John Kerr

John Kerr is a PhD student researching public attitudes towards science in the School of Psychology at Victoria University Wellington. He was a Media Advisor at the Science Media Centre for five years and has several years experience in both laboratory research and academic publishing.

Earth Microbiome Project: crowd-sourcing the world’s bacteria - News

Nov 02, 2017

A genetic database of over 27,000 bacterial samples from around the world – including New Zealand – will keep researchers busy for years to come. Cataloging the bacterial diversity of the entire planet? Given that microbes are basically everywhere, this seems like an impossible task. But an international team of researchers is taking on the challenge. The Earth Microbiome Project, co-founded by Dunedin-born microbiologist Prof Rob Knight in 2010, describes itself as “a massive crowd-sourced effort to analyze microbial communities across the globe.” The immense depth and breadth of the samples already collected by the Project is outlined in a new analysis published today in Nature. More than 27,000 samples have been sourced from researchers around the world, including samples from volcanoes in Hawaii, mummified seals in Antarctica, monkey poo in China and good old New Zealand dirt. The Project team … Read More

Meteor shower to hit New Zealand skies - News

Oct 20, 2017

Earth is passing through a cloud of comet debris and there’s good chance to catch meteors lighting up the New Zealand sky – weather permitting! Kiwis will witness the peak of the annual Orionids meteor shower tonight – at least those who are committed to getting up early (or staying up late) and who have the luxury of a clear night. The shower is expected to peak tonight and early tomorrow morning (Saturday 20 October 2017). In previous years there have been as many as 80 meteors per hour at the height of the shower, although this year experts estimate that the rate of meteors will be at the lower end of the scale. At their best, the #Orionids should produce rates of up to 20 meteors per hour, in the hours before dawn. — Jonti Horner (@JontiHorner) October 19, … Read More

Snapper spillover: Marine reserves boost local population - News

Oct 18, 2017

New Zealand’s first marine reserve doesn’t just protect snapper inside the reserve, it also acts as a snapper super-nursery, contributing ten times more fish than expected to the surrounding areas.  The findings come from a new University of Auckland study examining the genetic relationships between fish inside and outside the boundaries of the Goat Island Reserve – a Marine Protected Area (MPA) north of Auckland. At least 11 percent of juvenile snapper up to 40km away are the offspring of spawning adults from the reserve, according to the research published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “The contribution from the reserve is about 10 times higher than would be expected if snapper larval contribution was simply proportional to geographic area,” says lead author Professor John Montgomery. “This is the first estimate of the larval contribution of … Read More

NZ’s top researchers recognised in Royal Society Te Apārangi awards - News

Oct 11, 2017

New Zealand researchers working at the cutting edge of their fields have been recognised at the Royal Society -Te Apārangi Research Honours Dinner. The annual awards dinner hosted by the Royal Society -Te Apārangi took place in Auckland last night and saw awards conferred not just to scientists and researchers, but also teachers and students. This years’ awards dinner also marked an important anniversary for the society; the gala event was timed to fall exactly 150 years from the date that the Royal Society Te Apārangi was established (10 October 1867). A full list of all the award recipients and details of their work can be found on the Royal Society – Te Apārangi website. Just a handful of the winners are noted below.  Geologist Professor Colin Wilson The top honour, the Rutherford Medal, presented for an exceptional contribution to New Zealand research, was awarded  … Read More

We need to get serious about mens’ health, say NZ doctors. - News

Oct 08, 2017

Kiwi blokes have a lower life expectancy than women, are more likely to fall foul of accidents and certain diseases, and are less likely to seek medical advice. It’s time to sort out men’s health, say a group of New Zealand doctors. Prof David Baxter and colleagues tackle the topic of men’s health in the latest issue of the New Zealand Medical Journal.  In their editorial ‘Seven things you need to know about men’s health‘ [subscription only] they say it is time to acknowledge gender differences in healthcare and a plan a “gender-orientated response to improve men’s health and wellbeing at an individual or population level.”. Read more about the research on When talking about ‘mens’ health’, conditions like prostate and testicular cancer are the first things to jump to mind, but, as the authors point out, there … Read More

Rugby pros feel the pain later in life, but no regrets - News

Sep 29, 2017

Elite rugby players are a pretty fit and healthy bunch, but new research suggests the strain of top-level rugby can take its toll on the body later in life. A new University of Oxford study, published today in Scientific Reports, finds that retired elite rugby players are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, joint replacement, and site-specific joint replacement at the hip and knee, compared to average people of the same age. The authors also found that rugby players were twice as likely to report problems related to mobility and pain or discomfort. The research is based on a health survey of over 250 retired elite UK rugby players, with the results compared to survey data from the general population. While the increased pain and joint problems is a concern, it’s not all negative; the authors also noted rugby players … Read More

Limiting warming to 1.5 °C, we can do it – scientists - News

Sep 19, 2017

The global warming limit set at the 2015 Paris Climate Summit is still possible, say scientists, but we need to redouble our efforts if the Earth’s atmosphere is to limbo under the ambitious boundary. In an article published today in Nature Geoscience an international team of climate scientists reports a re-assessment of complex Earth System Models. Crunching the numbers in light of new data, they have updated estimates the outstanding ‘carbon budget’ – the total amount of carbon humanity could emit and still scrape under the limit of warming by less than 1.5 °C by the end of the century. We are already well on our way; in 2015 human-induced warming was estimated to be about 0.9 ◦C above mid-nineteenth-century conditions and increasing at almost 0.2 ◦C per decade. But it’s not time to throw in the towel yet. The authors say that … Read More

Prenatal genetic screening risks information overload for parents - News

Sep 11, 2017

A new report from New Zealand bioethicists warns that prenatal screening technology is developing exponentially – and we need to think hard about how we use it. The Judging Genes & Choosing Children report, funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation, digs into the ethical, legal and social issues posed by a new era of genomic testing for embryos and foetuses. The hefty 342-page report considers a number of rapidly evolving genetic technologies that a woman may be offered, either during pregnancy or regarding embryos created by IVF (in-vitro fertilisation), including: Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), which enables foetal information to be gleaned from a maternal blood test as early as 10 weeks into pregnancy Chromosomal microarray testing that may be performed at about 18 weeks following invasive amniocentesis Preimplantation genetic testing of IVF embryos involving the latest high-resolution, … Read More

New ‘fat vs. carbs’ study could be misleading for Kiwi diet - News

Aug 30, 2017

Chowing down on a high-carb diet could be worse for your overall health than eating a high-fat diet – if you believe the media coverage of a new international study. But a New Zealand expert warns the dietary implications of the findings aren’t that simple, especially for Kiwis. The study The new research, published yesterday in the Lancet, comes from the massive Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) Study. The international team of researchers collected health and diet data from over 135,000 people in 18 countries for almost eight years. In particular, the researchers focused on how much of person’s total energy intake came from carbohydrates or fats. In a nutshell, the study found that the people who got a lot of their daily energy intake from carbohydrates had a much higher risk of death during the study … Read More

Gene drives could wipe out island pest populations – study - News

Aug 10, 2017

An entire island population of invasive mice could be eradicated by the single release of 100 engineered mice carrying ‘gene drives’ which spread infertility throughout a population. The finding comes from a new study which used computer simulations to investigate how gene drives – essentially sets of ‘selfish genes’ which are more likely to pass on to the next generation –  spread through a population.  The authors examined the impact of several different gene drives which cause sterility in some offspring or prevent mouse embryos from fully developing. The research was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The researchers found that a single introduction of 100 mice carrying a gene drive causing infertility could eradicate an island mouse population of 50,000 within four to five years. What was important, they noted, was that … Read More