Ancient DNA: Secrets From the Past

May 27, 2015

Before a fascinated audience gathered in The Rees Hotel conference room, Professor Craig Millar of the Allan Wilson Centre delivered the public lecture Ancient DNA: Secrets from the Past.

Professor Millar offered a sweeping overview of how the advancement of the science of the very small (DNA) has the power to answer questions of the very large:

  • From compelling evidence at CSI-style crime scenes solving the largest of crimes;
  • to the history of humanity across thousands of years, from today back to ancient Egypt and beyond;
  • and offering insight into the development and evolution of the entire natural world around us, with particular reference to Professor Millar’s own research into some of the biggest birds known, the New Zealand Moa(s).

With an entertaining and engaging style (was I the only one threatened with being clipped over the ear with a Moa thigh bone if I continued to misbehave?), Professor Millar brought the audience to the world of DNA, and offered us all a ‘beginner’s guide’ to its incredible power to explore and explain the world of us.

More about:

  1. The Allan Wilson Centre
  2. Professor Millar
  3. Ancient DNA: Secrets from the Past (slides)

May update

An interactive poetry workshop and a look at the secrets revealed by ancient DNA are this month’s opportunities offered by Catalyst Trust. Make sure you keep up with these and other opportunities through enrolling on our Early Warning System database (go to our “get involved” page) or like our Facebook page if you want a handy reminder.

CATALYST is all about bringing intellectual stimulation to the Wakatipu – providing locals and visitors with the opportunity for mental as well as adrenal challenge. We collaborate with learning institutes and anyone else who can provide such opportunities to do so. We would love to hear from you if you or your visitors would be happy to share expertise and knowledge about a topic that others might find fascinating, challenging, mind opening… all those good things. Any time you have an idea or opportunity, please get in touch with us.

Meanwhile, the happenings ahead…

Sound and Sense: What Makes a Poem?
Catalyst Trust workshop, Queenstown Library 6.30 – 9.00pm Thursday, May 7th 2015, with Hannah Mettner and Jo Morris. Free. Numbers are limited so register to secure your place at Calling all budding poets and poetry aficionados! This workshop will focus on the joys of reading and writing poetry. See the event page here for more info.

Upfront Session #10
Thursday May 21, 7 p.m., Fluid’s Front Room Gallery, Memorial Street.

Ancient DNA: Secrets From the Past. Dr Craig Millar, of the Allan Wilson Centre.
Wednesday, May 27, 5:30 p.m. The Rees Queenstown Conference Room. Free but please register at
This Allan Wilson Centre for Ecology And Evolution talk, hosted by Catalyst Trust, will reveal how ever-advancing DNA research has allowed us to unlock some of the best kept secrets of New Zealand’s past.

Michael Hill International Violin Competition
Queen’s Birthday weekend,  Friday 5th to Monday, June 8th. Queenstown Memorial Centre.
This weekend celebration of international violinists kicks off with two talks about violins and their makers – are 300 year old violins from Cremona really better than the best modern instruments? – on Friday night, with “insider guides” to the music the world’s top violin competitors will be playing each of the three following mornings. More information at

Professor Meliha Altunisik, Dean of the Graduate School of Social Sciences at Middle East Technical University in Ankara (Turkey’s top-ranked university) will speak for a Catalyst Trust event in mid to late August, date TBC

Professor Tom McLeish of the University of Durham Physics Department, September 19, 5.30 to 7 p.m., at the Rees Hotel Queenstown Conference room will talk about “Faith and Wisdom in Science”, $5 at door. Register your seat through

Sound and Sense: What Makes a Poem? Review

May 7th, 2015


More than 20 poetry aficionados ranging from primary school students to retirees gathered in Queenstown Library to hear the favourite poems of Hannah Mettner and Jo Morris, both graduates of the Bill Manhire Creative Writing Masters, and use these as springboards for their own creative writing. Participants created four “starter poems” then tried out the editing process before some then shared their creations with the group. Two and a half hours whizzed by.