Prof Murray Potter staff profile picture

Contact details +6469517836

Prof Murray Potter PhD, MSc, BSc

Professor in Zoology

School of Agriculture and Environment

Short Biography

Murray Potter has a BSc (Zoology) and an MSc (Hons) (Zoology) from the University of Auckland, and a PhD (Zoology) from Massey University. For his MSc research Murray studied the ecology of native New Zealand termites within an exotic Pinus radiate production forest. Between his MSc and PhD Murray worked first for the New Zealand Wildlife Service where he prepared an early draft of the very first species recovery plan in New Zealand (North Island kokako, 1983), and then as a field technician for the Ecology Division of DSIR where he helped both pioneer ecological field research on North Island brown kiwi and gather the first quantitative data on mortality factors for kiwi. Those data now underpin the management strategies for all populations of kiwi on the mainland. While at DSIR he also assisted with behavioural research on Adelie penguins in Antarctica.

For his PhD Murray studied the ecology, reproductive behaviour, and reproductive endocrinology of North Island brown kiwi. He provided the first description of changes in plasma steroid concentrations during the reproductive cycle of this species, and described how sex-role reversal has resulted in male kiwi that display not only a highly seasonal cycle in plasma testosterone levels, but that also attain peak levels of both oestradiol and progesterone that can exceed those attained in the females.

Following completion of his PhD Murray worked for two years as a post-harvest entomologist with MAF before taking up a lectureship in 1991 at Massey University. Murray has since supervised over 60 postgraduate students.

Murray is especially interested in studies that integrate the ecology, physiology, and natural history of whole organisms within their natural settings, including how temporal constraints, stress, morphology, and nutrition underpin and interact with an animal's behaviour and ecology. Major foci of current research include: i) assessment of the endogenous and exogenous regulation of timing of long-distance migration; ii) the shifting dynamics of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in response to environmental change; iii) the sensory detection and selection of dietary items; and iv) the relevance of gut physiology and nutrition to animal ecology and conservation. A major thread that runs through his research is identification of the repeatability of responses by individuals that points to adaptive personalities within species. His overarching goal is to find practicable solutions to human-wildlife conflict.

Roles and Responsibilities

Major Leader for Zoology

Member of the BSc Programme Committee

Member of the BSc Exam Committee

Member of the College of Sciences Academic Board

Coordinator for 199.206 The Fauna of New Zealand

Coordinator for 199.310 Entomology

Coordinator for 199.717 Entomology

Professor Murray Potter is working both nationally and internationally to find practicable solutions to human-wildlife conflict. His areas of expertise include conservation biology, reproductive and stress physiology, avian nutrition, avian migration, entomology, kiwi, stoats, Adelie penguins and emperor penguins. His research interests include studies that integrate the ecology, physiology, behaviour and natural history of whole organisms within their natural settings, including how temporal constraints, stress, morphology and nutrition underpin and interact with an animal's behaviour and ecology. In particular he is interested in invertebrate and vertebrate behaviour, physiology, nutrition and conservation, and predator/prey population dynamics. 

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Contact details

  • Ph: +64 6 356 9099 ext 84836
    Location: A1.11, AgHort
    Campus: Manawatu


  • Doctor of Philosophy - Massey University (1990)
  • Master of Science (Second Class Honours) - Massey University (1983)
  • Bachelor of Science - Massey University (1981)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

Invertebrate and Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation

Nutrition and Gut Physiology

Reproductive Behaviour, Growth and Development

Stress Physiology

Predator/Prey Population Dynamics

Avian Migration


21st Century Citizenship, Resource Development and Management

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Animal Behaviour (060801): Animal Physiological Ecology (060806): Animal Structure and Function (060807): Biological Sciences (060000): Ecology (060200):
Environmental Science and Management (050200): Environmental Sciences (050000):
Invertebrate Biology (060808): Physiology (060600): Population Ecology (060207): Vertebrate Biology (060809):
Wildlife and Habitat Management (050211):
Zoology (060800)


Conservation Biology, Reproductive and Stress Physiology, Avian Nutrition, Gut Physiology, Avian Migration, Kiwi, Stoats, Adelie Penguins, Emperor Penguins, Entomology.

Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 0 3
Team Member 1 0

Teaching and Supervision

Teaching Statement

Biology of Animals

Invertebrate Zoology


Conservation Biology

Courses Coordinated

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Main Supervisor 0 6
Co-supervisor 2 8

Current Doctoral Supervision

Co-supervisor of:

  • Amira Mahmoud Mahmoud - Doctor of Philosophy
    Optimizing Black Solder Fly production for animal feed
  • Christopher Andrews - Doctor of Philosophy
    Physiology, behaviour and conservation: an interdisciplinary approach to felid conservation

Completed Doctoral Supervision

Main Supervisor of:

  • 2018 - Martin Thibault - Doctor of Philosophy
    The red vented-bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer): invasion dynamic and ecological impacts of an introduced pest bird in New Caledonia and implications for man
  • 2016 - Rebecca Stirnemann - Doctor of Philosophy
    Ecology, Population Dynamics and Drivers of Decline in a Tropical Island Honeyeater: The Ma'oma'o
  • 2013 - Charlotte Minson - Doctor of Philosophy
    Diet-related factors in the conservation of kiwi (Apteryx mantelli)
  • 2012 - Fabrice Brescia - Doctor of Philosophy
    Ecology and Population Trends in New Caledonian Placostylus Snails Population (Mollusca:Gastropoda:Bulimulidae)
  • 2010 - Jay McCartney - Doctor of Philosophy
    Spermatophore size variation in the bush-cricket genus poecilimon
  • 2001 - Grant Blackwell - Doctor of Philosophy
    An investigation of the factors regulating house mouse (#Mus# #musculus#) and ship rat (#Rattus# #rattus#) population dynamics in forest ecosystems at Lake Waikaremoana, New Zealand.

Co-supervisor of:

  • 2020 - Evans Effah - Doctor of Philosophy
    Volatile organic compounds emitted by invasive and native plant species under invasion scenarios and their potential ecological roles
  • 2019 - Kathryn Strang - Doctor of Philosophy
    The ecology of feral cats (Felis catus) on a New Zealand offshore island: Considerations for management
  • 2018 - Angela Parody Merino - Doctor of Philosophy
    Genetics of the timing of migration in bar-tailed godwits
  • 2015 - Chi Yeung Choi - Doctor of Philosophy
    The Northward Migration Stopover Ecology of Bar-Tailed Godwits and Great Knots in the Yalu Jiang Estuary National Nature Reserve, China
  • 2013 - Gaylynne Carter - Doctor of Philosophy
    The Behavioural Response of a Small Prey Animal to the Odour Cues of Familiar Predators in a New Zealand Model System
  • 2010 - Susan Cunningham - Doctor of Philosophy
    Tactile senses and foraging in birds with emphasis on kiwi
  • 2000 - Kim McBreen - Doctor of Philosophy
    Kamahi Decline in Tongariro National Park.
  • 1999 - Roger Lentle - Doctor of Philosophy
    Feeding Strategies of the Tammar Wallaby (#Macropus# #eugenii# Desmarest).

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