Dr. Christine Stockum presented CBRE’s work to develop pheromone lures for brushtail possum at “Behaviour Meets Biochemistry: Animals Making Sense of Molecules Making Scents” held from 18-20 February 2014 at Charles Darwin House, London, UK.
Christine’s paper “Investigating pheromones in brushtail possum urine” received the 2nd prize poster award from the Biochemical Society, which was presented by Tristram Wyatt. The paper describes Christine’s work to survey possum urine for chemical compounds that could be sexual signals and test their effectiveness as animal lures.
“The meeting highlighted the interdisciplinary nature of the work we do on mammalian pheromones” says Christine. “It was nice to see that our team at Victoria has a similar composition to the experts who converged for the meeting to advance our knowledge on mammalian scent marking by working jointly on this complex topic. Working with people from a multitude of disciplines is one of my favourite aspects of our project.”
While Christine was in the UK she took the opportunity to visit Profs. Jane Hurst and Rob Beynon’s laboratories – the world’s leading research groups on protein-based signals and communication by rodents.
Christine has been working with Dr. Rob Keyzers in the School of Physical and Chemical Sciences and Prof. Bill Jordan of the Centre for Biodiscovery in addition to her colleagues in CBRE. The project has identified small volatile compounds and large proteins that may be sexual signals in rats and possum – New Zealand’s leading mammal pests in the primary industries and conservation estate.
CBRE recently submitted a ‘Smart Ideas’ Phase II application to the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment to take their research through to the development and testing of lure products with their commercial partner, Goodnature Ltd – maker of self-resetting small animal traps.
Pheromone lures for self-resetting traps would be a major advance on current technologies which are dependent on food-based lures and poisons. Food-based lures are less effective at low pest densities or where food is abundant such as in food production, storage and processing industries. Poisons also pose several disadvantages for primary industries because of a growing demand in food markets for humane and low-risk production.
New Zealand is already a world leader in small mammal pest control. If New Zealand developed small mammal pheromone lures it would cement our nation as a leader in the $16.6B global pest-control market place. The potential exists for pest-control technologies to be a large generator of export revenues.