Nau mai. Thank you for visiting.

I’m an interdisciplinary social scientist based at the Cawthron Institute in Nelson, Aotearoa New Zealand. This website is a space to assemble and share the different threads and communities of research that I’m so fortunate to be part of. You may also notice a shift in language and perspective over time, tracing a journey from conservation genomics training to environmental geography and humanities in recent years; if you are someone navigating your own path, and who may not fit into conventional academic boxes, I hope you find something useful here.

One broad thread of research explores and reworks the categories and practices of environmental science to support social justice and ecological care. Current projects include work on (i) community and cultural values of freshwater fish, (ii) introduced species and belonging, and (iii) Indigenous-led freshwater conservation translocations. Find out more: Fish Futures - Community Values + Introduced SpeciesBioHeritage - Freshwater for our Taonga

Another thread focuses on how collective action could rework our research system to better respond to global, complex challenges. We are currently exploring how this might look at the research-policy interface. Find out more: Te Pūnaha Matatini - Building a Just Research SystemBioHeritage - (re)Evaluating Impact

In past research, developed with and for Kāi Tahu communities, we explored biocultural relationships through oral narrative and DNA for wai kōura / kēkēwai (freshwater crayfish). Find out more: BioHeritage - Adaptive Evolution of Native Biota

Ko wai au? I’m Pākehā (a non-Indigenous New Zealander) of Irish, English and Scottish descent, from a rural/farming background.

If you’d like to chat further, please don’t hesitate to reach out.


You can find some examples of our work below:

blogs and other popular media

When rehoming wildlife, Indigenous leadership delivers the best results

In conservation, plants and animals are increasingly moved to establish new populations or strengthen existing ones. But few projects are led or co-led by Indigenous Peoples, or centre Indigenous ways of knowing. In this article for The Conversation, we explain why we need transformative change that brings together diverse knowledge and worldviews to care for ecosystems, cultural practices and language. Read more... You can also listen to our RNZ interview here.

How can we best use genomics to enhance conservation translocations?

In a rapidly changing world, conservation programmes seek to build resilience in threatened species so that they can respond—or adapt—to change. But the best way to enhance this adaptive potential is often debated in the conservation genetics community. In this Bioheritage blog, we discuss how genomics can help us to make more informed decisions in threatened species management. Read more...

Building a just research system

Our research system is fragmented and unjust. It does not effectively support society to address complex issues. But the system isn't broken; it was built this way. Despite espoused values, our institutions are designed to promote hyper-competitiveness, individualism and productivism. In our recent article in Nature Human Behaviour, we consider how systematic, collaborative and whole-of-community action could rework these norms to build a more just research system. Read more...


Aisling Rayne, Arahanga-Doyle H, Cox B, Cox MP, Febria CM, Galla SJ, Hendy SC, Locke K, Matheson A, Pawlik A, Roa T, Sharp EL, Walker LA, Watene K, Wehi PM, Steeves TE. 2023. Collective action is needed to build a more just science system. Nature Human Behaviour. 7: 1034–1037. Open Access

Bethany Cox, Locke K, Sharp E, Rayne A, Walker L, Steeves T. 2023. Doing leadership differently as resistance: Care-fully reworking Aotearoa New Zealand's research system. New Zealand Geographer. Open Access

Aisling Rayne, Blair S, Dale M, Flack B, Hollows J, Moraga R, Parata RN, Rupene M, Tamati-Elliffe P, Wehi PM, Wylie MJ, Steeves TE. 2022. Weaving place-based knowledge for culturally significant species in the age of genomics: Looking to the past to navigate the future. Evolutionary Applications. 15: 751–772. Open Access

Natalie Forsdick, Adams CI, Alexander A, Clark AC, Collier-Robinson L, Cubrinovska I, Croll Dowgray M, Dowle E, Duntsch L, Galla SJ, Howell L, Magid M, Rayne A, Verry AJF, Wold J, Steeves TE. 2022. Current applications and future promise of genetic/genomic data for conservation in an Aotearoa New Zealand context. Science for Conservation. Open Access

Aisling Rayne, Byrnes G, Collier-Robinson L, Hollows J, McIntosh A, Ramsden M, Rupene M, Tamati-Elliffe P, Thoms C, Steeves TE. 2020. Centring Indigenous knowledge systems to re-imagine conservation translocations. People and Nature. 2: 512–526. Open Access

Levi Collier-Robinson, Rayne A, Rupene M, Thoms C, Steeves TE. Embedding indigenous principles in genomic research of culturally significant species: a conservation genomics case study. NZ Journal of Ecology. 43: 3389. Open Access


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