Curtin professor is appointed Chief Scientist for EPA

The Environmental Protection Authority has appointed Kiwi expat Professor Michael Bunce to the role of Chief Scientist.

Professor Bunce has sequenced ancient DNA from the fossil bones of moa and giant eagles but more recently has developed methods to survey biodiversity in water by recovering the DNA that animals leave behind.

He has built a distinguished career and reputation applying his genetics expertise to a range of taxonomic, ecological, medical, and environmental issues.

Professor Bunce is presently serving as Professor of Environmental Genomics at Curtin University, Western Australia, and heads the University’s Trace and Environmental DNA laboratory.

EPA chief executive Dr Allan Freeth says:

“We are delighted to secure an individual of Professor Bunce’s expertise, vision, and passion. Michael is a Kiwi who is looking forward to making a contribution to New Zealand science while continuing his staunch support for the All Blacks – this time on the correct side of the Tasman.
 
“He has spent the past 17 years studying biodiversity across terrestrial and marine environments. A recognised expert in genetics, he has maintained a strong connection to New Zealand through co-operative work with colleagues in academic and government agencies.”

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said Professor Bunce is a widely respected and highly regarded expert in DNA-sequencing technologies.

“His appointment as Chief Scientist for New Zealand’s EPA is testament to the quality of his research, which has pioneered new environmental DNA (eDNA) biomonitoring methods. We look forward to seeing the important role his vast expertise brings to the EPA’s decision-making and hope to continue our relationship with Professor Bunce through new research collaborations.

Professor Bunce said his EPA appointment will enable him to translate some of his research in environmental and biodiversity monitoring into the scientific decision-making of New Zealand’s environmental authority.

“Throughout more than five years at Curtin, I’ve been lucky to work with many dynamic academics from multiple disciplines researching environmental impacts from fossil bones in caves near Margaret River and remote coral reefs to mine sites undergoing restoration. I am excited to use that background in my new role in New Zealand.”

Professor Bunce, who joined Curtin in 2014, completed his undergraduate degree at Lincoln University in New Zealand and his PhD in medical research at the Australian National University in Canberra. He completed post-doctoral positions at The University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and McMaster University in Canada.

Curtin’s TrEnD lab specialises in using DNA metabarcoding to characterise environmental and ancient DNA across a wide variety of biological applications including biodiversity assessment, palaeontology, archaeology, food webs, biosecurity, marine biology and human health.

Professor Bunce will commence his new role at New Zealand’s EPA in August this year.

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