Ecology and ecosystems research

ecology-research-collage.jpg Our research looks at the distributions, abundance, and population dynamics of organisms, and their interactions with each other in a common environment.

Our expertise

Biodiversity and biogeography

The nature of a community is best described by its diversity: i.e., the number and abundance of different species. Our research focuses on understanding and modelling biodiversity patterns on habitat, regional and global scales, particularly in relation to natural and anthropogenic disturbance.

Plant-animal interactions and chemical ecology

Understanding communication within and across tropic levels mediated by secondary metaboliltes and applying this for restoration, conservation and sustainable control purposes.

Community ecology

Community ecology studies the interactions between two or more species and their environment. Our research emphasis is on testing and applying current models and theories in community ecology.

Ecosystem services

Ecosystem services examine how species interact to complete their life cycles:  i.e., pollination, predation, seed dispersal, decomposition, and nutrient and energy cycling.

Ecosystem restoration

We apply ecological analysis to the recovery of ecosystems disrupted by human activity including forestry, pollution and agriculture. We focus on management of terrestrial vegetation and freshwater systems; the reestablishment of functioning biotic and abiotic interactions; and mitigating impacts of high-intensity agro-industrial practices.

Entomology and soil zoology

We study plant/insect interactions, host/parasite/parasitoid interactions, reproductive strategies, and pest control. Soil zoology focuses on insects and other animals that live in soil, their diversity, ecology, and contribution to ecosystem functioning. 

Learn more about soil invertebrates. For our insect ID service email

Freshwater ecology

We do pure and applied research on the biological, physical and chemical characteristics of inland water bodies. We focus on river, stream and lake fauna, and how we can maintain or enhance that fauna in the face of rapidly expanding human demand for freshwater.

Freshwater ecosystem management and modelling

We apply research in theoretical ecology and ecological modelling to freshwater ecosystem management, conservation and bioassessment. Massey's Centre for Freshwater Ecosystem Management and Modelling (FEMM) draws together relevant research skills. Massey’s Innovative River Solutions research centre unites skills in physical geography, ecology, hydrology, soil science, and Geographic Information Systems to solve water-management issues.

Plant ecology

We study the adaptation of plants (natives and exotics), their communities and vegetation types to environmental stresses. We also research the impact and management of invasive plant species.

Population ecology

We seek to explain and predict the dynamics of populations, through data on survival, reproduction and movements. This includes research on networks of semi-connected populations, or metapopulations. Population ecology is applied to species recovery and sustainable use of populations.

Soil ecology

Our research focuses on soil communities and ecosystem function: i.e., the role of soil invertebrates in soil health and productivity; the impact of land-management practices on soil invertebrate biodiversity; the ecology of threatened soil invertebrates; and soil ecological patterns in relation to abiotic gradients.

Learn more about soil invertebrates.

Sustainability and systems ecology

We study the interactions between ecological systems and economic activity, and the exchange of energy and matter between ecosystems and their environments. Applications include sustainability assessment and energy and carbon accounting. The NZ Life Cycle Management Centre provides education, training and research to life cycle management professionals to meet consumer demand for green products.


For more information about our research activity, click on individual researchers' names below.


  • Prof Russell Death

    Prof Russell Death

    Professor of Freshwater Ecology - School of Agriculture and Environment


  • Dr Andrea McCormick

    Dr Andrea McCormick

    Lecturer in Ecology - School of Agriculture and Environment


  • Dr Gillian Rapson

    Dr Gillian Rapson

    Senior Lecturer in Ecology / Zoology - School of Agriculture and Environment


  • Associate Professor Alastair Robertson

    Associate Professor Alastair Robertson

    Programme Director for the Bachelor of Sciences - College of Sciences

    Associate Professor in Ecology - School of Agriculture and Environment


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