Marine sci­en­tist mov­ing lab from Aust to Dunedin

Otago Daily Times - - DUNEDIN - ELENA MCPHEE [email protected]

HOW life came to ex­ist in the chilly climes of the Antarc­tic is the main fo­cus for an Aus­tralian marine sci­en­tist who is pre­par­ing to move her lab­o­ra­tory to Dunedin this year.

Cerid­wen Fraser, of the Aus­tralian Na­tional Uni­ver­sity, is pre­par­ing to move the Fraser Lab to the Uni­ver­sity of Otago in March, af­ter re­ceiv­ing a Ruther­ford Dis­cov­ery Fel­low­ship in 2018.

Dr Fraser has re­ceived in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion for work in­clud­ing stud­ies on New Zealand’s coast­line af­ter the Kaik­oura earth­quake.

One of the first large projects her lab group car­ried out in­cluded test­ing the idea plants and an­i­mals in the Antarc­tic sur­vived ice ages by shel­ter­ing around vol­ca­noes and in warm caves un­der the ice cre­ated by vol­canic steam.

Her work had also in­volved test­ing ideas about longdis­tance dis­per­sal of species, for in­stance whether ‘‘ter­res­trial’’ ticks that live on pen­guins can travel with their hosts.

Dur­ing past cli­mate change pe­ri­ods, plants and an­i­mals had be­gun to move to­wards the poles as the cli­mate warmed.

‘‘Right now, with hu­manac­cel­er­ated global warm­ing, many species are try­ing to move to­wards the poles,’’ Dr Fraser said.

‘‘For south­ern hemi­sphere species, this is re­ally tricky — how can they cross the enor­mous South­ern Ocean?

‘‘Which can, and which can’t? ‘‘Do you need to be able to swim or fly to cross an ocean?’’

Over the years, the lab had fo­cused in­creas­ingly on Antarc­tic ecosys­tems — par­tic­u­larly around the idea of whether the Antarc­tic has been bi­o­log­i­cally iso­lated for mil­lions of years — but she was also fas­ci­nated by the evo­lu­tion of New Zealand’s plants and an­i­mals.

‘‘It has been a lit­tle chal­leng­ing to be a marine sci­en­tist at an in­land uni­ver­sity.

‘‘I can’t wait to be sur­rounded, ev­ery day, by the ecosys­tems that I get most ex­cited about,’’ she said of her move to Otago.

Dr Fraser said she had wanted to be a marine bi­ol­o­gist from the age of 11, when she had been fas­ci­nated by a marine fish tank her science teacher used to keep in the class­room.

‘‘I spent all my time star­ing at the amaz­ing crea­tures in the ‘other world’ of the tank,’’ she said.

‘‘It is ev­ery­thing I dreamed it would be, and more.’’

The move was tak­ing place at a time when most of her re­search stu­dents and post­doc­toral re­searchers had ei­ther just fin­ished, or not started.

One of her PhD stu­dents would be trav­el­ling with her, and she was keen to find new re­search stu­dents and col­lab­o­ra­tors at Otago, she said.

❛ I can’t wait to be sur­rounded, ev­ery day, by the ecosys­tems that I get most ex­cited about

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Sea change . . . Aus­tralian sci­en­tist Cerid­wen Fraser, who is re­lo­cat­ing her lab­o­ra­tory to Dunedin.

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