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Physical geography is the study of the natural features and processes operating at the Earth’s surface and their impacts on, and interaction with, human society. Massey University's research in this area focuses on fluvial, slope and coastal geomorphology, quaternary biogeography and environmental change. Geomorphic research has a ‘mountains to sea’ theme, which recognises the landscape connections between slopes, rivers and coasts.
Biogeography is the study of the distribution of living things across the earth. It draws on many scientific disciplines including ecology, biology, plate tectonics, statistics and molecular biology. We specialise in reconstructing past biogeography to understand how factors like climate change and natural and anthropogenic disturbance have modified the environment.
We research the processes that drive changes in New Zealand's coastal landscapes. This encompasses changes driven by contemporary coastal processes, such as coastal erosion, to longer-term changes such as Late millennial-scale coastal evolution driven by changes in global sea level.
Our research in fluvial processes focuses on river channel dynamics, and sediment flux, together with their interaction with freshwater ecology; alluvial histories and catchment response to environmental change.This includes understanding and extending flood histories; slope-channel coupling and catchment connectivity. Pure research in these areas is applied to address river management issues.
Palynology (the science of pollen) is an inter-disciplinary science that combines geography, earth science, plant biology and ecology. Massey houses a world-class palynology laboratory that uses pollen from ancient sediments to reconstruct past environmental change.
In young, tectonically active landscapes like New Zealand, landslides are the dominant form of erosion. They can modify the landscape both gradually or dramatically, and affect infrastructure and communities. To help manage their impacts we investigate the physical, environmental, and anthropomorphic conditions that bring about hillslope instability and change over human and geological timescales.
Find programmes with a research element, including the PhD.
Search our staff database for an expert or area of expertise.
Professor Russell Death was awarded $100,000 from the MBIE Vision Mātauranga fund to develop with Ngāti Whatua o Karipara a traffic light coloured (Figure ; red = poor, green = good) internet map of Kaipara river health. This will allow marae, interest groups or individuals to easily explore the health of their local sites and potential reasons for its current condition upstream. In turn this will hopefully identify management actions for improvement.
The Massey team of Jon Procter and Kat Holt worked to collect lakebed cores totalling over 45m in length. The deepest cores from the lake preserve evidence for a major flood or marine inundation event, in the form of a thick sand layer, which may have played a role in the formation of the lake.
The project, funded by Vision Mātauranga, is now obtaining radiocarbon dates for the core and performing analyses to track nutrient levels and sedimentation rates throughout the lifetime of the lake.
Sea-level is not level, but varies over time and space. Knowledge of how sea-level changed around New Zealand over the past 10,000 years is extremely limited. Extending a recent pilot study, this research, led by Dr Alastair Clement, aims to reconstruct the variability in sea-level changes around New Zealand during this period to determine the drivers of this variability.
Dr Jeff McNeill’s research looks at the NZ Division’s participation in the WW1 Battle of Messines, and considers whether these Kiwi soldiers were “typical New Zealanders”. His work draws on documents from both sides of the conflict, and uses GIS to examine the battlefield terrain for clues to the events of the battle.
The pollen database allows you to search for information on the morphology, pattern, location and shape of pollen from New Zealand and around the world.
Palynology is the science of pollen. It brings together aspects of geography, earth science, plant biology and ecology.
Massey operates a world-class palynology laboratory for pollen analysis, where we have developed the Classifynder, a holistic automated pollen imaging and classification system.
I have really enjoyed the wide range of experiences studying geography at Massey has given me, with lots of opportunities to explore New Zealand.Andrew Neverman - PhD student
Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Geography)
The field work component of my geography studies greatly set me up for everything I do here (at Geotechnics). My company utilises a number of pieces of equipment that we learnt to use at Massey, helping me to step into this role quite easily.Goldie Walker - Senior Geophysical Investigation Specialist, Geotechnics
Master of Science (Geography)
The Innovative River Solutions Centre is a hub of expertise on river catchments and provides integrated solutions for the management of New Zealand’s dynamic river systems.
We have staff with expertise in several of the science disciplines within river catchments.