Dieback researcher wins DOC scholarship

15 March 2021 | Students News

Alana Thurston has received some help in her fight against kauri dieback.

The Lincoln University Master of Science student is one of the first recipients of the Department of Conservation (DOC) Te Papa Atawhai postgraduate scholarships, which are intended to help build New Zealand’s conservation science capability by contributing to research to tackle the biodiversity crisis and plan for more sustainable tourism.

Her research focuses on Phytophthora agathidicida, the plant pathogen causing the kauri dieback disease that is ravaging New Zealand’s native forests.

She is studying how to better detect the pathogen, while diminishing its viability, which means reducing the incidence of disease.

“To this end, I've trialled different fungicides and essential oils against the pathogen in the lab and documented how they inhibit the pathogen's growth,” she says.

Better detection of the pathogen would allow land managers to develop more targeted management plans.

“To test this, I'll be comparing different DNA extraction schemes, including the use of different types of commercial, DNA extraction kits.

“I've always been really interested in the relationship between fungi and plants, and prior to my Master of Science, I had been studying symbiotic relationships (called mycorrhizal relationships),  between soil fungus and plant roots,” Alana said.