Marine conservation and management

We seek to understand the impact of human activities on coastal and ocean ecosystems and improve marine management practices.

Leigh Marine reserve

Research topics

Species-level conservation: marine megafauna

Megafauna includes many of our most valued but also most vulnerable organisms in the marine ecosystems. The Hauraki Gulf is New Zealand’s only Marine National Park and a megafauna hotspot, with one-fifth of the world’s cetacean species, one-third of the world’s seabird species and ten species of large sharks found in its productive waters. Our research tracks the population status of Hauraki Gulf whales, dolphins, large fish, sharks and seabirds (collectively megafauna).

Marine protected areas

Marine protected areas (MPAs) will play a crucial role in the future management of marine ecosystems. We assess the role that MPAs play in protecting marine ecosystems and species and investigate how MPAs can be designed to enhance surrounding fisheries.

Ecological restoration 

Important coastal habitats have been lost due to a range of human impacts. We are at the forefront of developing new methods for the restoration of shellfish beds and kelp forests in collaboration with community groups and iwi.

Plastic pollution

Microplastic pollution in marine ecosystems is a pervasive worldwide issue of increasing recognition. Our research explores how microplastics are distributed in the marine environment, the mechanisms by which ecosystem components uptake microplastics, the effect they have on certain species (including highly valued fish), and whether microplastic is making it into the human food chain.

Nutrient and sediment pollution

The delivery of terrestrial sediments and nutrients into coastal waters are a major threat to the New Zealand marine environment. Our research focuses on how these sources of pollution alter the physiology of marine organisms and impact ecosystem biodiversity and function.

Multiple stressors and cumulative disturbance

Coastal ecosystems are impacted by multiple human stressors and disturbances, which fundamentally alter the way these systems function and provide services. We explore how stressors interact and result in cumulative effects and tipping points in biodiversity and ecosystem function.

Invasive species

The arrival and spread of marine non-indigenous species around New Zealand are causing irreversible changes to our native ecosystems. They threaten cultural and spiritual values and are a costly nuisance for kaitiaki, the general public, government agencies and industries to manage. Our research is revolutionising the early detection and prevention of invasive species and help better understand the impacts once they arrive.

Marine social-ecological systems

We explore how human and natural systems connect, how different groups in society value the oceans, and values differ across regions and communities. We seek to understand how we can better connect society with the marine environment so that we can understand how our decisions both directly and indirectly affect natural systems and the services that marine systems provide.

Related research centres

Our researchers

Associate Professor Rochelle Constantine

  • Species-level conservation: marine megafauna

Dr Brendon Dunphy

  • Species-level conservation: marine megafauna

Dr Rebecca Gladstone-Gallagher

  • Nutrient and sediment pollution
  • Multiple stressors and cumulative disturbance

Dr Jen Hillman

  • Shellfish restoration
  • Nutrient and sediment pollution

Dr Julie Hope

  • Plastic pollution

Professor Andrew Jeffs

  • Shellfish restoration
  • Invasive species

Dr Shane Lavery

  • Marine Protected Areas
  • Invasive species

Associate Professor Carolyn Lundquist

  • Marine Protected Areas
  • Marine social-ecological systems
  • Ecological restoration
  • Multiple stressors and cumulative effects

Professor John Montgomery

  • Marine Protected Areas

Dr Darren Parsons

  • Marine Protected Areas
  • Plastic Pollution
  • Shellfish restoration

Dr Xavier Pochon

  • Invasive species
  • Plastic pollution

Associate Professor Craig Radford

  • Species-level conservation: marine megafauna
  • Marine Protected Areas

Dr Alwyn Rees

  • Nutrient and sediment pollution

Associate Professor Nick Shears

  • Marine Protected Areas
  • Kelp forest restoration
  • Nutrient and sediment pollution

Dr Richard Taylor

  • Invasive species
  • Marine Protected Areas

Professor Simon Thrush

  • Marine Protected Areas
  • Marine social-ecological systems
  • Shellfish restoration
  • Plastic pollution
  • Nutrient and sediment pollution
  • Multiple stressors and cumulative disturbance
  • Marine social-ecological systems

Dr Anastasija Zaiko

  • Invasive species
  • Plastic pollution