Laura Duntsch

B.Sc. Biology at Technical University Braunschweig in Germany, M.Sc. Animal Ecology at Lund University in Sweden

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Doctoral Candidate - Doctor of Philosophy


In 2015, I received my BSc degree in Biology, with my thesis focussing on microbiome research in amphibian species. Then, until early 2016, I conducted a volunteer internship at the Rotokare Scenice Reserve in Taranaki, New Zealand. In 2018, I completed my MSc "Animal Ecology" studies at the Department of Biology, Lund University, with focus on evolutionary ecology and population genetics. Once I had finished my thesis project on genomic differentiation in Nesospiza finches, I went on a student exchange with the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, where I took courses in Land Ethics, Global Change and Biosecurity. Afterwards, I conducted an Animal Breeding Genetics internship in a multi-species breeding company in The Netherlands, being involved in testing a new method for estimating breeding values. Currently, I am investigating the adaptive potential of the endemic New Zealand stichbird/hihi (Notiomystis cincta) as a PhD candidate at the University of Auckland School of Biological Sciences. My main interests: Animal ecology, population genetics and conservation management.

Research | Current

Determining the adaptive potential of wild populations requires that we understand the genetic basis of traits that are important for survival and reproduction in these populations.

In my current project, I will utilise a large genomic marker dataset to characterise the genetic basis of morphological and life history traits in the reintroduced Tiritiri Matangi Island population of hihi, in order to understand the potential of the species to respond to changing environmental pressures, including anthropogenic climate change. Hihi are an ideal study system because, in addition to being a wonderful example of eccentric New Zealand wildlife, a reintroduced population of birds on Tiritiri Matangi Island has been intensively monitored since introduction where we have a wealth of data on morphological and life history traits, social and genetic relationships, and environmental variables.
I will determine the genetic basis of traits in the population using genetic linkage mapping and association and
additionally develop methods to make sure that the genetic data is correctly linked to the individual phenotypes.
Main aim is to investigate (whole-genome vs. local regions of the genome) inbreeding - fitness correlations that may constrain the adaptive potential of the species. Inbreeding is often related to loss of heterozygosity and reduced genetic diversity, loss or fixation of alleles and shifts in allele frequencies.

Teaching | Current

Demonstrating, BIOSCI 210: Evolution and the origin of life

Demonstrating, BIOSCI 202: Genetics

Demonstrating, BIOSCI 207: Adaptive Form and Function

Demonstrating, BIOSCI 220: Quantitative Genetics


Postgraduate supervision

Supervisor: Dr. Anna Santure

Co-Supervisor: AP Craig Donald Millar


  • Passed with Distinction: Master of Science "Animal Ecology", Sweden.
  • Erasmus Trainneeship Grant 2018
  • University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship (UoADS), 2019-2022

Areas of expertise

  • Population Genetics
  • Animal Ecology
  • Animal Breeding
  • Conservation

Committees/Professional groups/Services

 Joint Graduate School in Biodiversity and Biosecurity


Contact details

Alternative contact

Please contact me via:

Office hours

Mon-Fri 9:00 - 17:00

(except public holidays)

Primary office location

Level 1, Room 149
New Zealand

Social links

Web links