Ecology - Research - Biological Sciences - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Ecology Research

Ecology, the study of organisms and how they relate to their environment is a major research discipline at UC.

The discipline is divided into the three broad areas of terrestrial ecology, freshwater ecology and marine ecology. Extensive overlap into other disciplines occurs, such as conservation biology, behavioural ecology and gene ecology.

The South Island of New Zealand provides a fantastic environment in which to study ecology, day trips from the campus allow access to environments from seashore to alpine, rainforest to tussock grassland.  UC also maintains five field stations around the island for research and teaching. Extensive linkages also exist to enable international collaborations and comparisons.

Freshwater Ecology

Extensive freshwater ecosystems exist in New Zealand, from alpine tarns and braided rivers to rural ditches and urban drains. Research at UC aims to better understand these environments and the organisms that inhabit them.

The Mackenzie Charitable Foundation has funded a Chair in Freshwater Ecology with the aim of enhancing the effectiveness of riparian management to reduce the impacts of sediments and pollutants on Canterbury waterways.

Staff and students have applied their skills on campus with the award winning restoration of the Okeover stream, home of the endangered Canterbury mudfish.

Examples of research include

  • Investigation of the responses of stream ecosystems to urban and rural land-use pressures
  • Distribution and Ecology of mosquitoe larvae in Tonga. Mosquitoes are a significant pest and human health issue and research was carried out to to determine the potential for control through larval habitat management.
  • Variation in strength of cascading trophic interactions across a riverscape.
  • The effects of long-term land use activities on stream ecosystems with emphasis on benthic diversity and impacts on regionally endemic species.

Research Staff

Assoc Prof Angus McIntosh Prof Angus McIntosh
Mackenzie Foundation Chair in Freshwater Ecology
Freshwater Ecology Research Group (FERG)
Prof Jon Harding
Stream Biology
Freshwater Ecology Research Group (FERG)

Postgraduate projects in Ecology and Environmental Science.

Marine Ecology

The major focus of marine ecology research at UC is marine intertidal and subtidal ecology and to integrate ecology with physics, chemistry, and genetics in order to develop a greater understanding of processes that structure marine communities.

The Edward Percival field station on the coast at Kaikoura, two hours drive north of Christchurch provides an excellent base for researchers with laboratory facilities and comfortable living quarters.

Collaborations exist nationally and internationally on large long term research programmes.

Examples of research include

  • Large research programme involving the coordination of estuarine and rocky coast ecological research with nearshore physical oceanography and problems relating to land use. This is in collaboration with NIWA, the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research.
  • Ecology of rocky shores to examine the effects of key habitat-forming species on biodiversity, the resilience of communities to disturbance, invertebrate/algal interactions, and top-down bottom-up effects in the rocky intertidal.
  • Physiological ecology of marine invertebrates, especially Crustacea and bivalve molluscs.
  • Mechanisms of adaptation used by animals to survive in intertidal habitats, including sand beaches and estuaries.
  • Investigating marine and estuarine species as indicators of environmental stress.
  • Understanding the effects of environmental factors including toxic dinoflagellates on the metabolism, survival and reproduction of sand beach bivalves.

Research Staff

Dr Sharyn Goldstien Dr Sharyn Goldstien
Marine Ecology
Prof Islay Marsden
Marine Biology
Prof David Schiel
Marine Ecology
Marine Ecology Research Group (MERG)
Dr John Pirker
Marine Ecology

Recent Posters

projects in Ecology and Environmental Science.

Terrestrial Ecology

Research projects in terrestrial ecology at UC range in scale from investigating individual organisms to whole ecosystems, and from pristine environments to those that are highly modified.

Examples of research include

  • Effects of land use, especially agriculture, and global change phenomena on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.
  • Mathematical modelling of the impact of biological control agents on weeds and plant/herbivore co-evolution involving inducible defences.
  • The effects of forest fragmentation, particularly edge effects, on insect community structure.
  • Bird-plant mutualisms - the importance and resilience of bird pollination and bird seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora
  • The impact of biodiversity loss on trophic structure dynamics.
  • Developing a preliminary mutualist web in a West African
    montane forest.

Research Staff

Hazel Chapman Assoc Prof Hazel Chapman
Evolutionary Ecology
Nigerian Montane Forest Project
Dr Daniel Stouffer Assoc Prof Daniel Stouffer
Complex Systems Ecology
Prof Dave Kelly Prof Dave Kelly
Mistletoe Research Group
Matthew Turnbull Prof Matthew Turnbull
Plant Physiological Ecology
Dr Jason Tylianakis Prof Jason Tylianakis
Terrestrial Ecology

Recent Posters

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