Scientific milestone for New Zealand and France: Launch of the first joint “laboratory without walls” [fr]

Prof Lockhart from Massey University and Dr Hennion from the French National Centre for Scientific Research signed an agreement in November 2018 to create the first “laboratory without walls”, between New Zealand and France.

Over the next four years, the two research groups will be studying adaptation to climate change in sub-Antarctic and southern alpine plants. This is a huge milestone for scientific collaborations since such a level of structural cooperation had never been achieved between the two countries.

What is a “laboratory without walls”?

An International Associated Laboratory, also called “laboratory without walls”, is one of the five programs developed by the French National Centre for Scientific Research to provide institutional visibility to strategic cooperation:
• Joint Research Project (PRC),
• International Research Network (INR),
• International Joint Unit (UMI),
• International Project for Scientific Cooperation (PICS),
• International Associated Laboratory (LIA).
Successful LIA applicants can pool human and material resources to carry out a research project for a period of four years.

Find out more :

What is the scientific project about?

“The New Zealand Alps and the Islands of the Sub-Antarctic are extreme environments where plants are greatly exposed to the impacts of climate change. Species there exhibit specialized features to survive in their environments. How adaptable are they? By what means can species adapt to a changing environment? We seek to answer these questions in genetic and eco-physiology studies of closely related plant species found in both locations.

By investigating how species have coped with change in the past we will anticipate how they will respond in the future. This knowledge can be used to inform conservation efforts – which efforts are most needed, and which are most likely to succeed.” - Prof Lockhart, researcher at Massey University and Dr Françoise Hennion, researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research.


The alpine regions of New Zealand and the Sub-Antarctic islands are among the most vulnerable systems affected by global warming. The research project will include some field work in the unique setting of the Southern Alps.

Meet the scientists:

The project, called AntarctPlantAdapt, involves four laboratories:
• UMR ECOBIO, CNRS, Université de Rennes 1,
• UMR ESE, CNRS, AgroParis Tech, Orsay, Université Paris-Sud,
• Plant Evolutionary Biology (PLEB), School of Fundamental Sciences, Massey University,
• Computational Modeling (CoMo), Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Otago.

Prof Peter Lockhart, New Zealand principal investigator

PNGProf Peter Lockhart is a researcher in the School of Fundamental Sciences at Massey University. He is studying the adaptive potential of plants, pests and pathogens. Peter is also coordinator of a UNESCO UNITWIN Network Science for Sustainability in Oceania that has developed in-field DNA diagnostics for plant, animal and human health. His scientific achievements earned him an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship and New Zealand Royal Society Fellowship.

Dr Françoise Hennion, French principal investigator

JPEGDr Françoise Hennion is part of the “Ecosystems, Biodiversity and Evolution - ECOBIO” unit, "Evolution, Structure, and Dynamics of Diversity" team, of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique – CNRS), in University Rennes 1. As a plant evolutionary ecologist, she studies the potential of plant species to respond to climate change. Her career is focused on the Sub-Antarctic flora (particularly in the French Kerguelen Islands), of which she studied the ecophysiological adaptations. She has been developing for several years collaborative work in phylogeny, biogeography, and genetics through French polar Institute (IPEV) PlantEvol program.

Dernière modification : 28/02/2019

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