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Dr Libby Liggins staff profile picture

Contact details +6492127062

Dr Libby Liggins PhD, MSc, BSc

Senior Lecturer in Marine Ecology

Doctoral Supervisor
School of Natural and Computational Sciences

I am a lecturer in marine ecology and a research associate of the Auckland War Memorial Museum. My research is interested in the generation and changing nature of biogeographic, ecological and demographic patterns in the ocean. I specialise in using genetic and genomic data, in combination with ecological data and modelling approaches. Alongside my research I am an active participant in science outreach and community engagement. I also collaborate in several international research consortia, advocating open data, knowledge transfer, and free access to population genetic and spatial seascape genetic analysis tools.


Contact details

  • Location: 5.06, 5
    Campus: Ōtehā Rohe


  • Doctor of Philosophy - University of Queensland (2014)
  • Master of Science - Victoria University (2008)
  • Bachelor of Science - Victoria University (2005)

Certifications and Registrations

  • Licence, Supervisor, Massey University

Prizes and Awards

  • Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution Postdoctoral Research Fellowship - Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution (2014)
  • National Evolutionary Synthesis Center Graduate Fellowship - National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America (2014)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

My research is interested in the generation and changing nature of biogeographic, ecological and demographic patterns in the ocean. I specialise in using molecular genetic and genomic data, in combination with ecological data and modelling approaches. My work addresses the origins of native and invasive taxa, biodiversity gradients, the assembly of marine communities, and population connectivity among regions, at local and global scales. My current research focuses on edge-of-species-range dynamics, characterising the potential for range expansion based on dispersal potential, population demography, and the genetic characteristics of populations. Alongside my research I am an active participant in science outreach and community engagement. I also collaborate in several international research consortia, advocating open data, knowledge transfer, and free access to population genetic and spatial seascape genetic analysis tools.

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Animal Systematics and Taxonomy (060301): Biogeography and Phylogeography (060302): Biological Sciences (060000): Community Ecology (060202): Ecology (060200): Evolutionary Biology (060300): Evolutionary Impacts of Climate Change (060306): Genetics (060400): Genomics (060408): Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology) (060205): Population Ecology (060207): Population, Ecological and Evolutionary Genetics (060411)

Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 6 5
Team Member 0 1

Current Projects

Project Title: Ira Moana - genes of the sea - a collaborative network and database to advance NZ marine genetic research

Genetic data can inform biodiversity assessments, resource management, and spatial conservation planning. Despite there being considerable genetic data for New Zealand's (NZ) marine species, these data have never been combined in order to inform multispecies, ecosystem-based management because the data are not readily accessible. This project will establish a collaborative network of NZ and international scientists and create a query-able database of genetic data and DNA samples for NZ's marine organisms. The Ira Moana (genes of the sea) Network will leverage the expertise of the Diversity of the Indo-Pacific Network (DIPnet, - comprising the world's leading marine geneticists, spatial ecologists, biodiversity informaticians, and conservation scientists - and the Genomic Observatory Metadatabase (GeOMe, created by DIPnet. GeOMe is a custom-built database for genetic data satisfying community standards and best practices in biodiversity informatics and genomics. NZ marine geneticists will collaborate with DIPnet scientists to create the Ira Moana Database, capitalising on the GeOMe infrastructure. The Ira Moana Database will be the most comprehensive, national genetic database in the world. The Ira Moana Network will establish multispecies genetic analysis routines, means to incorporate genetic data into ecosystem-based, spatial conservation planning, and will identify future priorities for NZ marine genetic research.
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Date Range: 2018 - 2020

Funding Body: Royal Society of New Zealand

Project Team:

Completed Projects

Project Title: Genetic diversity and connectivity of Beveridge Reef and Niue's marine diversity in an Indo-Pacific wide context

Date Range: 2017 - 2018

Funding Body: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Niue

Project Team:

Project Title: RSNZ - Rutherford Post Doc Fellowship: Determining the potential for a range shift in a non-native marine ecosystem engineer - Libby Liggins

The Australian long-spined sea urchin (Centrostephanus rodgersii) that has shifted its range into northeast New Zealand over the last 60 years is a voracious herbivore capable of destroying our kelp-dominated ecosystems. To help us understand the constraints and potential triggers of further range shifts in this species, this project will use seascape genomic analyses and forward population demographic-genetic simulations. These approaches will help elucidate the environmental features that correlate with the population demography and certain genetic characteristics of C. rodgersii. Overall, the project aims to forecast the threat posed by C. rodgersii in New Zealand, and provide a road-map of which populations have the potential to trigger a range shift.
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Date Range: 2016 - 2018

Funding Body: Royal Society of New Zealand

Project Team:

Project Title: Kimihia te me ngaro - Seek the things being lost: Incorporating traditional ecological knowledge in assessments of toheroa abundance

Date Range: 2016 - 2017

Funding Body: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Project Team:

Research Outputs


Thia, JA., McGuigan, K., Liggins, L., Figueira, WF., Bird, CE., Mather, A., . . . Riginos, C. (2021). Genetic and phenotypic variation exhibit both predictable and stochastic patterns across an intertidal fish metapopulation.. Mol Ecol.
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Riginos, C., Crandall, ED., Liggins, L., Gaither, MR., Ewing, RB., Meyer, C., . . . Deck, J. (2020). Building a global genomics observatory: Using GEOME (the Genomic Observatories Metadatabase) to expedite and improve deposition and retrieval of genetic data and metadata for biodiversity research. Molecular Ecology Resources. 20(6), 1458-1469
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Hoban, S., Bruford, M., D'Urban Jackson, J., Lopes-Fernandes, M., Heuertz, M., Hohenlohe, PA., . . . Laikre, L. (2020). Genetic diversity targets and indicators in the CBD post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework must be improved. Biological Conservation. 248
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Arranz, V., Pearman, WS., Aguirre, JD., & Liggins, L. (2020). MARES, a replicable pipeline and curated reference database for marine eukaryote metabarcoding. Scientific Data. 7(1)
[Journal article]Authored by: Aguirre-Davies, J., Arranz Martinez, V., Liggins, L.
Laikre, L., Hoban, S., Bruford, MW., Segelbacher, G., Allendorf, FW., Gajardo, G., . . . Vernesi, C. (2020). Post-2020 goals overlook genetic diversity. Science (New York, N.Y.). 367(6482), 1083-1085
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Liggins, L., Sweatman, JA., Trnski, T., Duffy, CAJ., Eddy, TD., & Aguirre, JD. (2020). Natural history footage provides new reef fish biodiversity information for a pristine but rarely visited archipelago. Scientific reports. 10(1), 3159
[Journal article]Authored by: Aguirre-Davies, J., Liggins, L.
Eme, D., Anderson, MJ., Myers, EMV., Roberts, CD., & Liggins, L. (2020). Phylogenetic measures reveal eco-evolutionary drivers of biodiversity along a depth gradient. Ecography.
[Journal article]Authored by: Anderson, M., Liggins, L.
Myers, EMV., Anderson, MJ., Eme, D., Liggins, L., & Roberts, CD. (2020). Changes in key traits versus depth and latitude suggest energy-efficient locomotion, opportunistic feeding and light lead to adaptive morphologies of marine fishes. Journal of Animal Ecology. 89(2), 309-322
[Journal article]Authored by: Anderson, M., Liggins, L.
Eme, D., Anderson, MJ., Struthers, CD., Roberts, CD., & Liggins, L. (2019). An integrated pathway for building regional phylogenies for ecological studies. Global Ecology and Biogeography. 28(12), 1899-1911
[Journal article]Authored by: Anderson, M., Liggins, L.
Crandall, ED., Riginos, C., Bird, CE., Liggins, L., Treml, E., Beger, M., . . . Gaither, MR. (2019). The molecular biogeography of the Indo-Pacific: Testing hypotheses with multispecies genetic patterns. Global Ecology and Biogeography. 28(7), 943-960
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Liggins, L., Treml, EA., Possingham, HP., & Riginos, C. (2016). Seascape features, rather than dispersal traits, predict spatial genetic patterns in co-distributed reef fishes. Journal of Biogeography. 43(2), 256-267
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Liggins, L., Booth, DJ., Figueira, WF., Treml, EA., Tonk, L., Ridgway, T., . . . Riginos, C. (2015). Latitude-wide genetic patterns reveal historical effects and contrasting patterns of turnover and nestedness at the range peripheries of a tropical marine fish. Ecography. 38(12), 1212-1224
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Liggins, L., Gleeson, L., & Riginos, C. (2014). Evaluating edge-of-range genetic patterns for tropical echinoderms, Acanthaster planci and Tripneustes gratilla, of the Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific. Bulletin of Marine Science. 90(1), 379-397
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Selkoe, KA., D'Aloia, CC., Crandall, ED., Iacchei, M., Liggins, L., Puritz, JB., . . . Toonen, RJ. (2016). A decade of seascape genetics: Contributions to basic and applied marine connectivity. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 554, 1-19
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Riginos, C., Crandall, ED., Liggins, L., Bongaerts, P., & Treml, EA. (2016). Navigating the currents of seascape genomics: How spatial analyses can augment population genomic studies. Current Zoology. 62(6), 581-601
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Delrieu-Trottin, E., Liggins, L., Trnski, T., Williams, JT., Neglia, V., Rapu-Edmunds, C., . . . Saenz-Agudelo, P. (2018). Evidence of cryptic species in the blenniid Cirripectes alboapicalis species complex, with zoogeographic implications for the South Pacific. ZooKeys. 2018(810), 127-138
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Thia, JA., Riginos, C., Liggins, L., Figueira, WF., & McGuigan, K. (2018). Larval traits show temporally consistent constraints, but are decoupled from postsettlement juvenile growth, in an intertidal fish. Journal of Animal Ecology. 87(5), 1353-1363
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Bronstein, O., Kroh, A., Tautscher, B., Liggins, L., & Haring, E. (2017). Cryptic speciation in pan-tropical sea urchins: A case study of an edge-of-range population of Tripneustes from the Kermadec Islands. Scientific Reports. 7(1)
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Pope, LC., Liggins, L., Keyse, J., Carvalho, SB., & Riginos, C. (2015). Not the time or the place: The missing spatio-temporal link in publicly available genetic data. Molecular Ecology. 24(15), 3802-3809
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Parobek, CM., Archer, FI., DePrenger-Levin, ME., Hoban, SM., Liggins, L., & Strand, AE. (2017). skelesim: an extensible, general framework for population genetic simulation in R. Molecular Ecology Resources. 17(1), 101-109
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Riginos, C., & Liggins, L. (2013). Seascape Genetics: Populations, Individuals, and Genes Marooned and Adrift. Geography Compass. 7(3), 197-216
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Liggins, L., Treml, EA., & Riginos, C. (2013). Taking the Plunge: An Introduction to Undertaking Seascape Genetic Studies and using Biophysical Models. Geography Compass. 7(3), 173-196
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Kingsford, MJ., O'Callaghan, MD., Liggins, L., & Gerlach, G. (2017). The short-lived neon damsel Pomacentrus coelestis: implications for population dynamics. Journal of Fish Biology. 90(5), 2041-2059
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Aguirre, JD., Bollard-Breen, B., Cameron, M., Constantine, R., Duffy, CAJ., Dunphy, B., . . . Wilson, R. (2016). Loved to pieces: Toward the sustainable management of the Waitematā Harbour and Hauraki Gulf. Regional Studies in Marine Science. 8, 220-233
[Journal article]Authored by: Aguirre-Davies, J., Liggins, L., Smith, A.
Richards, ZT., & Liggins, L. (2015). Scleractinian corals and Crown-of-thorns seastars of the Kermadec Islands. Bulletin of the Auckland Museum. 20, 337-340
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Crandall, ED., Treml, EA., Liggins, L., Gleeson, L., Yasuda, N., Barber, PH., . . . Riginos, C. (2014). Return of the ghosts of dispersal past: Historical spread and contemporary gene flow in the blue sea star Linckia laevigata. Bulletin of Marine Science. 90(1), 399-425
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Huelsken, T., Keyse, J., Liggins, L., Penny, S., Treml, EA., & Riginos, C. (2013). A novel widespread cryptic species and phylogeographic patterns within several giant clam species (cardiidae: Tridacna) from the Indo-Pacific ocean. PLoS ONE. 8(11)
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Mirams, AGK., Treml, EA., Shields, JL., Liggins, L., & Riginos, C. (2011). Vicariance and dispersal across an intermittent barrier: Population genetic structure of marine animals across the Torres Strait land bridge. Coral Reefs. 30(4), 937-949
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Liggins, L., Chapple, DG., Daugherty, CH., & Ritchie, PA. (2008). Origin and post-colonization evolution of the Chatham Islands skink (Oligosoma nigriplantare nigriplantare). Molecular Ecology. 17(14), 3290-3305
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Liggins, L., Chapple, DG., Daugherty, CH., & Ritchie, PA. (2008). A SINE of restricted gene flow across the Alpine Fault: Phylogeography of the New Zealand common skink (Oligosoma nigriplantare polychroma). Molecular Ecology. 17(16), 3668-3683
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Ryan, KG., Cowie, ROM., Liggins, E., McNaughtan, D., Martin, A., & Davy, SK. (2009). The short-term effect of irradiance on the photosynthetic properties of antarctic fast-ice microalgal communities. Journal of Phycology. 45(6), 1290-1298
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.
Torkkola, J., Riginos, C., & Liggins, L. (2013). Regional patterns of mtDNA diversity in Styela plicata, an invasive ascidian, from Australian and New Zealand marinas. Marine and Freshwater Research. 64(2), 139-145
[Journal article]Authored by: Liggins, L.


Clark, MR., Trnski, T., Constantine, R., Aguirre, JD., Barker, J., Betty, E., . . . van Oosterom, L.(2017). Biodiversity of the Kermadec Islands and offshore waters of the Kermadec Ridge: report of a coastal, marine mammal and deep-sea survey (TAN1612). (Report No. New Zealand Aquatic Environment and Biodiversity Report No. 179). : Ministry for Primary Industries
[Technical Report]Authored by: Aguirre-Davies, J., Betty, E., Liggins, L.
Albert, S., Grinham, A., Bythell, J., Olds, A., Schwarz, A., Abernethy, K., . . . Gibbes, B.(2012). Building social and ecological resilience to climate change in Roviana, Solomon Islands. (Report No. Component 2 Final Report).
[Technical Report]Authored by: Liggins, L.

Teaching and Supervision

Courses Coordinated

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Main Supervisor 2 0
Co-supervisor 2 1

Current Doctoral Supervision

Main Supervisor of:

  • Andre Samayoa - Doctor of Philosophy
    Spatial patterns of population genetic and phylogenetic diversity in New Zealand's marine environment
  • Irene Middleton - Doctor of Philosophy
    Detecting and predicting the dispersal and naturalisation of foreign marine species on New Zealand reefs

Co-supervisor of:

  • Odette Howarth - Doctor of Philosophy
    "Applications of baited remote underwater videos (BRUVs) for monitoring fish assemblages in the Hauraki Gulf”
  • Hochang Yoo - Doctor of Philosophy
    Development of cultivation methods for New Zealand brown algae.

Completed Doctoral Supervision

Co-supervisor of:

  • 2020 - Elisabeth Myers - Doctor of Philosophy
    Functional biodiversity of New Zealand's marine fishes versus depth and latitude

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