Siouxsie Wiles

Dr Siouxsie Wiles is a research scientist with a background in medical and environmental microbiology. She has made a career out of combining her twin passions of bioluminescence (the production of light by living organisms — think glow worms and fireflies) and nasty microbes. In a nutshell, Siouxsie and her team make nasty bacteria glow in the dark to better understand infectious diseases. Originally from the UK, Siouxsie now leads the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab at the University of Auckland. She was the 2013 winner of the Prime Minister's Science Media Communicator's Prize. Siouxsie is on Twitter @SiouxsieW

Surviving the flupocalypse! - Infectious Thoughts

Sep 07, 2015

Picture this. A new virus, Mortenza, is sweeping around the world, killing millions. Despite all efforts, Mortenza reaches New Zealand and rapidly spreads around the country. In desperation, the Government isolates the tiny uninfected island of Great Barrier. How would this small community cope? Would they survive the pandemic? This is the fascinating scenario I’ll be exploring this coming weekend in an exciting event being held on Great Barrier Island and organised by the island’s Awana Rural Women. I’ve been tasked with moderating a panel of experts to explore just how likely a scenario like Mortenza is, and what would happen if it did. How would the people of Great Barrier keep law and order? How would they stop people trying to get onto the island? And what would happen if their only doctor died? While Mortenza … Read More

NIWA in astonishing attack on scientist association - Infectious Thoughts

Aug 28, 2015

NZ’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) has accused the NZ Association of Scientists (NZAS) of casting doubt on the integrity of NZ’s scientists, and says it will no longer pay membership fees for its staff.  This morning, news broke on Radio NZ National of an internal email within the Crown Research Institute (CRI) NIWA sent in early August titled ‘Protecting the integrity of science and scientists’, in which the author(s) states that NIWA is no longer prepared to pay for its staff to be members of an organisation that “actively lobbies against science and the integrity of scientists”. These are strong allegations that seem to have come out of the blue and are in direct contradiction to my experience of being an NZAS member. This is how the email starts: You may be … Read More

What would you ask a scientist?! - Infectious Thoughts

Aug 27, 2015

In preparation for Queenstown Research Week, Auckland University’s Prof Peter Shepherd asked primary school kids what questions they would ask a scientist. One class at Shotover Primary School sent us this list: Edit: A group of 10-11 year olds from Wakatipu High have added to the list (Q29-48) How does the sky stay up? How does food get made? How is electricity made? How does electricity run through wires? Is science chemistry? How do solar panels work? How are satellites made? How are materials made? How do batteries get made? How does the wind make windmills go for electricity? How come there is gravity on earth but not in space? How does snow form? Are there other planets like earth? How do the clouds stay in the sky? How big is the sun? How do the … Read More

Question it! Science in Queenstown - Infectious Thoughts

Aug 27, 2015

From the 29th of August to the 4th of September, over 1,000 scientists will be descending on Queenstown for the annual Queenstown Research Week. And this year the public are invited! In addition to the conferences the scientists will be attending comes a fantastic array of events for the public. Hands on science Otago University’s chemistry, physics, geology, microbiology, food science, zoology and physical education departments will be providing opportunities for kids to do real science with working scientists in their interactive workshops. Question it! In association with the Catalyst Trust and the NZ International Science Festival, the team behind the Queenstown Molecular Biology meeting have put on a huge range of public talks, panel discussions and Q&A’s covering loads of different topics: Sex and Drugs (don’t need the rock ‘n’ roll): Emory University’s Dr Larry Young … Read More

Meet Arachnocampa luminosa, New Zealand’s amazing glowing ‘maggot’ - Infectious Thoughts

Aug 20, 2015

The bioluminescent larvae of Arachnocampa luminosa are a magical sight, lighting up caves around New Zealand with their beautiful blue light. If you don’t believe me, watch the video put together by photographer Jordan, from  Stoked for Saturday. He spent 60 hours in the caves at Waitomo, taking time-lapse photographs. The result is absolutely spellbinding. You can read his blog about it here.   From glow worms to jet lag! To find out a little more about why glow worms glow, and to see how scientists are using bioluminescence to find new medicines to treat sleep disorders and jet lag, check out the latest animation I’ve made with graphic artist Luke Harris. Read More

Monday Micro: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in Korea - Infectious Thoughts

Jun 08, 2015

“MERS-CoV electron micrograph1” by Maureen Metcalfe/Cynthia Goldsmith/Azaibi Tamin – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. In 2012 a new virus emerged in the Middle East. Causing severe respiratory and flu-like, the disease was called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)* or “Saudi-SARS”. The virus responsible was found to be a novel coronavirus related to the SARS virus, and named MERS-CoV. Until recently, almost all cases have been confined to the Middle East, with some limited cases imported into other regions of the world, but with limited onward transmission. It’s thought that virus might be initially transmitted to people from camels. Since the virus emerged there have been over 1,100 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including at least 440 related deaths. There is a very cool map … Read More