New School of Biological Sciences appointees bring a wealth of experience to their roles

10 April 2018

Dr Maren Wellenreuther and Dr David Pattemore, University of Auckland alumni, have joined the School of Biological Sciences (SBS) in new part-time roles shared with the Joint Graduate School in Plant and Food Science.

Dr Maren Wellenreuther says she has always been fascinated about the diversity of life and interested in answers to questions such as: How many species are there? And… Why are some groups of organisms so much more diverse than others?

After completing her PhD with the School in 2007, Maren has spent the last 10 years following that passion for research around animal evolution.

“I enjoy the mix of applied and fundamental research and employ complementary approaches at the genomic, phenotypic, ecological and environmental level whenever possible,” she says.

Much of that time has been in Lund, Sweden where she gained valuable postdoctoral experience thanks to the support of a number of grants and fellowships.

In 2013 she received the KVA King Carl XVI Gustaf’s 50-years award – an honour bestowed by the Swedish King on researchers who promote and contribute to the knowledge and preservation of biological diversity.

Maren returned to New Zealand in 2016, and joined Plant and Food Research NZ in Nelson as a senior scientist where she heads the marine fish selective breeding programme.

“We’re using genomic breeding approaches to domesticate our native species and diversify aquaculture production beyond introduced species,” she says.

“My current research is rooted in evolutionary ecology and integrates genomic methods with field and experimental approaches to address basic and applied questions in biology.

“I am particularly interested in understanding the evolutionary and ecological mechanisms that generate and maintain biological diversity in nature.

My study systems range from damselflies to flies and fish, with the strongest focus in recent years being fish.”


Dr Maren Wellenreuther at Nelson seafood
Dr Maren Wellenreuther at Nelson seafood

Dr David Pattemore leads the Pollination and Apiculture Science team at Plant and Food Research NZ in Hamilton, where he has been based for the last seven years. 

David completed his masters degree on North Island robins at the University of Auckland, before going on to work for Forest and Bird NZ and then completing his PhD at Princeton University. 

His current research focuses on understanding the dynamics of pollination systems by integrating across the diverse fields of floral biology, pollinator biology and behaviour, and ecology.

“I primarily work in crop systems such as avocado, kiwifruit, and stonefruit, but also have interests in fundamental questions about the evolution and ecology of pollination and other critical ecosystem functions, and the effects of novel interactions between native and exotic species.”

His team are working on multiple areas of research including:

  • an MBIE-funded programme to develop alternative pollination approaches for New Zealand growers (such as techniques to utilise bumble bees in open orchard environments)
  • an MPI-funded research to determine whether honey bees might be vectors of myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii)
  • a PFR-funded programme to develop mathematical models of crop pollination systems.

David also led the development an automated radio telemetry system for small, fast-moving animals, which is a globally unique tool used to deliver deeper insights into animal movement and behaviour.

His research on pollination has most recently drawn him to the behaviour and ecology of New Zealand's bat species, known pollinators of a number of New Zealand forest plants.


Dr David Pattemore with beehives
Dr David Pattemore with beehives

David and Maren are delighted to be part of the School they spent so much time in as students – this time as a members of staff.

“It is great to be able to return to our research roots by accepting our joint appointments,” they say.

“We are excited to hold positions at SBS and the Joint Graduate School and look forward to contributing to both teaching and research excellence.”

Please contact Associate Professor Maren Wellenreuther for more information about her research and postgraduate opportunities or view her website

Please contact Dr David Pattemore for more information about his research or view his video.

Maren and David both retain their main roles with Plant and Food Research NZ.