 16, 2011

After a quiet spell over summer, the Southern Genes blog is back! We have a few ideas for new regular posts up our sleeves, so stay tuned. Also, if there’s any genetics related stuff that YOU’D like us to write about, please let us know at We’re going to kick the year off with those always cheerful horror-scopes from Doc. Chaos. Happy 2011! Genetics Otago Science Horror-scopes – March By Doc. Chaos Run! Run for your lives! The undergrads are back. *Ahem* This month you will spend in a perpetual funk — all those experiments you planned, all that work that was going to get done before semester resumed, none of it happened. You are out of time and the students are back. Each week you will think of another thing you … Read More