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Health Sciences staff profiles

Pascale Lubbe

PositionPhD student
DepartmentDepartment of Anatomy
QualificationsBSc MSc
Research summaryPast and future impacts of climate change in birds of New Zealand
MembershipsProfessional Development Officer - Otago Postgraduate Association


Climate change represents a significant challenge to biodiversity at all levels. It directly impacts habitat size / spread, resource availability, and phenology, interacts with disease spread and organismal physiological tolerances, and affects the timing and scale of extreme weather events.

Today’s climate trends are unique in their cause and relative speed, but the phenomenon of climate change is not exclusive to the Holocene. In examining how previous climate change events impacted ecosystems, we can learn much about present-day climate change effects.

The onset of the Pleistocene ~2.5 MYA represented a major regime change across the globe- this is easily appreciated for New Zealand Aotearoa, which went from being almost entirely covered in dense, thick forest to a patchwork of open scrub and tussock, glacial caps, and scattered forest refugia. This dramatic change in vegetative distributions would have had a significant evolutionary impact on the organisms living in the habitats defined by them.

Using genomic tools and species distribution models, I research how birds in Aotearoa responded to the dramatic changes in the landscape during this period, and how those responses are influenced by habitat preference. I also study the arrival of new bird species at this time, in particular founding populations from Australia.

Understanding the effects of the past are crucial to understanding and predicting how species respond to environmental challenges and identifying species that are particularly sensitive to these challenges. Knowledge of the past is crucial to the kaitiakitanga – the protection, stewardship, and guardianship – of the birds of Aotearoa.


Tennyson, A. J. D., Greer, L., Lubbe, P., Marx, F. G., Richards, M. D., Giovanardi, S., & Rawlence, N. J. (2022). A new species of large duck (Aves: Anatidae) from the Miocene of New Zealand. Taxonomy, 2, 136-144. doi: 10.3390/taxonomy2010011