Structure and functioning of marine ecosystems

We apply a wide range of approaches in addressing important scientific issues for many marine habitats from estuaries and coasts to the open ocean.

Whale and seabirds

Research topics

Rocky reefs

Rocky reefs are a prominent feature of temperate coastlines worldwide. They support a diverse and highly productive community of animals and seaweeds with important ecological connections to many other habitats. Understanding the structure and functioning of intertidal and subtidal rocky reefs has been a major focus of marine scientists at the University for over half a century. Our current research uses modern techniques to build on their work.

Estuaries and soft-sediment ecosystems

Estuaries and coastal soft-sediment are hotspots for ecosystem functions and services. Our research explores how these ecosystems function at multiple scales from sediment biogeochemical processes to ecosystem connectivity and habitat restoration.

Sensory ecology and acoustics

Marine animals use a suite of sensory systems to communicate and navigate through the ocean. Our focus on acoustic ecology seeks to understand the role that underwater sound has on the life-history strategies of marine animals. We also consider the impact of human-made sound, which may mask or disrupt these acoustically mediated strategies.

Marine megafauna

Marine megafauna are often apex predators, with a significant influence on ecosystems and associated species. Our research operates both within north-eastern New Zealand and beyond. We take a highly integrative approach, seeking to understand how megafauna respond to biotic and abiotic influences through time and space.

Larval recruitment

Larval processes are crucial to the organisation and operating of all marine ecosystems. Despite their importance, they are surprisingly poorly understood. Our research aims at improving knowledge of the biology of larval stages and recruitment.

Genetic connectivity

Gene flow connections mediate the stability, interdependence and diversity of marine communities. Our research seeks to improve understanding of where, when and to what degree this genetic connectivity between populations and communities occurs. In turn, we aim to discover how such biodiversity arose and is maintained.

Open ocean processes

Our research monitors and models physical ocean circulation, the abundance and distribution of marine organisms, and the chemical elements necessary for life in our oceans. It includes a significant citizen science programme that aims to document the diversity of life in open oceans.

Related research centres

Our researchers

Dr Caitlin Blain

  • Rocky reef ecology

Associate Professor Rochelle Constantine

  • Marine megafauna

Dr Brendon Dunphy

  • Marine megafauna

Dr Rebecca Gladstone-Gallagher

  • Estuaries and soft-sediment ecosystems

Dr Jen Hillman

  • Estuaries and soft-sediment ecosystems

Dr Julie Hope

  • Estuaries and soft-sediment ecosystems

Professor Andrew Jeffs

  • Acoustics and sensory ecology
  • Open ocean processes
  • Larval recruitment

Dr Shane Lavery

  • Genetic connectivity

Associate Professor Carolyn Lundquist

  • Estuaries and soft-sediment ecosystems
  • Larval recruitment

Professor John Montgomery

  • Sensory ecology and acoustics
  • Marine megafauna

Dr Xavier Pochon

  • Open ocean processes

Associate Professor Craig Radford 

  • Sensory ecology and acoustics
  • Marine megafauna

Associate Professor Nick Shears

  • Rocky reef ecology

Dr Richard Taylor

  • Rocky reef ecology

Professor Simon Thrush

  • Estuaries and soft-sediment ecosystems