School of Natural Sciences

The School of Natural Sciences offers teaching and research spanning the biological and physical sciences, including biology, chemistry, ecology and physics.


The School of Natural Sciences seeks new insights and discoveries in the scientific and technological worlds. We lead research and teaching in areas such as:

  • biochemistry
  • chemistry
  • ecology and conservation
  • evolutionary biology
  • marine biology
  • microbiology
  • molecular and cellular biology
  • plant sciences
  • physics
  • zoology.

Our interdisciplinary approach to research involves national and international collaborations. We enthusiastically mentor the next generation of scientists to think critically and creatively to tackle big issues through applied approaches and blue-sky research.

At Massey we are Tiriti-led, upholding te Tiriti o Waitangi principles through our practices.

Study with us

Choose from a range of qualifications in natural sciences such as chemistry, microbiology, molecular cell biology, or ecology and conservation.

Explore by area of interest

Explore a selection of qualifications relating to your interests.

Study biological & natural sciences

Devise new ideas and technologies for agribusiness, biotechnology, conservation, energy or healthcare. World-class lecturers. Learn more today.

Close up of teacher holding a model skeleton Close up of teacher holding a model skeleton Close up of teacher holding a model skeleton Close up of teacher holding a model skeleton

Study natural environment

Study at Massey to create a sustainable future for the planet and its people, plants and creatures. Discover your study options today.

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Our people

Our people make us who we are.


Our staff and students carry out interdisciplinary research at the frontiers of our disciplines. We have extensive international collaborations and an impressive history of commercialising our results.

Our researchers win grants and other funding from prestigious sources such as the Royal Society of New Zealand's Marsden Fund Te Pūtea Rangahau and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE) for applied research.

Learn about the Marsden Fund
Learn about the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise


We often carry out research for partners outside Massey or work with stakeholders on certain topics or as part of long-term relationships. Our consultancy makes the most of expertise from within the School and around the university, offering fresh thinking.

Research themes


Our research includes biochemistry, evolution, genetics and genomics, microbiology, and the biological basis of disease.


Climate change, energy sources, medicines and technologies all rely on new materials and molecules. These will be developed by chemists and nanoscientists.


We focus on understanding and creating a sustainable future for the unique flora, fauna and land of Aotearoa New Zealand. Our research includes biodiversity, ecosystem health, ecological genetics, and zoology.


Our research includes molecular biophysics, particle physics and quantum mechanics.

Research projects

Explore our research projects recently awarded grants from the Marsden Fund Te Pūtea Rangahau or MBIE's Smart Fund.

Massey researchers awarded Te Pūtea Rangahau funding

Learn about the Marsden Fund

Does intra-nuclear aggregation of HDAC4 promote neuronal dysfunction?

Abnormal accumulation of HDAC4 protein in the nuclei of nerve cells has been implicated in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. In our Drosophila (fruit fly) model system, excess levels of HDAC4 also impair neuronal development and memory.

This HDAC4 accumulation in nuclei results in the formation of protein aggregates, but it is unknown how they contribute to disease. We will determine the protein composition of the aggregates and will investigate their role in neuronal dysfunction in our Drosophila model.

Contact Helen Fitzsimons

Enhancing legume nitrogen fixation to reduce fertiliser use

Nitrogen fertiliser supports plant growth effectively, but it strongly inhibits nitrogen-fixation by clovers and therefore abolishes this natural source of nitrogen traditionally utilised by farmers.

“We have discovered a trait in the legume Medicago in which this nitrogen-fixation inhibition process is disrupted," says Associate Professor Dijkwel. "Transfer of this trait to clover will greatly reduce fertiliser use because clover uses less fertiliser, while continuing to enrich the pasture with fixed nitrogen. Our discovery of a Medicago truncatula plant line resistant to inhibition of nitrogen-fixation is ground-breaking.”

Contact Paul Dijkwel

Identifying mechanisms that drive cultural evolution of song in natural songbird

Our research involves large-scale field experiments that quantify song diversity, social networks, and individual bird movements across fragmented landscapes. We will use three iconic NZ native birds, tūī, korimako and tīeke, to understand the roles of:

  • social learning mechanisms (cultural transmission pathways)
  • patterns of animal dispersal on the cultural evolution of song in wild bird populations.

Contact Dianne Brunton


Massey offers services for the public, as well as research or training for staff, students and businesses.

Manawatū Microscopy and Imaging Centre

The centre is available for use by organisations such as researchers, Crown Research Institutes, other teaching institutions, hospitals and commercial clients.

We have a team of specialists and offer:

  • transmitted light and fluorescence microscopy
  • electron microscopy
  • image analysis.

Massey Genome Service

Our lab provides sequencing services to New Zealand researchers and students, including:

  • analysis of genomic DNA
  • genotyping
  • RNA and ABI sequencing.

Location: Manawatū campus

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Laboratory

Equipment in this laboratory includes:

  • 700 MHz spectrometer with a cryogenically-cooled probe; 60-place sample changer and autotune and match module for high throughput
  • 500 MHz spectrometer
  • 400 MHz spectrometer
  • 200 MHz horizontal widebore spectrometer, with high resolution imaging capabilities.

Massey laboratories

State-of-the-art laboratories and equipment include:

  • nuclear magnetic resonance lab
  • optical lab with optical tweezers, light scattering, and spectrometers
  • PC2-certified lab for molecular biology, protein expression and purification
  • solar cell construction and testing facilities
  • X-ray diffraction lab.

Dame Ella Campbell Herbarium (MPN)

The herbarium houses more than 75,000 flora specimens, from Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world.

The majority of our collection comes from the North Island's Volcanic Plateau, Hawke’s Bay and Taranaki, and south to Wellington.

Location: Manawatū campus

Kauri tree

Ampersand Technologies

DNA testing and test development services with a focus on agricultural, horticultural, and environmental applications. We use new DNA diagnostic technologies to deliver fast and accurate testing to our clients.

Translational Medical Research Laboratory

Our IANZ-accredited research/diagnostic laboratory specialises in DNA testing for malignant hyperthermia and other RYR1-myopathies. We work closely with consultant anaesthetists at Palmerston North hospital and other specialists in Australasia.

Director: Professor Kathryn Stowell

Accreditations and rankings

QS Ranking - Biological Sciences

Massey University is ranked by QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) as one of the top 450 universities in the world for biological sciences.

Learn more


We use a wide range of first-class facilities in our teaching and research.

Marine Pathology Laboratory

Our specialised post-mortem facility assesses the life history, diet and causes of death in:

  • dolphins
  • small whales and sharks — up to 3m long
  • seals and stingrays
  • penguins and other seabirds.

Includes a walk-in -20°C freezer, +4°C chiller and vented specimen/chemical storage bunker.

Location: Auckland campus

Massey Botanic Gardens

This project is working to expand on Massey’s already expansive campus to create a botanic garden available for research, teaching and to the community across New Zealand and internationally. The garden will generate a wealth of information on restoration methods and the management of rare, threatened and endangered plants from around the world.

Location: Manawatū campus

New Zealand Indigenous Flora Seed Bank

The seed bank collects the seeds of Aotearoa New Zealand plants to conserve the biodiversity within our indigenous flora. Seed banking is a recognised conservation strategy to support in-situ conservation efforts.

Location: Manawatū campus

Contact the School of Natural Sciences

We teach online and by distance, and on two Massey campuses: Auckland and Palmerston North (Manawatū).

School of Natural Sciences – Auckland campus


Use our Auckland campus maps or find us on Google Maps.

School of Natural Sciences – Manawatū campus


Postal address
Private Bag 11222
Palmerston North 4442
New Zealand

Courier Address
School of Natural Sciences
Massey University
Science Tower A1.19
Colombo Road
Palmerston North 4410
New Zealand

Use our Manawatū campus maps or find us on Google Maps.

Looking for a staff member? Visit our staff directory or use Expertise search.