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Priscilla Wehi image 2020Associate Professor

Director, Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre of Research Excellence in Complex Systems

Ko te pae tawhiti whāia kia tata
ko te pae tata whakamaua kia tina

Seek out distant horizons, and cherish those you attain

Research background

Priscilla is a conservation biologist whose research has two main research themes: first, ecological knowledge; evolutionary ecology, and especially foraging behaviour, including isotope and nutrient analyses of diet; and secondly, socioecological relationships, including cultural environmental management.

She frequently works on human-nature relationships, including biocultural diversity and past, present and future Indigenous environmental relationships. She also works on introduced species that challenge native ecosystems, insect ecology and behaviour, in particular the sexually dimorphic New Zealand tree wētā genus Hemideina spp.

She explores the relationship between conservation biology and mātauranga from her lived experience in extended whānau communities of Waikato, Ngāpuhi nui tonu and Tūhoe while also drawing from her roots as a New Zealand woman with Scottish clan origins. Current work includes building an inter-disciplinary team to explore Māori philosophical frameworks in relation to Antarctica in her role as Leader of the Vision Mātauranga programme in research exploring the effectiveness of the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area.

Priscilla supports cultural change and builds inclusivity in science to create broad platforms for intellectual advancement. In 2020 she received an Inspirational Alumna Award from the School of biological Sciences, University of Canterbury.

Current and recent research projects

Significant publications

Wehi PM, van Uitregt V, Scott N, Gillies T, Beckwith J, Rodgers RP & Watene K. (in review). Transforming Antarctic policy and management with an Indigenous Māori lens.

Wehi PM, Brownstein G & Morgan-Richards M 2020. Indigenous plant naming and experimentation reveal a plant-insect relationship in New Zealand forests. Conservation Science and Practice e282.

Wehi PM, Cox MP, Roa T & Whaanga H 2018. Human perceptions revealed by linguistic analysis of Māori oral traditions. Human Ecology 2018: 1–10.

Wehi PM 2009. Indigenous ancestral sayings contribute to modern conservation partnerships: examples using Phormium tenax. Ecological Applications 19:267–275


Walker, E., Jowett, T., Whaanga, H., & Wehi, P. M. (2024). Cultural stewardship in urban spaces: Reviving Indigenous knowledge for the restoration of nature. People & Nature. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1002/pan3.10683 Journal - Research Article

Johnson, F. N., Wehi, P., Neha, T., Cross, M., Thompson, V., Tibble, S., … Arahanga-Doyle, H., & Jose, P. E. (2024). Introducing 'Ngaruroro': A new nodel for understanding. International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health, 21(4), 445. doi: 10.3390/ijerph21040445 Journal - Research Article

Soto, I., Balzani, P., Carneiro, L., Cuthbert, R. N., Macêdo, R., Tarkan, A. S., … Wehi, P. M. (2024). Taming the terminological tempest in invasion science. Biological Research. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/brv.13071 Journal - Research Article

Thompson, L., Doogan, H., Thompson, C., Wehi, P., & Johnson, S. (2024). Are there differences in behaviour between the two colour morphs of the mountain stone wētā, Hemideina maori? New Zealand Journal of Zoology, 51(2), 211-227. doi: 10.1080/03014223.2023.2249408 Journal - Research Article

Farnworth, B., Purdie, S., Wehi, P. M., & Painting, C. J. (2023). Exaggerated mandibles are correlated with enhanced foraging efficacy in male Auckland tree wētā. Biology Letters, 19(11), 20230207. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2023.0207 Journal - Research Article

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