Massey University scientists are working on all aspects of cetacean biology, ecology, and conservation within and beyond New Zealand waters. Our research has a strong focus on the conservation and management of marine populations, specifically the anthropogenic impacts of tourism, fisheries interactions, and pollution.
Behavioural ecology in marine mammals
This theme investigates spatial and temporal habitat use and activity budgets of marine mammal populations in order to provide conservation management advice. Specific focus is placed on foraging ecology, feeding strategies, breeding behaviours and how they can relate to population parameters.
This theme investigates human impacts that affect marine mammal populations including tourism, pollution & toxicology, fisheries impact – both direct (bycatch) and indirect (resource competition) – aquaculture, coastal habitat modification and ship strike.
Marine mammal biology and life history
This theme investigates biology and life history parameters of New Zealand marine mammal species (and some marine reptiles such as green turtles) including pilot whales, common, dusky, striped and bottlenose dolphins, many large whale species and New Zealand sea lions and fur seals.
Marine mammal conservation-welfare
This theme assesses the interface between animal welfare and conservation biology, addressing the human dynamic of marine mammal interactions via both the natural and social sciences. This theme includes the welfare consequences of human engagement during whale mass strandings and oiled wildlife response.
Bryde’s whales share secrets with their fins
Bryde’s whales (Balaenoptera edeni) are classified as nationally critical in New Zealand and appear only on the north-eastern coast of the North Island.
A study, lead by Massey University’s Dr Gabriela Tezanos-Pinto, collated an extensive database of photographs showing distinctive fin features of individual whales over eight years to obtain missing demographic information about the local population.
Foraging range of fur seals
This project investigated the foraging range of New Zealand fur seals at three breeding colonies in the South Island. We equipped females with satellite data loggers, investigated their feeding habits through the use of fatty acids and stable isotopes and assessed the spatial overlap between fur seals and fisheries using GIS tools.
Ira Moana - Genes of the Sea
The Ira Moana Project aims to deliver a searchable metadatabase for our genetic and genomic data (from both old and next-generation sequencing techniques, for terrestrial and marine critters, as well as environmental samples).
The metadatabase will ensure the kaitiakitanga of our data– creating opportunities for data synthesis, data re-use, and to inform our future research directions.
New rāpoka population confirmed
From reports of sightings of sea lion (rāpoka) pups on Stewart Island, Massey University’s Professor Louise Chilvers began visiting the island annually to make seal pup counts.
Eight years later in 2018 the presence of a New Zealand sea lion (rāpoka) breeding colony on Stewart Island was officially confirmed, the first on the New Zealand mainland in over 150 years.
The least abundant of all sea lion species globally, the rāpoka has been heavily impacted by human activity. The annual count is a team effort between Massey, the Department of Conservation and Auckland Zoo and will continue to better inform management and mitigation of the threat posed by human activity.
Awards and recognition
Associate Professor Karen Stockin was appointed to the role of strandings coordinator within the Strandings Initiative at the International Whaling Commission.Dr Karen Stockin
International Whaling Commission
Dr Karen Stockin was awarded the Bob Kerridge Animal Welfare Fellowship for investigating the human dynamic to stranding events.Dr Karen Stockin
Bob Kerridge Animal Welfare Fellowship
Marine ecologist Associate Professor Karen Stockin was awarded a 2018 Rutherford Discovery Fellowship to explore the development of a new discipline of marine conservation welfare. She is using evolutionary cues and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to assess the conservation welfare gap that occurs during mass whale strandings.Dr Karen Stockin
Royal Society Te Apārangi
Cetacean Ecology Research Group
This centre undertakes marine ecological research within and beyond New Zealand waters, concentrating largely on conservation and management orientated questions. Our specific strengths include marine mammal biology and ecology and quantitative marine ecology.