Lab for Evo Devo





Gravida is cool

Marsden Fund


Betta Bees







Sarah Morgan


It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman with an interest in Science, must be in want of a PhD.  However little known the feelings or views of such a woman may be on her first entering a University, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding academics, that she is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their laboratories.

In light of this truth I came down to Dunedin 8 years ago to start my tertiary education at Otago University(1).  I completed a BSc with first class Honours in 2007, with a major in Genetics, and began my PhD in the Lab for Evolution and Development(2) under the supervision of Assoc. Prof. Peter Dearden(3) (and co-supervised by Prof. David Raubenheimer(4) at Massey University, Albany.) focusing on the life history trade-off and the relationship between nutrition and longevity in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.

Lifespan is commonly known to be extended by dietary restriction – initially thought to be due to the restriction of the calorie content, it was shown recently in Drosophila that it is the specific nutrient content of the diet which affects lifespan extension rather than the calorie value, which remains constant across experiments. My flies have an extended lifespan on a diet high in carbohydrate, and a restricted lifespan on a diet with high levels of protein. I hope to find a genetic link between this differing intake of diet nutrients and the extended lifespan phenotype by using various modern genetic analysis techniques.

My work and scholarship are gratefully acknowledged to the National Research Centre for Growth and Development(5).

I enjoy teaching, especially in the Genetics Program’s undergraduate laboratory classes(6) and have an interest in Science Communication(7).  I am currently in the death throes of my PhD and hope to postdoc in the aging/lifespan field of research in the future.  I enjoy long walks on the chilly, barren beaches of the Dunedin coast, fine wine and a good book.




Recent Papers

Paten. A.M, Pain, S.J, Peterson, S.W, Blair, H.T, Kenyon, P.R, Dearden, P.K, Duncan, E.J. (2014) "Identification of reference genes for RT-qPCR in ovine mammary tissue during late-pregnancy, lactation and in response to maternal nutritional programming." Physiological Genomics, In press.

Duncan, E.J., Johnson, T.K., Whisstock, J.C., Warr, C.G. and Dearden, P.K. (2014) “Capturing embryonic development from metamorphosis: How did the terminal patterning signalling pathway of Drosophila evolve?”  Current Opinions in Insect Science, In press.

Duncan, E.J., Gluckman, P.D., Dearden P.K. (2014). "Epigenetics, Plasticity and Evolution: How do we link epigenetic change to phenotype?" Journal of Experiemntal Zoology, Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution, in press.