Conservation and ecological genetics
Expertise in understanding the biological significance of genetic traits, their contribution to ecological performance and the regulatory networks that control their expression. We use population genetics (multi-locus markers, DNA sequence data, cytogenetics) to assess the conservation status, genetic diversity and evolutionary potential of populations.
We create statistical tools for ecological applications, including models of ecological systems, species’ abundances, biodiversity and community ecology. We engage in active field-based ecological research, and consulting for environmental monitoring and impact assessment.
Endocrinology in conservation
Endocrine studies that can help the conservation of animals contribute to conservation endocrinology. Our research in conservation endocrinology helps the management of native birds in New Zealand.
Massey University researchers are investigating the impact of capture, captivity and handling, evolution, 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.
Marine fisheries and conservation
Our research directly informs the management and conservation of marine resources, with projects including estimating the effects of marine reserves on rocky reef fishes, monitoring populations of shellfish and assessment of anthropogenic impacts on marine populations.
We participate in international ex-situ conservation programmes to record and conserve cultivated plant species and related wild plants through seed banks, living plants in botanic gardens, and plant collections.
Species recovery and population ecology
Our expertise is in translating findings from fundamental research in animal conservation to apply to real-world problems and improve the status of threatened species.
We collect data on survival, reproduction and movements of species and are investigating ways in which to prevent biodiversity loss at the species and community level through methods such as predator control and improved reintroduction techniques.
Technology development for use in conservation
Development of protocols and conservation community friendly software to enable more effective monitoring of wildlife and outcomes from conservation efforts. We work with iwi/hapu and other end-users in a mātauranga māori environment.
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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.
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.
Monitoring pest control
Massey scientists are working with local iwi on the environmental monitoring of the use of 1080 in the Tongariro region.
This a two-year project to develop an understanding of the impact of this toxic bait on both the target species (possums, rats and stoats) and on the natural environment. Dr Simon Hills and Professor Murray Potter are the Massey leads on the project, which is setting up the baseline for a longer-term project (ten years) around Mt Ruapehu to assess the ongoing impact of the poison.
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.
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.
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.
The New Zealand Wildlife Mortality Database, Huia
This database, kept by Massey University's Wildbase, records the causes of death of all threatened species in New Zealand and is available by request to conservation workers and scientists.
Research centres and groups
Behavioural Ecology and Conservation Group
This group works to promote and implement collaborative science/mātauranga Māori-based research involving scientists, Māori/hapu/iwi, community groups, and landowners, that leads to the development of wildlife management techniques to support New Zealand conservation efforts.