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Jo Chapman

Jo joined ESR in 2020 and is now a senior scientist in the Health and Environment group.


Jo earned her BSc (Ecology and Genetics) from Massey University in 1999, followed by a MSc Hons (Ecology) in 2001. She graduated with a PhD (Zoology) from the University of Oxford (UK) in 2009.


Jo’s scientific career has taken her all around the world. Her doctoral and post-doctoral research in the fields of evolutionary biology, molecular biology and immunogenetics saw her living in the UK, Sweden and USA over the last few decades, before a return home to NZ as the pandemic took hold in 2020. Jo joined ESR in 2020 to help support ESRs expanding wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) programme. This involves testing wastewater collected from municipal wastewater treatment plants across Aotearoa to test for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus. Initially, during NZ’s COVID-19 elimination phase, this work was used to confirm absence of virus in communities. Now, wastewater surveillance is used to determine the amount of virus in different communities across the country, how this is varying over time, and what SARS-CoV-2 variants are present at any given time. ESR is now expanding their wastewater-based epidemiology programme to include other pathogens of public health concern and researching the social acceptability of such testing. Jo runs the Christchurch wastewater-based epidemiology laboratory, which supports the main WBE lab at ESR’s Porirua site. Jo also has an interest in environmental DNA (eDNA) profiling and is currently working on a research project to characterise eDNA collected on air filters from sites in Aotearoa and Vienna.