MSc Opportunity: Population genomics and taxonomy of Toroa Buller’s mollymawk 


We are seeking a MSc student to work on the population genomics and taxonomy of Thalassarche bulleri.


Toroa / Buller’s mollymawk Thalassarche bulleri is a nationally at-risk albatross species whose extant populations are defined by taxonomic uncertainty hampering conservation efforts focussed on threats such as fisheries bycatch.   


The University of Otago and Auckland Museum have been working with the New Zealand Department of Conservation and iwi partners to obtain tissue samples from all Toroa populations including in the far north of Aotearoa on Manawatāwhi Three Kings Islands, a population never previously sampled, to conduct a complete phylogenetic and population genomic review of the group. 

The primary aim of this research to be undertaken by a MSc candidate will be to conduct a population genomics analysis of all Toroa populations utilising whole mitochondrial genomes and reduced-representation sequencing (e.g., genotyping by sequencing). There is also the possibility of including ancient DNA analysis of archaeological Thalassarche bones from mainland New Zealand in this project to determine if these albatross bred on the mainland at the time of Polynesian arrival. 


The candidate will work as part of a small team in the Department of Zoology (University of Otago) and Auckland Museum researching the causes and taxonomic/conservation management consequences of population genetic structure in an iconic southern hemisphere seabird and provide the first taxonomic review of all the species populations. 


We are looking for an outstanding student with a strong genetics-based laboratory skillset, good communication skills and proven academic rigour to take on this project.  An understanding te ao Māori is also valued in terms of communicating with iwi stakeholders.  Direct research costs of this project will be covered. 


To enquire about this project please contact: Dr Nic Rawlence (University of Otago) or Dr Matt Rayner (Auckland Museum)