UC Science Radio: Episode 3

Dr Tammy Steeves: It's like Tinder...for birds!

UC Science Radio podcast episode 3 Tammy Steeves web image 2

Forget love at first sight – finding the perfect match is all in the genes. Well, if you’re an animal on the brink of extinction that is.

As a conservation geneticist, aka ‘genetic matchmaker’, it’s Tammy Steeves' job to find the ideal mate for some of Aotearoa New Zealand's most endangered native species.  In this episode, Dr Steeves, Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at UC, talks about her fascinating work and how she’s helping to preserve the genetic diversity of some of our rarest taonga species – including the kakī or black stilt and kēwai or freshwater crayfish. Tammy also talks about the Kindness in Science Collective she started along with some of her fellow scientists, and how kindness can and is changing the way we do science – for the better.  #kindnessinscience

It's like Tinder...for birds!

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In this episode

02:22 In conservation breeding programs, what we're seeking to do is to reduce inbreeding, in the short term. We don't want close relatives mating because in the long term, what we're looking to do is to minimize the loss of genetic diversity. The reason why we care about that is because species actually need diversity in order to respond to changing environments down the track.

03:28 Our work isn't really done until it's actually been translated into conservation management practice. And the way that we achieve that is in partnership. We work directly with conservation practitioners from the very, very beginning, and throughout that process to come up with decisions that that matter.

04:10 Fundamentally, like all things, it's about building trusted relationships, directly with hapū or iwi or effectively mana whenua.

10.35 There were a number of people around the world, but also here in New Zealand, thinking about ways to make the science system more kind. To  really focus on the system in itself or the institutional structure, because it's not really about just about being nice to each other, that's absolutely not what kindness is or being kind is. It’s actually very hard to be kind, because it's about pushing for what is right and just.

14:10 I encourage people to contemplate their spheres of influence and use their privilege for good within that sphere. Because even spending 10 minutes with that one person in that one interaction could be life changing, in your sphere of influence.


Read a transcript of the full interview.

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Meet our speakers

Tammy Steeves podcast image

Tammy Steeves

Dr Tammy Steeves is a conservation geneticist, Associate professor at UC's , and co-leader of UC’s Conservation, Systematics and Evolution Research Team (ConSERT). Tammy uses genetic and genomic data, to help us manage and look after some of our rarest native species – including the critically endangered Kakī or black stilt. She is also talks a co-founder of the now global ‘Kindness in Science Collective’ – a movement she started with fellow scientists to foster diversity, respect and wellbeing, and openness in science for better science outcomes. Tammy says she’s happiest when “being of some use” and gets a lot of joy from seeing her science being applied in the real world.

Learn more about Tammy: Research profile | Twitter


Molly Magid

Molly Magid

Molly Magid is an MSc student at UC. A recent graduate of Brown University, Molly is working on research in conservation genomics with Associate Professor Tammy Steeves from the School of Biological Sciences. Molly is passionate about finding ways to communicate science to the public in a clear, novel, and engaging ways. Most recently, Molly worked as the lead student producer on the podcast Possibly, which answers listener's questions about sustainability using relevant science research.