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Source: University of Otago

Lachie Scarsbrook is heading to the University of Oxford on the prestigious Clarendon Scholarship.
Lachie Scarsbrook’s graduation on Saturday marks an important milestone in his academic journey, which began with hunting for fossils on Kaikoura’s coasts during childhood and is set to continue with a doctorate at the University of Oxford.
Lachie, who is graduating with a Master’s of Science (with Distinction) has recently been awarded a prestigious Clarendon Scholarship to undertake a fully funded Doctorate in Archaeological Science at the University of Oxford.

“Been awarded the Clarendon is an amazing opportunity to continue my journey in understanding and conserving the natural world, but it also highlights how any goal is attainable if you follow your passion and aim for what just feels right.”

He is just one of 125 from more than 25,000 applicants across the world who were selected for the scholarship, and he will move to Oxford in October to commence a DPhil.
These achievements are worth celebrating, as Lachie recalls his ambitions of a career in teaching and research were shattered after he “tanked” his NCEA Level 3 examinations in his final year of high-school.
“Despite this, I followed my instinct and decided to study geology and zoology, which is when I discovered palaeogenetics and became interested in what ancient DNA can tell us about species evolution,” Lachie says.
Lachie’s postgraduate research focused on understanding how humans have affected New Zealand’s geckos and how this information could aid future conservation strategies.
His supervisor, and Director of the Otago Palaeogenetics Laboratory, Dr Nic Rawlence, says Lachie’s pioneering work on ancient DNA and morphometrics is revolutionising our understanding of New Zealand’s geckos, and is already having real world conservation management implications that are being implemented by the Department of Conservation.
“I am in awe of Lachie and couldn’t be prouder of him and his achievements since meeting him in the undergraduate evolutionary biology paper,” Dr Rawlence says. “The world is his oyster and I will be following his scientific career with great interest.”
Lachie’s DPhil research at Oxford will focus on improving our understanding of dog domestication through time using ancient genomes in the world-class ancient DNA lab of Professor Greger Larson.
After narrowly missing out on a Rhodes Scholarship in the final round, Lachie applied to the University of Oxford in the hope of being considered for a Clarendon Scholarship.
“When the email arrived to say I had been successful, I genuinely had to check I wasn’t still asleep!” Lachie says.
“Been awarded the Clarendon is an amazing opportunity to continue my journey in understanding and conserving the natural world, but it also highlights how any goal is attainable if you follow your passion and aim for what just feels right.”
Lachie refers to his personal journey starting with his upbringing in Kaikoura, where he spent lots of time scoping the coasts and hunting for fossils with his grandmother.
His parents, Amanda and Charles also couldn’t be prouder of Lachie and his achievements, and his Mum fondly recalls Lachie’s early love of dinosaurs and in particular something he said to her when Lachie was just two years old.
“Lachie came to me and said, Mum I’m going to be a palaeontologist, and I had to go and look it up to see what that was!”
Kōrero by Guy Frederick, Sciences Communications Adviser

MIL OSI