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Kirsty Wissing – Indigenous Perspectives on Synthetic Biology for Conservation [Zoom Only] | GES Colloquium

February 20 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

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Indigenous Perspectives on Synthetic Biology for Conservation Zoom

Kirsty Wissing, PhD, Research Fellow, Australian National University | Profile

A discussion of synthetic biology and Torres Strait Islanders, bringing their perspectives into conversation to explore cultural implications for future island-bound applications of genetic biocontrol technologies, such as gene drives.

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Applied over generations, genetic biocontrol technologies (GBTs), such as gene drives, have the potential to radically reduce a pest population through suppressed breeding. As this technology develops, synthetic biology (synbio) scientists have identified islands as potential environments in which to trial the release of approved gene drives in the future. But what happens when an Indigenous ethical lens is applied to island-bound synbio? The Torres Strait Islands stretch between mainland Australia, of which they are a part, and Papua New Guinea. The Straits’ water facilitates Islanders’ mobility and fosters customary connection and trans/national notions of kin, while also informing engagement with and care for this environment. In this world where water connects, how might Torres Strait Islanders’ understandings complicate and/or contribute to concepts of islands as contained, “watertight” field sites for future GBT trials? And how is a changing climate and rising sea levels impacting Islanders’ environments, identities and, relatedly, an appetite for or apprehension of synbio science? This paper brings synbio science and Torres Strait Islanders’ perspectives into conversation to explore cultural implications for future island-bound applications of GBTs.

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Speaker Bio

Dr. Kirsty Wissing is a Research Fellow at the Australian National University and a Visiting Scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency. She has previously been a member of CSIRO’s Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform and CSIRO’s Advanced Engineering Biology Future Science Platform. Trained as an anthropologist (social scientist), Kirsty’s research considers Indigenous and customary values, relationships with and resource responsibility for tangible and intangible environments in Australia and Ghana. Her work sits at the intersection of cross-cultural approaches to environmental disasters such as flooding, invasive species incursions and biodiversity loss. In this presentation, Kirsty seeks to bring scholars and practitioners of synthetic biology into dialogue with Torres Strait Islanders’ perspectives to consider cultural implications for future island-bound applications of genetic biocontrol technologies such as gene drives.

GES Colloquium is jointly taught by Drs. Jen Baltzegar and Dawn Rodriguez-Ward, who you may contact with any class-specific questions. Colloquium will be held in person in the 1911 Building, room 129, and live-streamed via Zoom.

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February 20
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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