Robin Atherton

Doctor of Philosophy, (Genetics)
Study Completed: 2014
College of Sciences


Thesis Title
Nga Uri o Karaka: An genetic study of karako/kopi in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Read article at Massey Research Online: MRO icon

Karaka (a New Zealand endemic tree) was an important food source for ancestors of Maori. Ms Atherton endeavoured to reconstruct the translocation history of karaka using chloroplast DNA markers. She developed a protocol for isolating chloroplasts from angiosperm and gymnosperm leaves and sequenced the entire karaka chloroplast genome using Illumina sequencing technology. She genotyped 360 karaka accessions for seven characterised markers using high-resolution melt analysis (HRM). This was the first large-scale multi-locus use of HRM for genotyping chloroplast haplotypes. The results indicate that the recent evolutionary history of karaka is complex, but the results are promising in their ability to trace the translocation of one of New Zealand’s iconic ethnobotanical species. By developing a more detailed picture of the genetic variation of karaka, Ms Atherton’s work has the potential to be the foundation for a deeper study into the translocation of the species.

Professor Peter Lockhart
Professor Nick Roskruge
Dr Lara Shepherd