Massey has researchers working on evolution-related topics across our areas of expertise. Our areas of expertise and applications include heritable changes across successive generations of biological populations, speciation, phylogeny, adaptation, evolutionary ecology and genetics, experimental evolution, parasitology and infectious disease.

Research expertise

Ancient DNA

DNA technologies have expanded evolutionary studies by including ancient DNA from extinct species and populations in analyses. Our dedicated ancient DNA laboratory handles all types of degraded genetic material including herbarium and museum specimens.



Our researchers are using techniques from areas such as computer science, contemporary genomics and statistics to decipher large biological systems such as DNA, RNA and chromatin information, including modelling genome dynamics. One focus is establishing how genetic variation is distributed within and between individuals and determining how this diversity changes over evolutionary time.


Coevolution and mutualism

This is the study of interdependency between plants and animals, including pollination and seed-dispersal mutualisms and the exploitation of plants for food (herbivory and seed predation). We study chemical communication between individuals and among species to understand the evolution of species interactions.


Comparative genomics

Understanding the genome is central for studies ranging from disease and cancer to fundamental questions in evolution. By unravelling the information in genomes and why selection favours one genotype we are learning to unlock the secrets of life’s building blocks.

We work on the genetics of diversification, reverse evolution and rules of genetic evolution and evolutionary relationships among species.


Microbial evolution

Our research focuses on understanding and modelling evolutionary processes using a wide range of bacterial, viral and eukaryotic microorganisms using cutting edge molecular, genomic and experimental methods.


Molecular and evolutionary ecology

Our research investigates the evolutionary and ecological processes that determine the structure and functioning of populations and communities. We use genetic/genomic tools in combination with environmental DNA sampling, field surveys, and experiments to address questions on population connectivity, local adaptation, trophic interactions, and the distribution of genetic diversity in natural populations and communities.


Speciation, hybridisation and adaptation

We study the process of evolution by natural selection and the origin of new lineages by hybridisation. Population genetics are used to estimate gene flow, population size changes, historical distribution and species boundaries.

We are especially interested in the underlying ecological, evolutionary and genetic mechanisms that drive diversification and have particular expertise in adaptive radiation – the rapid splitting of a single lineage into a range of niche adapted types.

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Systematics and taxonomy in animals

This is the study of the diversification of living forms, and the relationships among living things through time. We also focus on the identification, description, and naming of organisms.



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Research projects


Fauna toolkit

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.

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Dame Ella Campbell Herbarium (MPN)

The Dame Ella Campbell Herbarium houses more than 40,000 flora specimens.

The majority of our collection comes from New Zealand, but there are also many specimens from around the world. The majority of our material is from the North Island from the Volcanic Plateau, to Hawke’s Bay and Taranaki and south to Wellington.

Dame Ella Campbell Herbarium (MPN)

Departments and staff

Find out more about the departments and staff involved in evolution research at Massey.