Dr Gillian Rapson staff profile picture

Contact details +6469517889

Dr Gillian Rapson PhD, BA, BSc(Hons)

Senior Lecturer in Ecology / Zoology

School of Agriculture and Environment

I have more than 25 years of employment history with Massey University, with broad-ranging interests in vegetation of New Zealand, its place in the world, and its responses to disturbances, circulated via 50 referred and at least 11 non-refereed publications. I have extensive service to the profession through journal editing, past curation of the Dame Ella Campbell Herbarium, and roles in several local community organisations. My teaching roles cover many aspects of plant ecology, as well as teaching outside my speciality, and supervision to date of about 20 post-graduate students.

I'm concerned about the state of our planet, and that we need to leave some thing for future generations.

I like the outdoors, and enjoy field work, and meeting new ecosystems and new plants.

I'm fussy about details, and I like a tidy office and tidy files.

I do a lot of science editing, and can red-pen anything (as my grad students quickly learn).

I am heavily invollved with Keeble's Bush and the Kahuterawa Restoration project.

More about me...View less...


Contact details

  • Location: 125, AgHort A
    Campus: Manawatu


  • Doctor of Philosophy - University of Otago (1985)
  • Bachelor of Arts - University of Otago (1979)
  • Bachelor of Science (Honours) - University of Otago (1979)

Prizes and Awards

  • Certificate of Excellence presented "in recognition of a significant contribution to the advancement/promotion of science in the Manawatu through her dedication to conservation activities in the Manawatu region, particularly for her long-standing involvement with Keeble's Bush and for her public promotion of botanical sciences". - Royal Society of New Zealand, Manawatu Branch, (2017)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

My research topic is vulnerability of vegetation to both endogenous and anthropogenic disturbances and how these impact on ecosystem sustainability. I investigate how vegetation (esp. New Zealand's) normally functions, and how it responds to novel perturbations (often due to human impacts), compared with changes within its evolutionary "experience", as a measure of vegetation's vulnerability. Focus is on wetlands and short-turf vegetation, e.g. dunes, grasslands, urban areas and alpine vegetation, but I work in a range of vegetation types as the situation permits. I am aiming for the point where generalisation to vulnerability issues will become appropriate.

My approach is to use survey and other field techniques, complemented by lab studies where necessary, and using modern analytical techniques, though I also maintain a large database, compiled from bibliographic sources, which is shared with colleagues. Where possible I incorporate students, both post-grad. and under-grad. into my research, as they bring lots of energy and enthusiasm, as well as novel ideas. I am meticulously accurate in my data collation, and paper preparation, aiming to present uncontrovertible material.


21st Century Citizenship, Resource Development and Management, Design – for Commerce, Community and Culture, Health and Well-being, Future Food Systems

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Biological Adaptation (060303): Biological Sciences (060000): Community Ecology (060202): Ecological Physiology (060203): Ecology (060200): Evolutionary Biology (060300): Genetics (060400): Global Change Biology (069902): Other Biological Sciences (069900): Plant Systematics and Taxonomy (060310): Population, Ecological and Evolutionary Genetics (060411): Speciation and Extinction (060311): Terrestrial Ecology (060208)


Dunes, especially Manawatu

Wetlands, especially mires

Restoration, especially forests

Grasslands, especially carbon dynamics

Invasions, including in urban areas


Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 0 5

Consultancy and Languages


  • Now to eternity - Horizons Regional Council
    Restoration planting programmes
  • For ever - Department of Conservation
    Sand dune dynamics


  • English
    Last used: Now
    Spoken ability: Excellent
    Written ability: Excellent
  • French
    Last used: Last year
    Spoken ability: Needs work
    Written ability: Needs work
  • German
    Last used: Last year
    Spoken ability: Needs work
    Written ability: Needs work
  • Anglo-Saxon
    Last used: Ages ago
    Spoken ability: Needs work
    Written ability: Needs work

Teaching and Supervision

Teaching Statement

Teaching - keen on field trips and getting wet, cold and dirty!

Courses Coordinated

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Main Supervisor 0 3

Completed Doctoral Supervision

Main Supervisor of:

  • 2015 - Matthew Krna - Doctor of Philosophy
    Productivity, decomposition and carbon sequestration of Chionochloa species across altitudinal gradients in montane tussock grasslands of New Zealand
  • 2000 - Kim McBreen - Doctor of Philosophy
    Kamahi Decline in Tongariro National Park.
  • 1997 - Vaughan Keesing - Doctor of Philosophy
    Impacts of invasions on community structure: habitat and invertebrate assemblage responses to *Calluna* *vulgaris* L. Hull, in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand.

Media and Links

Other Links

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