New SBS doctoral students get to work

16 February 2015

Moyang Li  UoAID 8849172
School of Biological Sciences Doctoral Candidate, Moyang Li

Seagrass meadows are important parts of estuarine and coastal ecosystems in New Zealand – but they’re vanishing at a rapid rate here and overseas.  Newly-enrolled doctoral student Moyang Li is hoping her research will find out why.

“Seagrass meadows are valuable economically and ecologically,” she says, “but extensive seagrass areas have been lost from many locations including the Whangarei, Manukau, Waitemata, Tauranga, and Avon-Heathcote estuaries.”

As an example, she says, 90% of the subtidal seagrass in Tauranga Harbour disappeared between 1959 and 1996. Excessive amounts of nutrients or sediments are thought to be the culprits.

Moyang, who is supervised by SBS’s Dr Louis Tremblay and Dr Carolyn Lundquist, is one of 10 students who have recently started their doctoral studies in the School of Biological Sciences. 

Another is Elliott Dunn, who is hoping that his research will help identify and characterise the mesenchymal stem cells from the epidermis that are the most effective for growing and repairing skin.

“Then,” he says, “we may be able to figure out an efficient way to grow skin in the laboratory for people who require skin grafts. This will provide a solution to painful skin grafting, and give a much greater chance of recovery to severe burn victims.”

Hui Wen Lee is hoping that his PhD research will shed light on the role that the hormone strigolactone plays in plant growth and development. By understanding the mechanism, he says, it might be possible to “develop new strategies to manipulate the strigolactone signalling pathway to alter plant architecture and enhance the production of crop plants.”

** The other new doctoral students are Annabel Hinderfeld, Guangmei Huang, Sarah Meidinger, Carolina Mendoza, Tina Nie, Shuqi Wang and Anders Joergensen.