Avian diversity and evolution
We have a number of researchers working in areas related to the evolution of birds. We have expertise in the development and implications of colouration, song diversity and the genetics of flightlessness and species development.
We are using New Zealand fossils to help reconstruct the events that constructed our unique avifauna.
Avian health and management
Our research is focused on understanding and mitigating disease in wild birds. We have expertise in disease management in captive and wild birds, toxicology, physiology, parasitology and endocrinology in species of interest.
Behavioural ecology analyses the evolutionary context of animal behaviours associated with adaption to environment and applies this knowledge to species conservation.
Massey University researchers are investigating the impact of capture, captivity and handling, human contact, rehabilitation and relocation on the behavioural patterns, survival, reproduction rates and ongoing welfare of wildlife, with a focus on New Zealand native wildlife.
Conservation and translocation of birds
Our research improves the status of threatened species with management techniques such as predator control and reintroduction, enhanced by applied population ecology.
Our conservation research is tightly linked to the behavioural and population dynamics of rare and endangered birds both in New Zealand and internationally. We are also researching how to improve decisions made in reintroduction programmes.
We have expertise in how and why animals undertake regular, usually annual, long-distance movements. We investigate spatial distributions of individuals and populations and have ongoing studies into the genetics and plasticity of migration timing in response to climate change and habitat loss.
Oiled wildlife research
Massey University is at the forefront of oiled wildlife research. Research includes impacts on wildlife health, wildlife ecology, wildlife population studies, wildlife reproduction and genetics, wildlife diet and foraging behaviour and wildlife management.
Massey scientists are involved in research on the nutrition of both free-living and captive wildlife.
We study the micro- and macronutrient requirements of wildlife and how the gut processes nutrients. We also have expertise in the impact of foraging and feeding behaviour on wild animal health.
This includes research into optimal diets for breeding programmes, translocations and the critical care of wildlife species.
Find programmes with a research element, including the PhD.
- Bachelor of Science with Honours (Ecology)
- Bachelor of Science with Honours (Zoology)
- Master of Science (Conservation Biology)
- Master of Science (Ecology)
- Master of Science (Zoology)
- Master of Veterinary Medicine
- Master of Veterinary Science
- Master of Veterinary Studies (Conservation Veterinary Medicine)
Search for an expert
Search our staff database for an expert or area of expertise.
We are studying the evolution of animal communication, examining the origins and stability of song diversity using an evolutionary approach. Bird song dialects are being used as models for testing cultural evolution theory.
Compassion fatigue in wildlife workers
Oil spill response involving wildlife attracts responders that often have deep connections to animals and the desire to alleviate their suffering.
Massey Wildbase Oiled Wildlife Response has collaborated with social work researchers at Massey to investigate compassion fatigue in wildlife carers.
Genetics of the Galapagos Mockingbird
Nothing is known about the genomic correlate or genetic mechanisms for inter-island diversification of Galapagos mockingbirds. Massey scientist Dr Luis Ortiz-Catedral worked with American scientists to investigate the genomic correlates of phenotypic diversification of this endangered bird.
He kororā, he tohu oranga. The little penguin is the sign of life
In mātauranga Māori the success of kororā (little penguin) populations indicates the health of the coastal environment. Our vision is to develop novel methods for the establishment of new breeding populations of kororā and hence to reverse the current decline of the species. Our studies on kororā biology aim to provide information on the foraging ranges and breeding success of kororā populations, and to support iwi to exercise kaitiakitanga over their local marine environment.
Massey University has been involved in ongoing projects to refine reintroduction and conservation techniques for the hihi or stitchbird (Notiomystis cincta). This rare New Zealand passerine is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN and Nationally Endangered by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. Work contributed to by Massey scientists has helped identify issues and successful techniques for this unique bird.
A project to examine the whakapapa of Northland brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) is hoping to develop robust metapopulation management for the species.
The project, led by Ngāti Kuta / Patukeha in partnership with Massey University’s Dr Isabel Castro, arose out of concerns from local whanau, hapu, iwi and DoC that some brown kiwi populations on the islands within the Bay of Islands may be inbred. Kiwi are not naturally present on the island and were placed there as a form of protection from extinction through predation and habitat loss. However inbreeding will cause a loss of genetic diversity that may also lead to extinction.
The project will investigate the extent of the problem, contributing to a management plan for the species’ ongoing survival.
Migratory decisions and performance in bar-tailed godwits
The longest non-stop, non-feeding migratory flight of any bird is undertaken by the bar-tailed godwit – 10,000km from New Zealand to Asia. Their return journey from Alaska is over 11,500km.
Associate Professor Phil Battley used satellite telemetry to document this flight. Postgraduate students have been focusing on various elements of this extraordinary journey to learn more about how individual godwits schedule their migrations, stopover ecology in China and the molecular basis for individual godwit migration timing.
Recognition of birdsong
A key challenge with monitoring birds is their elusiveness in the wild. This makes it difficult to accurately estimate populations. Recordings of bird vocalisation is an effective method, but requires a huge amount of time in analysis.
The AVIANZ project is developing automated birdsong recognition system software. This decreases the time commitment to analysis, while increasing accuracy. The work received an $880,000 grant in the 2017 Marsden Funding round. This project is a collaborative piece of work between Massey’s behavioural ecology and engineering groups. Find out more about the project and hear native bird calls.
Research has discovered that tui have a language with over 400 syllables. The discoveries came during a broader project to identify strategies for effectively managing tui habitat in our expanding urban environment. As well as identifying over 400 syllables, related research recorded 373 distinctly different songs in 2.4 hours of audio recordings.
Weka division pre-dates Cook Strait
A research project has uncovered previously unconfirmed evidence of distinct subspecies of weta within the same island. Previously there were thought to be to six weta subspecies, but new data finds just two subspecies in the North Island and one in the South Island. The research, led by evolutionary biologist Professor Steve Trewick, not only looked at the DNA of weka, but also of their feather lice, as each weka subspecies was found to have its own distinct lineage of feather lice.
The findings are part of a much larger effort to understand the pattern of North Island and South Island races in many New Zealand birds.
Animal Genetic Services
Massey University’s Equine Parentage and Animal Genetics Services Centre offers the most comprehensive range of DNA-based genetic testing for animals in New Zealand.
Companion Animal Clinic
Top-quality veterinary care for all types of small pets. Open to the public, we are the first choice veterinary clinic for local pets. You can also ask your veterinarian for a referral to us for difficult cases. For emergencies contact the Pet Emergency Centre.
Pet Emergency Centre
We are the only 24-hour pet emergency centre in the central North Island. Our team is ready to provide excellent emergency and critical care treatment to your pet in our purpose-built, fully equipped facility.
Call 0800 PET EMERGENCY (0800 738 363)
Wildbase Hospital is New Zealand's only dedicated wildlife hospital. We provide a nationwide service and are at the forefront of veterinary care of New Zealand’s native birds, half of which are classified as threatened or endangered.
AviaNZ birdsong recognition software
Developed by Massey scientists this software program is easy to use and equipped with the essentials for spectrogram reading, analysis and manual annotation. You can download the software along with the user manual for free.
A joint project between Massey University, Canterbury Museum and Auckland War Memorial Museum, the Fauna Toolkit is a portal to 3D digitised models of bird bones from museum collections.
Reintroduction specialist group
This a networking group for reintroduction practitioners worldwide, and provides guidance for re-introduction projects. It provides a set of guidelines for reintroductions, a reintroduction practitioners directory and other resources. Massey University leads this group.