New tools such as ‘gene-drive’ are being discussed globally for pest management. However, such tools may be practically unfeasible, carry too many risks, or be socially unacceptable for a role in Predator Free 2050. This programme will fill knowledge gaps to enable informed consideration.
- Underpinning rat genomic resources – Genome sequencing in collaboration with Genomics Aotearoa and the Biological Heritage Challenge will increase our understanding of New Zealand’s rat populations, including the feasibility of their potential genetic control.
- Informing on technology hurdles – Gene-drive research is at a very early stage, with theoretical considerations far ahead of proven fact. Exploration of aspects such as their stability and safety with leading overseas researchers will provide caution as appropriate.
- Modelling potential application to rats – Mathematical modelling will further inform on whether gene-drive could actually make a meaningful contribution to the eradication of real-world rat populations, beyond what could be achieved through other approaches.
- Mouse ‘proof of concept’ gene-drive – If the fundamental premise of gene-drive cannot be shown to work in mice, it will have little potential to contribute to a 2025 science solution. This will be explored overseas with the ‘Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents’ partnership.
- Norway and ship rat gene-drive – Dependent on technological hurdles being surmounted, supportive policy, and New Zealand/international appetite to proceed, gene-drives may potentially be researched in the future for application initially to rat eradication.