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Chris Moy 2021 imageBSc (Union College); MSc (Syracuse University); PhD (Stanford University)

  • Paleoclimatology
  • Sedimentology
  • Geochemistry

Office - Geology 2S04
Google Scholar profile
Tel +64 3 470 3538

Research Interests


My research is broadly centered on using sediment cores to evaluate past changes in Southern Hemisphere climate, carbon cycling, and marine biogeochemical cycling. I use the geologic record to identify how large-scale coupled climate modes and key components of the global climate system have changed in the past and how the variability and magnitude of past change compares to modern observations. I primarily apply light stable isotopes, major element geochemistry, and natural abundance radiocarbon to lacustrine, peatland, marine, and fjord sediment records obtained from New Zealand, the subantarctic Auckland Islands, southern South America, and the Gulf of Alaska to evaluate past change.
I am also interested in Carbon sequestration in New Zealand's southern fiords.

Postgraduate student research opportunities

View available research opportunities


* Course coordinator

Current research projects

1) NZ hydroclimate and the southern hemisphere westerly winds:

research_project1The strength and latitudinal position of the southern westerly winds (SWW) control the amount and distribution of precipitation in New Zealand (NZ). When the winds shift to the south or weaken, rainfall throughout NZ is reduced, often leading to drought. This project focuses on using lake sediment cores obtained from closed-basin lakes on the South Island (see Lake Von at right) where lake level and the isotopic composition of lake water are controlled by hydrologic balance. We identify past time periods of low lake level using a combination of geophysical imaging, targeted sediment coring and non-destructive core scanning techniques. We pair these results with records of lake water evaporation based on H and O stable isotope variations in organic compounds (n-alkanes) and microfossil remains (diatoms) from cores collected from deep basins where accumulation is continuous. This study will provide critical understanding of climatic influences on drought in NZ and characterize extremes in hydrologic deficit beyond the instrumental record. In the process, we will also provide fundamental knowledge on the SWW, a primary driver of the global climate system via their influence on Southern Ocean circulation and the global carbon cycle.

2) Climate of the last millennium:

research_project2High resolution paleoclimate records spanning the last 1,000 years are critical for establishing hydroclimate baselines, determining the magnitude of past temperature change and evaluating potential climate drivers. Yet, there are very few highly resolved and well dated records from New Zealand that can provide this perspective. A primary goal of the Lakes380 project is to evaluate how climate and landscape change impact water quality in 10% of New Zealand's lakes (n=380) since first human arrival approx. 700 years ago. This project will compile multiple records of climate change from the South Island to help establish a baseline of climate and environmental change. Short (~1.5m) sediment cores will be analyzed using non-destructive scanning techniques (Itrax and hyperspectral imaging) and integrated with downcore stable isotopic measurements to evaluate past climate and environmental change.

3) South Pacific fjord sediment records of climate change and carbon cycling:

research_project3Fjord sediment records from southern New Zealand and the subantarctic Auckland Islands are well placed to address globally significant paleoclimate, tectonic, carbon cycle and environmental research questions. Combined, these fjords span 5° of latitude in the south Pacific Ocean, extending from the modern core of the strongest Southern Hemisphere westerly winds at 50°S across the subtropical front and adjacent to the subduction zone and transform (Alpine) fault of the Australian-Pacific plate boundary. Many fjord basins contain >100 m of sediments that have accumulated at rates exceeding 3-4 mm/yr and offer excellent opportunities to evaluate past climate, environmental and tectonic change with higher resolution than records developed from adjacent terrestrial or marine settings. Over the last decade, our Otago research group has collected geophysical data from more than 20 fjords in southern NZ and the subantarctic, recovered more than 150 sediment cores, and measured the physical and chemical properties of the water column to better understand the nature of sedimentation within these fjord systems. With international colleagues, we are now developing proposals to obtain a latitudinal transect of sediment cores obtained by drilling technologies to better understand the timing and nature of climate change, biogeochemical cycling and tectonic change since the Last Glacial Maximum.

Research facilities

Itrax imageOtago Analytical Core Repository:

The new Otago Analytical Core Repository houses dedicated laboratory facilities for splitting, imaging, sampling and non-destructive scanning of cores using a Geotek multi-sensor core logger for sediment physical property measurements and an Itrax XRF core scanner for elemental distributions.

Otago Large Lake and fjord coring system:

UWITECThe Geology Department has a UWITEC® percussion piston corer and coring platform to obtain continuous sediment cores from large lakes and fjords in New Zealand and abroad. This coring system is unique within New Zealand and it provides Otago researchers and collaborators with the opportunity to acquire high-quality sediment cores up to 26m in length from water depths up to 350m. The longer coring capability provides the ability to extend sediment records farther back in time and is being used to address relevant climate, tectonic, and landscape evolution research questions.

Featured publications with graduate students

Gangl, S.K., Moy, C.M., Stirling, C.H., Jenkyns, H.C., Carmpton, J.S., Clarkson, M.O., Ohneiser, C., Porcelli, D., 2019, High-resolution records of Oceanic Anoxic Event 2: Insights into the timing, duration and extent of environmental perturbations from the palaeo-South Pacific Ocean, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v 518, pp 172-182 doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2019.04.028

Anderson, H.J., Moy, C.M., Vandergoes, M.J., Nichols, J.E., Riesselman, C.R., and Van Hale, R.D., 2018, Southern Hemisphere westerly wind influence on southern New Zealand hydrology during the Late Glacial and Holocene. Journal of Quaternary Science, v 33, pp 689-701, doi: 10.1002/jqs.3045.

Hinojosa, J.L., Moy, C.M., Stirling, C.H., Wilson, G.S., and Eglington, 2017, A New Zealand perspective on centennial-scale Southern Hemisphere westerly wind variability during the last two millennia. Quaternary Science Reviews, v 372, pp 32-43, doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2017.07.016.

Browne, I.M., Moy, C.M. Riesselman, C.R., Neil, Helen, L., Curtin, L., G., Gorman, A.G., and Wilson, G.S., 2017, Late Holocene intensification of the westerly winds at the subantarctic Auckland Islands (51°S), New Zealand, Climate of the Past, v. 13 (10), doi: 10.5194/cp-13-1301-2017

Hinojosa, J. L., Stirling, C.H., Reid, M.R., Moy, C. M., and Wilson, G.S., 2016, Trace metal cycling and U-238/U-235 in New Zealand's fjords: Implications for reconstructing global paleoredox conditions in organic-rich sediments, Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta, 179, pp 89-109, doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2016.02.006

Hinojosa, J., Moy. C.M., Prior, C.A., Eglington, T.I., McIntyre, C.P., Stirling, C.H., Wilson, G.S., 2015, The role of regional climate and oceanography in marine radiocarbon reservoir ages: A New Zealand perspective. Estuarine and Coastal Shelf Science, 167, pp 526-539, doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2015.11.003.


Wheeler, C., Pearman, J. K., Howarth, J. D., Vandergoes, M. J., Holt, K., Trewick, S. A., … Moy, C., … Wood, S. A. (2024). A paleoecological investigation of recent cyanobacterial blooms and their drivers in two contrasting lakes. Harmful Algae, 131, 102563. doi: 10.1016/j.hal.2023.102563

Mark, S., Shelef, E., Rodbell, D. T., Abbott, M. B., & Moy, C. M. (2023). The frequency and intensity of El Niño events reconstructed from 3 independent sedimentary sequences. Proceedings of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting: Wide. Open. Science. GC44C-05. Retrieved from

Riddell, J., Moy, C. M., Riesselman, C. R., & Pooley, B. (2023). Lacustrine charcoal as a proxy for prehuman wildfires in Central Otago, New Zealand. In G. E. Frontin-Rollett & S. D. Nodder (Eds.), Geoscience Society of New Zealand Miscellaneous Publication. 164A, (pp. 209). Wellington, New Zealand: Geoscience Society of New Zealand. [Abstract]

Reyes, L., Shepherd, C., Vandergoes, M., Wood, S., Dahl, J., Moody, A., Moy, C., … Thomson-Laing, J. (2023). Using sediment cores to understand the environmental history of Aotearoa's lakes. In G. E. Frontin-Rollett & S. D. Nodder (Eds.), Geoscience Society of New Zealand Miscellaneous Publication. 164A, (pp. 206). Wellington, New Zealand: Geoscience Society of New Zealand. [Abstract]

Naeher, S., Eschenroeder, J., Naafs, D., Vandergoes, M., & Moy, C. (2023). Calibrating glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs) as paleoclimate indicators in New Zealand lakes. In G. E. Frontin-Rollett & S. D. Nodder (Eds.), Geoscience Society of New Zealand Miscellaneous Publication. 164A, (pp. 169). Wellington, New Zealand: Geoscience Society of New Zealand. [Abstract]

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