Avoiding conservation by numbers: how genetics can help save threatened species

Friday 2 November at 6pm, at the Presbyterian Community centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka.
Dr Helen Taylor, Department of Anatomy, University of Otago.

Research fellow Dr Taylor’s science communication about conservation genetics and threatened species resulted in her last night being awarded the 2018 Callaghan Medal for an outstanding contribution to science communication and raising public awareness of science.

Conservation is often a numbers game – if we increase the size of a threatened species’ population, we consider this a conservation success. Unfortunately, population growth is not always the full story; factors such as genetics have a big part to play in whether or not a species will survive. In this talk, Dr Helen Taylor will explain what happens to the genetics of populations when they get very small, why this is a problem, and what we can do about it. Using examples from her own research, Dr Taylor will take us on a journey that encompasses inbred kiwi in Marlborough Sounds, collecting bird sperm on remote islands, and gene editing technologies that could revolutionize conservation in New Zealand and globally. Think genetics is just about big words and family trees? Think again!

Dr.Helen Taylor is a research fellow in conservation genetics at the University of Otago. Originally from the UK, she conducted her PhD research on inbreeding depression in little spotted kiwi at Victoria University of Wellington. Helen’s current research focuses on how inbreeding affects male fertility in birds. She is also interested in the effective integration of genetics into conservation management and is part of the IUCN Conservation Genetics Specialist Group. A passionate science communicator, Helen has travelled the South Island with the lab in a box schools project and was the 2016 winner of the 180 seconds of science video competition, and the 2018 winner of the RSNZ Callaghan medal for science communication. Helen blogs at, is on twitter @helentaylorcg and you can find out more about her research at