Wildlife and conservation biology research

conservation-collage.jpg Our group conducts research into the identification, protection, restoration and management of wildlife and natural resources, including species reintroduction and conservation genetics.

Our expertise

Animal behaviour

Our research looks at animal behavioural patterns and responses to the abiotic and biotic environment, in ecological and evolutionary contexts.

Animal migration and spatial biology

We study how and why animals undertake regular, usually annual, long-distance movements. We also investigate spatial distributions of individuals and populations.

Conservation genetics

We use population genetics (multi-locus markers, DNA sequence data, cytogenetics) to assess the conservation status, genetic diversity and evolutionary potential of populations.

Comparative physiology, structure and development

We take a comparative approach to the study of physiological, morphological and developmental adaptations made by animals to cope with challenges from the external environment.

Ecophysiology and wildlife nutrition

Our research investigate the interrelationship between an organism’s physical functioning and its environment, including stress physiology, the micro- and macronutrient requirements of wildlife and how the gut processes nutrients.

Native forest remnant

Prof Doug Armstrong monitors and researches conservation management of native forest remnant on the Rereahu farms administered by the Tiroa & Te Hape Trust.

Reintroduction biology

Our biological research aims at improving the success of species translocations and population management. Massey hosts the Oceania Section of the IUCN Reintroduction Specialist Group.

Species recovery

Our research improves the status of threatened species with management techniques such as predator control and translocation, enhanced by applied population ecology.

Wildlife health and disease

We study the epidemiology of infectious wildlife diseases, disease prevalence, interactions between translocation and disease, the biology of native parasites, and the effect of wildlife diseases on host behaviour and survival.


  • Prof Doug Armstrong

    Prof Doug Armstrong

    Professor in Conservation Biology - School of Agriculture and Environment


  • Associate Professor Phil Battley

    Associate Professor Phil Battley

    Associate Professor - School of Agriculture and Environment


  • Associate Professor Isabel Castro

    Associate Professor Isabel Castro

    Associate Professor in Ecology/Zoology - School of Agriculture and Environment


  • Tracy Harris

    Tracy Harris

    Ecology Technician - School of Agriculture and Environment


  • Shaun Nielsen

    Shaun Nielsen

    Ecology Technician - School of Agriculture and Environment


  • Prof Murray Potter

    Prof Murray Potter

    Professor - School of Agriculture and Environment


  • Cleland Wallace

    Cleland Wallace

    Ecology Technician - School of Agriculture and Environment



Understanding the godwits’ journey

Bar-tailed godwits ‘winter’ vast distances from where they breed in spring, yet are under strong selection pressure to reach their breeding grounds at the time that best assures reproduction. Despite clear benefits of optimal arrival time, substantial variation exists in the migration timing of individual birds.

Jesse Conklin, Phil Battley, Murray Potter from Massey’s Institute of Agriculture and Environment showed that for the godwit, which makes the longest-known non-stop migratory flight of any bird, migration timing of individual birds from a non-breeding site in New Zealand was strongly correlated with their specific breeding latitudes in Alaska, USA, 16,000 – 18,000 km away. Six months later, birds returned to New Zealand in approximately the same order in which they departed. These tightly scheduled global movements suggest birds time their movements by endogenous mechanisms rather than environmental cues, with breeding site as the primary driver of temporal variation throughout the annual cycle.

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