News Archive - Freshwater Ecology Research Group - Biological Sciences - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Freshwater Ecology Research Group

News Archive

Student success at the NZFSS conference (9 December 2016)

Members of FERG travelled down to the annual New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Conference this week in Invercargill. Congratulations to Nixie Boddy, PhD candidate, who won best conservation-related student presentation award sponsored by DOC. Also to Chris Meijer, MSc candidate, who won the best student poster and best live poster presentation awards. Pictured below are members of FERG dressed for the 'roaring 20s' themed conference dinner.

Native crayfish sustainability (4 October 2016)

With scholarship funding and support from the UC Ngāi Tahu Research Centre (NTRC), Channell Thoms, who is a descendant of Ngāi Tahu from Ngati Kuri hapu with whakapapa to Maungamanu, has just completed her Master’s thesis on freshwater crayfish or kekewai (Paranephrops zealandicus).

Read all about Channell's research at UC Communications.

MPI's "Growing our future" initiative (9 September 2016)

Recently, CAREX chatted with Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) about the work they are doing on a Canterbury arable farm as part of Katie Collins PhD research. The interview is part of MPI's "Growing our future" initiative showcasing local champions in the primary industry. Watch the interview and learn more about the initiative at

Didymo directly affects freshwater fish: new study (16 August 2016)

A new study has shown that the invasive freshwater algae didymo is having a significant impact on fish in our rivers and streams.

Research by University of Canterbury (UC) ecologist Professor Jon Harding and NIWA scientist Dr Phil Jellyman shows that the invasive freshwater algae can have a significant impact on fish communities in rivers and streams. Read the full story at UC Communications.

CAREX community planting day (16 May 2016)

The CAREX team held a community planting day at one of their sites down in Hinds on the weekend. More than 700 Carex were planted along the waterway. There were also displays of freshwater fish and invertebrates and activities that were enjoyed by children and adults alike. A special thank you to everyone that was involved!

Brandon's photo makes front cover of a journal! (11 May 2016)

Brandon Goeller, PhD student and a member of the CAREX team, has recently published a paper in the Journal of Environmental Quality and his photography graces the front cover of the journal! The cover photo (featured below) is of a digger building a bioreactor at one of the CAREX sites.






Student success at the NZFSS Conference (27 November 2015)

The NZFSS and ASL joint conference was held in Wellington on the 23-26 November. Three of our FERG students were awarded for their presentations. Congratulations to Katie Collins (PhD candidate) who took the award for Golders and Associates Best Student Applied Oral Presentation, Richard White (PhD candidate) was awarded Department of Conservation Best Student Conservation Oral Presentation and Channell Thoms (Masters candidate) took the award for Best Masters or Honours Oral Presentation. Pictured below are FERG members dressed for the conference dinner, "A Night at the Museum".

Award for Professor Jon Harding (22 October 2015)

The winner of the College of Science Excellence in Research Linkages Award 2015 is Professor Jon Harding of the School of Biological Sciences. Working with other UC colleagues and those from CRL Energy Ltd as well as Landcare and the University of Otago, Jon has led a team formed in 2004 aimed at improving management and environmental outcomes for the mining sector. This work, funded by MBIE, has been guided with input from the regional councils, mining companies, and iwi advisory groups, and has produced improved environmental outcomes as a result of the research input.

Silverstream Outreach Day (21 April 2015)

This week students from Riccarton High School had a field day at one of the CAREX (Canterbury Waterway Rehabilitation Experiment) research sites, Silverstream. The Biology students carried out a wetland biodiversity survey, measured water chemistry and identified stream invertebrates. Students also did riparian assessments, such as buffer width, macrophyte cover and sediment depth, as well as undertaking a crowd sourcing photo survey. Thank you to all the FERG students and staff who helped out on the day!

Choked Christchurch waterways hit fish numbers (20 April 2015)

A study of Christchurch waterways has found most are so choked with silt that only minimal numbers of eels, trout and whitebait are able to live there. Follow the story at Radio NZ or on the UC and NIWA's study involving Jon Harding and Phil Jellyman.

Water Symposium success (1 December 2014)

The Water Symposium was held in Blenheim last week, which was the annual meeting of the NZ Freshwater Sciences Group, NZ Hydrological Society and the IPENZ Rivers Group where several students from FERG gained prizes:

Mark Galatowitsch, PhD candidate – SIL Trust prize for best overall student oral presentation
Sophie Hunt, MSc candidate – SIL Trust prize for best oral presentation by an MSc/Hons student
Steve Pohe, PhD candidate – Golder’s award for best applied poster

CAREX article - "starting at the top" (18 November 2014)

Recently Whakaora te Waihora spoke to Professor Jon Harding about the work that the CAREX team are doing. Canterbury Waterway Restoration Experiment (CAREX) is funded by the Mackenzie Charitable Foundation of Ashburton and two of the ten research sites from this project are in the Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere catchment. Read what Professor Harding says about how "starting at the top" is critical for restoration of the lake.

Tank Sampling at Cass (17 July 2014)

In July, ten FERG members and two members of the Tylianakis Lab group went up to the UC Cass Field Station to sample a long-term experiment investigating how different cross-ecosystem subsidies that are consumed at different levels within a food web affect multiple ecosystem and food-web interactions.

"There is nothing more humbling than hearing that so many people took time from their work to help with my experiment. Thanks to everyone that sampled my experiment for me: Jon Bray, Nixie Boddy, Catherine Febria, Richard White, Helen Warburton, Mark Galatowitsch, Carla Gomez-Creutzberg, and Melissa Broussard. A special thanks to Kim Roberts, Hayley Stoddart, and Angus McIntosh for helping with organising the big day. A super, awesome, amazing THANK YOU to Sophie Hunt for keeping my experiment going for 4 months and making the sampling day in July happen!"
-Amanda Klemmer

Community Planting Day at CAREX Research Site (18 May 2014)

A community planting day on the 18th of May, organised with the assistance of Te Ara Kakariki, saw 1000 Carex plants established in the newly re-shaped riparian margins of the CAREX research site, Silverstream. Once the Carex plants have grown to maturity they will provide stability to the banks as well as shading of the water, as part of a project to enhance the water quality and habitat of this stream. The CAREX team are grateful for the support of the landowners and funding from DOC and Fonterra.

From left: original state of the waterway pre bank re-shaping; planting the newly re-shaped banks with Carex.

CAREX Outreach Day at Silverstream (3 April 2014)

This week the CAREX (Canterbury Waterway Rehabilitation Experiment) team held a field day with Biology students from Riccarton High School. About 60 students visited Silverstream, a dairy farm stream which flows into the Selwyn River. The students looked at a spring wetland, undertook a crowd sourcing photo survey, sampled for benthic invertebrates, and heard about freshwater fish conservation. Thank you to the landowners and farmers who helped out, it was a great day!

FERG Award Winners (28 March 2014)

Congratulations to three FERG students who recieved awards and scholarships:

Amanda Klemmer has been awarded the Peterson Fund Travel Award of $1,200 for travel to the Annual Meeting of the Society for Freshwater Science in Portland, Oregon. Only one award is awarded to students studying outside of American universities to attend the annual meeting.

Nixie Boddy received the Vida Stout Scholarship for students doing a PhD studying limnology and/or environmental science in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Canterbury. This is a three-year scholarship valued at $8,500 for the first year and $11,250 for the two subsequent years, and only one student can hold it at a time.

Richard White was awarded the Roper Scholarship which is three-year PhD scholarship given to the highest scoring domestic PhD applicant in the Science Department at UC.

From left: Richard White, Nixie Boddy, Amanda Klemmer.

Congratulations Professor! (09 December 2013)

Congratulations to Jon Harding for being promoted to the rank of Professor!

A warm welcome to Catherine Febria, our newest FERG member! (04 November 2013)

Catherine Febria is joining FERG from the University of Maryland (USA).  In Maryland, she worked with Margaret Palmer on several syntheses related to ecosystem vs. ecosystem service restoration in urban and agricultural streams and rivers.  She also took part in an empirical study of the source, transport and fate of dissolved organic carbon and other nutrients within urbanizing stream networks.  In 2010, she completed her PhD in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Toronto (Canada) where she studied the microbial and ecosystem ecology of hyporheic zones in the lab of Dudley Williams.  In 2005, she completed an MSc in Limnology/Biogeochemistry from Simon Fraser University (Canada) where she studied biogeochemical processes in Canadian arctic floodplain lakes with advisor Lance Lesack.  As part of FERG, she is excited to be a part of the Mackenzie Project, putting the recent syntheses on freshwater management into practice through a series of multi-year trials on agriculturally-impacted waterways of Canterbury.  She arrives in New Zealand with husband Peter and 2-year old daughter Emilia.

The "Freshwaters of New Zealand" book is now available online (02 October 2013)

To download individual chapters or the book in its entirety follow this link: Freshwaters of New Zealand

FERG studies in the national news (04 April 2013)

A study on the impact of trout on two widespread species of native fish was recently broadcast on the national news. Darragh Woodford (South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity and former FERG PhD student) and Angus McIntosh confirmed that the native fish studied were vulnerable to trout predation.

Researchers are suggesting management activities to exclude trout from some streams to protect native fish.

More on the subject:

Prestigious recognition of FERG students (11 December 2012)

Three prizes were won by FERG students at the 2012 New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society conference held in Dunedin. Kristy Hogsden was awarded the best paper –“dealing with effects of the acidic waters and heavy metals on the food web structure”, Amanda Klemmer won the best poster - “the dynamics of meta-ecosystems” and Richard White received the prize for best Masters oral presentation - “the habitat requirements of the brown mudfish”.

The next phase of the Mackenzie Project (21 November 2012)

For the last five years the Mackenzie Project, which is mostly funded by the Mackenzie Charitable Foundation, has carried out research on various topics related to the influence of land use and riparian management on stream health in Canterbury.

The results, together with a proposal for a further five-year project, were recently presented to the Trustees of the Mackenzie Charitable Foundation. We are happy to announce the positive response received for continuing research which will enable greater understanding of the dynamics of riparian management and the rehabilitation of Canterbury streams.

FERG leads a video conference with Christchurch schools (29 October 2012)

In September 2012, several FERG students participated in a series of video conference lessons in conjunction with the Greater Christchurch Schools Network.  Elizabeth Graham and Kim Roberts talked about their research on eutrophication and ecosystem restoration, respectively, to biology scholarship students from Cashmere High School and Marian College.  Simon Howard and Jon Bray gave a second presentation to biology scholarship students from Cashmere, Riccarton, Avonside, and Marian College.  Simon discussed threats to native fish conservation in New Zealand, while Jon explained species invasions, with a focus on Didymo.

All the postgraduates emphasized that their research also has practical applications, and that scientists need to do more than study environmental problems; they also need to test possible solutions.  As Kim pointed out, “by researching the effectiveness of restoration we can help District Councils and other managers know where and how to spend their money to have the greatest positive impact.”

Another group of FERG members met with students from Ilam primary school to talk about freshwater ecology and what we, as ecologists, actually do.  The Ilam students asked questions they had prepared and displayed some food web projects they had made.

Kauri Redcoat Damselfly is the focus of a new FERG research (24 September 2012)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund will support a short-term research which is looking at the present conservation status of Kauri Redcoat Damselfly (Xanthocnemis sobrina). This species is endemic to the North Island and is the only New Zealand representative of its group that is assessed as Data Deficient after the most recent IUCN Red List evaluation completed last year. The study, conducted by Milen Marinov, will involve field sampling to establish the distribution, biology and ecology of the species as well as its phylogenetic relationships. The results will give estimates on the total population size, occupation area and project trends in species distribution.

FERG support to high school students in Tonga (20 September 2012)


In September 2012, two FERG members, Mark Galatowitsch and Elizabeth Graham, travelled to Tonga with two other postgraduate students and UC Senior Lecturer Dr. Sharyn Goldstien. In Tonga, the team visited many high school biology classes and led them in activities about field experimental design, particularly the importance of replication, randomisation, and controls. They also worked with students on data analysis techniques and led microscope sessions. The ten-day trip was in conjunction with the UC/Tongan Ministry of Education/Nautilus Minerals annual biological science competition.

FERG lecturer with UC nomination (07 September 2012)

Jon Harding was nominated for the College of Science Lecturer of the Year Award. Congratulations Jon!

Simon Howard – another FERG award winner (02 August 2012)

The FERG PhD student Simon Howard was granted the SIL Trust Fund Travel Award to participate in the Annual “American Fisheries Society” conference coming up in August between the 20 - 24th August in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is going to present a paper titled "Reduced Flows Impact Populations of a Specialist Fish Species Restricted to Spring-Fed Streams". Simon is also attending the Annual “Ecological Society of America” conference in Portland, Oregon between the 6th and 10th August.

Mark Galatowitsch – the new FERG award winner (26 March 2012)

The FERG PhD student Mark Galatowitsch was granted the Society for Freshwater Science’s Fellows Fund award for travel to the May 2012 Annual Meeting of the Society for Freshwater Science in Louisville, Kentucky.

New FERG publications (21 February 2012)

FERG members rushed into the new year with a number of publications. A list of the titles is uploaded on the FERG website. The papers span a range of topics, and will interest those who want to know how warming effects the eutrophication of the freshwater ecological systems; intrested to learn about nitrogen transformation in lotic ecosystems; curious to understand the effects of consumer density on ecosystem processes; or are eager to find out more about the relationships between the land-use and stream integrity. There is even one for those passionate about dragonflies and their relationship to the artificial light sources.

Awards for FERG students (23 December 2011)

Sophie Hunt has been awarded a Sadie Balkind Award from the New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women (Inc). The money she will receive will go towards fees for the next school year. Helen Warburton has also been awarded grants that will assist her in her studies in 2012.

kaikouraSummer support for FERG researchers (25 November 2011)

Look at them smiling! FERG group welcomes the 2011-2012 summer enthusiasts and wishes them sunny days in the field and less tedious work in the lab.


kaikouraDragonflies in light traps from Nigeria (24 November 2011)

A recent finding of the PhD student Danladi Umar sparked an interesting discussion. In his light traps Danladi identified a large number of dragonflies, which are predominantly diurnal species. A review of all information about previous records of these insects in light traps is under way and will be published soon.


FERG retreat (14 November 2011)

kaikouraThe FERG members gathered together at the UC research station in Kaikoura for a day and a half at the beginning of November to talk about important administrative and research issues related to the future of the group. We generated a comprehensive list of ideas in two major directions:

  1. Strategic planning for improving the communication within FERG and increasing the efficiency of work; professional development for FERG students and interactions with other UC research groups.
  2. Research ideas, which varied widely from investigating basic ecosystems subsidies, identifying the major stressors and the resilience of the freshwater communities at various temporal and spatial scales, through to the inevitable discussion on the influence of the climate change across different countries. kaikoura

There was also some fun had with a Geo-cashing challenge and photographic treasure hunt.

One of the ‘finds’ from the photographic treasure hunt.

Prestigious research recognition (26 October 2011)

Three FERG members were awarded at this year’s Annual Biology Conference.

Dr Phillip Jellyman received the award for the best journal article by a PhD student. This research investigated the major mechanisms affecting recruitment variability in non-migratory galaxiid fishes.

Helen Warburton won the best PhD talk. She gave a talk entitled "Body mass-abundance relationships in stream ecosystems: the influence of habitat size on community structure and stability”.

Kate Schowe was awarded with the best poster. She is studying diatoms as indicators of streams receiving acid mine drainage on the West Coast.

MP Russell NormanFreshwater research inspires MP's visit (25October 2011)

Green Party co-leader Dr Russel Norman and Green MP candidate Eugenie Sage visited the School of Biological Sciences recently to find out more about the research being carried out by the Freshwater Ecology group on the effects of pollution in streams and rivers.

Silt chokes Christchurch rivers (25 October 2011)

Christchurch's rivers and streams are dying, choked with tens of thousands of tonnes of earthquake silt that is killing native wildlife. UC freshwater biologist Jon Harding says the rivers could take decades to recover unless streams at the top of their catchments are urgently cleared of silt. Full article on

UC wins a Green Gown Award for stream restoration project (19 October 2011)

The University of Canterbury was honoured with a Green Gown Award at the recent ACTS (Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability) conference in Adelaide for the restoration of the Okeover stream which runs through its Ilam campus.

Helen Warburton again! (17 October 2011)

Helen continues her quest for international recognition. She was just recently awarded a Claude McCarthy Fellowship which offers financial support to present her studies at an overseas conference as well as visit research groups in Europe in 2012. Helen aims to attend and present at the Ecological Society of America Conference, in Portland as well as visit the University of Göttingen in Germany to work with Ulrich Brose and his research group. Hopefully Helen will also have time (and money!) to go back to the University of Queen Mary and York University in the UK.

New FERG faces (13 October 2011)

Recently FERG family got two new members: Amanda Klemmer and Hamish Greig.

Amanda is one of ten students nationally awarded a New Zealand International Doctoral Research Scholarship. Amanda is investigating the influence of cross-ecosystem subsidies on the structure and dynamics of recipient food webs. She is aiming to develop general theory by experimentally manipulating food webs in freshwater, terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

Hamish is completing the final year of his FRST Postdoctoral Fellowship entitled “How does past climate predictability influence organismal and community resilience to climate change?” His research is applying a multi-scale approach to understanding the effects of global changes on freshwater ecosystems, and centres around to two key themes: 1) the influence of environmental variability on the structure and resilience of ecological communities, and 2) the response of trophic interactions to temperature variation and other perturbations associated with climate change.

FERG members in the international news (10 October 2011)

Frank Burdon recently presented findings from his PhD research at the International Water Association’s Diffuse Pollution conference in Rotorua.

Five FERG people took part in the 2011 Australian Society of Limnology/New Zealand Freshwater Scientific Society Congress in Brisbane (26th to 30th September). Two of them won special prizes.

Frank Burdon was awarded the SIL Trust prize for the best oral presentation. His talk outlined the effects of diffuse pollution (primarily fine sediment) on invertebrate communities in agricultural streams, and linked the pervasive biological impacts of sedimentation to farming practices altering the adjacent riparian habitat.

Although not physically there, Helen Warburton succeeded in grabbing the Best Student Poster prize for the investigation she did on the role of habitat size in affecting body mass-abundance relationships in streams. Her study was presented by one of the co-authors Phil Jellyman. Phil also gave an oral presentation on how both direct and indirect disturbance effects can influence stream community structure.

The next poster in the row came from Kate Schowe. She is studying diatoms as indicators of streams receiving acid mine drainage on the West Coast.

As one of the Plenary Speakers, Hamish Greig introduced his current research which applies a multi-scale approach to understanding the interactive effects of global changes on freshwater ecosystems. Specifically, he talked about potential for synergistic effects of temperature change and increased disturbance on the strength of top-down control by predators in freshwater food webs.

Biologist named one of NZ's top tertiary teachers (29 September 2011)

Freshwater ecologist Associate Professor Jon Harding has been recognised as one of New Zealand’s top tertiary teachers.

Liquefaction and us (29 September 2011)

Can anyone be thrilled by the liquefaction? YES, if he is a stream ecologist. Jon Harding  found a new research opportunity following the continuous aftershocks in Christchurch. He decided to study the sudden shift in the macroinvertebrate community structures in the most badly affected areas of Avon and Heathcote Rivers. Now the restoration of these streams is part of the laborious monthly field sampling and lab work of several FERG members. First analyses are underway and the preliminary reports are expected very soon.

May 2011

FERG students have obviously been really busy post-quake. Congratulations to the following:

Phillip Jellyman - passed his PhD oral exam yesterday. Well done Dr Jellyman!

Helen Warburton - recently gained the prize for the best poster at the SIZEMIC conference in Hamburg

Helen Warburton (again) - gained an SIL Trust Travel Award from the NZ Freshwater Sciences Society to fund her conference travel

Frank Burdon - has received the prestigious Peterson Award from the North American Benthological Society to support his travel to the NABS conference in Rhode Island.

Well done everyone and keep up the great work!

April 2011

The Freshwater Ecology Research Group is up and running again after the Canterbury earthquakes. Various parts of the university are still out of action, but we have full lab facilities again and are going full steam ahead. Various members of the group had houses etc damaged, but none of our group were injured thankfully. We lost a few experiments, and almost everybody has been setback in their research. However, we are pretty much back on track now. Thanks to everyone for all their messages of support and offers of help. We really appreciated them!

FERG graduate achieves major research success (October 2009)

The Freshwater Ecology Research Group is celebrating the latest in a string of successes for its graduates. Dr Michelle Greenwood, who completed her PhD in freshwater ecology in 2007, has been awarded a $190,000 postdoctoral fellowship by the Rutherford Foundation of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Blue duck research sets standards (August 2009)

FERG PhD student Amy Whitehead was announced as runner-up in the MacDiarmid Young Scientist of the Year contest. Amy's research has boosted the chances of conservation workers bringing back the endangered native blue duck (whio) from the brink of extinction.

Singapore's Public Utilities Board funds new research (April 2008)

The Public Utilities Board (PUB) of Singapore has awarded senior lecturer Jon Harding SG$270,000 over two years to develop a biotic index for assessing biological health in Singapore's running waters. PUB is currently undertaking a large-scale restoration project to transform many of the concrete drains and canals around Singapore into more natural, meandering streams and rivers.

Mackenzie Foundation funds new Chair (February 2008)

The Ashburton-based Mackenzie Charitable Foundation has funded a new research chair at the University of Canterbury which will investigate the response of stream ecosystems to urban and rural land-use pressures.
It has granted the University $1.3 million over five years to fund the work of the Mackenzie Charitable Foundation Chair in Freshwater Ecology.

Okeover Stream Restoration Project (Ongoing since 2000)

The Okeover Stream, a tributary of the Avon River, has been severely degraded over the last few decades by a combination of housing developments in its catchment and building activity on the University of Canterbury campus. The low gradient of the stream and a lowering water table have resulted in a reduction in discharge and an increase in sedimentation of the bed, which in turn has had dramatic negative impacts on the stream fauna and flora.