Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

What are some of our recent Marine Science graduates doing now?

Tiffany Stephens, PhD (2015)


Tiffany moved to Vancouver, British Columbia in March 2016 to begin a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Patrick Martone at the University of British Columbia (UBC). At UBC, she continues to investigate the ecophysiology of seaweeds. Her project explores how aspects of the carbon and nitrogen metabolism of macroalgal communities are partitioned across species and species interactions. In addition, Tiffany is investigating how water motion influences the uptake of carbon and nitrogen (and how these nutrients are assimilated into the seaweed via cellulose and proteins). After her time at UBC, Tiffany hopes to acquire a second postdoc that couples what she has learned about the ecophysiology of seaweeds with community function and management.

PhD Topic: Insights into the nitrogen ecophysiology of Macrocystis pyrifera (giant kelp).

Supervisor: Chris Hepburn (Marine Science).

^ Top of Page

Trudi Webster, PhD (2015)


Trudi now works for the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust as the Conservation Science Advisor (funded by Otago Regional Council and Otago Museum). The Trust, formally constituted in 1987, is a semi-professional organisation that enjoys a growing national and international reputation as one of New Zealand’s lead agencies and authority on yellow-eyed penguin conservation. The major aim of her role is to provide technical advice and research evidence to enable the Trust to make more informed species management decisions and identify conservation priorities. She is tasked with identifying gaps in the current scientific knowledge and leading research on marine issues affecting yellow-eyed penguin productivity. Trudi also represents the Trust at scientific forums.

PhD Topic: Southern right whales (Eubalaena australis): Acoustic behaviour and ambient noise.

Supervisors: Steve Dawson (Marine Science), Mike Paulin (Zoology).

^ Top of Page

Philippa Agnew, PhD (2015)


After achieving a Masters in Marine Science at Otago, Philippa began working at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. Whilst employed there she has recently completed her PhD, also with the Marine Science department. As well as conducting research at the colony she manages all aspects of penguin welfare and habitat requirements, and works with other stakeholders on a variety of penguin and environmental issues. From 2015 onwards, Philippa has represented the environment sector as a member of the South-East Marine Protection Forum.

PhD topic: Demographic parameters, foraging and responses to environmental variation of little penguins (Eudyptula minor).

Supervisors: Steve Dawson and Chris Lalas (Marine Science), Janine Wright.

^ Top of Page

Namrata Chand, BAppSc Aquaculture and Fisheries (2014)


Namrata made her journey from Fiji to Dunedin in 2012 to kick-start her Bachelor’s Degree in Aquaculture and Fisheries. She chose the University of Otago for its academic excellence, through word-of-mouth promotion from family alumni, and also because at that time it was the only University in New Zealand offering Aquaculture and Fisheries as a degree. She came from a commerce background and was nervous at first about undertaking her degree in sciences. However her undergraduate journey was possible and successful, thanks to the friendly teaching staff, the academic support provided, and also the support from Pacific Island Centre which made her feel right at home.

After finishing her degree at Otago, she returned to Fiji, and took on various roles such as fisheries intern, marine biologist, and assisting with undergraduate teaching at a local University. Her undergraduate experience ignited her passion for research, and so she is currently undertaking her Masters at the University of the South Pacific, working on using remote sensing for mapping seagrass beds. Namrata says “My degree at Otago truly made me more confident and equipped for my field, and it’s one of the best choices I ever made.”

^ Top of Page

Danilo Pecorino, PhD (2012)


On completion of his PhD, at the end of 2012, Danilo moved back to Italy where he started a PostDoc at the University of Genoa within a European project to further the knowledge of Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture in Europe and encourage its uptake by industry. This project finished in 2016, and he then started a position as Data Scientist at Evodevo, an Italian innovation company located in Pomezia near Rome.  His duties include performing analyses of data from a diverse array of sources, communicating results to customers, running tutorials in data analyses and writing up European projects on data analyses and information extraction.

PhD Topic: Population biology and larval ecology of the sea urchin Centrostephanus rodgersii (Agassiz 1863) in New Zealand under the influence of global climate change.

Supervisors: Miles Lamare and Mike Barker (Marine Science).

^ Top of Page

Matthew Baird, MSc (2012)


Following his MSc, Matt joined the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) as a Fisheries Observer. For two years he worked on both deepwater and inshore vessels which provided a first-hand view of the commercial fishing sector in New Zealand. This experience proved invaluable in terms of understanding how NZ fisheries operate and the perspectives of those that rely on them as a source of income.  Returning from overseas travel in 2015, Matt re-joined MPI as a Fisheries Observer Officer. This role dealt with organising observer coverage on a range of inshore vessels to meet annual coverage requirements. Following this he acquired his current position as an Inshore Fisheries Analyst working for Fisheries Management within MPI. His main focus is managing South Island fin-fish stocks including blue cod and snapper. Matt is also involved in managing other taonga including paua and cockles.

MSc topic: The seasonal biology of the brachiopod Liothyrella neozelanica (Thomson, 1918) from Doubtful Sound, New Zealand.

Supervisors: Miles Lamare (Marine Science), Daphne Lee (Geology).

^ Top of Page

Peter Bell, MSc (2009)


Having worked in Taranaki and Brisbane as a hydrographer for several years, Peter is now a research technologist at Plant and Food Research in Nelson. He is currently working on the development of the Modular Harvesting System, a new trawl net technology designed to bring trawled fish onboard a vessel alive and in pristine condition. This role has drawn heavily on the skills and experiences Peter developed both from his studies and while working in hydrology, and includes sea trials, problem solving and development. Peter has found it very rewarding to be working in an applied area where each advance has real meaning for improving fisheries with a new and exciting technology.

MSc topic: A comparative evaluation of techniques to induce paua (Haliotis iris) to release from surfaces.

Supervisor: Mike Barker (Marine Science).

^ Top of Page

Derek Richards, MSc (2009)


After completing an MSc, Derek began work at the University of Otago as a research assistant for three years in a contract-to-contract capacity. In 2012 he took up a position as a Biosecurity Officer at Environment Southland (ES). As part of this role he was involved with developing new marine biosecurity policy for the council and for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). In 2014 he returned to Dunedin to start a new job working with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu as a Senior Environmental Advisor (Mahinga Kai Monitoring and Enhancement). Derek is part of a team based in Dunedin and Christchurch that aims to implement a monitoring framework for tribally significant Mahinga Kai Areas within the Ngāi Tahu Takiwā (tribal area). Fulfilling these responsibilities requires working closely with the 18 Ngā Papatipu Rūnanga and their respective Tangata Tiaki/ Kaitiaki.

MSc topic: Subtidal rocky reef communities of the East Otago Taiãpure: Community structure, succession and productivity.

Supervisors: Steve Wing and Chris Hepburn (Marine Science), Catriona Hurd (Botany).

^ Top of Page

Anna Sturrock (née Lewis), MSc (2008)


After completing her MSc at Otago, Anna continued working with otolith (earstone) microchemistry to reconstruct fish movements and environmental histories. She completed her PhD at the National Oceanography Center and Center for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in the UK, then moved to the USA to carry out postdoctoral research at the University of California Santa Cruz, Berkeley and now Davis. She now focuses on Chinook salmon management and applied ecology in the highly engineered and drought-prone rivers of the California Central Valley, using otoliths to reconstruct natal origin, growth rates and migration pathways under varying flow conditions.

MSc topic: Connectivity of sea perch (Helicolenus percoides) populations in southern New Zealand.

Supervisor: Steve Wing (Marine Science).

^ Top of Page

Will Rayment, PhD (2008)


After completing his MSc in the UK, Will Rayment came to Otago to study for his PhD. His research was about aspects of cetacean ecology and habitat preferences which can help in understanding and managing human impacts. In order to learn about cetacean populations he uses photo-ID (eg unique nicks in a dolphin's dorsal fin, or a whale's tail) to identify individuals and keep track of them through time. Gathering these data has taken Will to some amazing places! Will has progressed to become a lecturer in the Marine Science Department at Otago, supervising many more passionate MSc and PhD students.

PhD topic: Distribution and ranging of Hector's dolphins: implications for protected area design.

Supervisors: Steve Dawson (Marine Science), Liz Slooten (Zoology).

^ Top of Page

Erin Zydervelt, MSc (2008)


While Erin was still completing her MSc she worked as Senior Aquarist and Educator in the public education programme at the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre. She then worked as a researcher and educator for DoC before becoming a marine scientist for Taranaki Regional Council. This role focused on ensuring that industries holding marine discharge consents met all of the conditions and requirements of the consent and were not causing damage to the environment. Key elements of the job were long-term state of the environment monitoring, scientific insight into new marine consents and participating in the oil spill response team. After three years in Australia working as a water quality officer, Erin moved back to New Zealand and is now employed in the seafood production team at Plant and Food Research, working on the Precision Seafood Harvesting programme (a government/industry partnership) and in the fish hatchery and husbandry space. 

MSc Topic: Top down and bottom up factors influencing the distribution of the blue mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis and the ribbed mussel Aulacomya atra maoriana in Doubtful Sound, Fiordland.

Supervisor: Steve Wing (Marine Science).

^ Top of Page

Rebecca McLeod, PhD (2008)


Rebecca is a Science Advisor at Antarctica New Zealand. She works with the Antarctic science community and within the organisation to lift the quality of New Zealand’s Antarctic Science Programme, and ensure the research findings have high impact. This is a diverse role, including work in science communication, policy, research contract management, event planning and management and many other things. Although there are marine projects within the programme, Rebecca is also working with scientists from a large range of disciplines, which provides endless learning opportunities. For Rebecca this job ticks all the boxes – a cause she is passionate about (climate change research), a continent she is obsessed with, ongoing development opportunities and a huge number of passionate and extraordinarily talented people to work with.

PhD topic: The roles of key species and functional guilds in facilitating fluxes of organic matter across habitat boundaries in Fiordland.

Supervisor: Steve Wing (Marine Science).

^ Top of Page

Sadie Mills, MSc (2006)


Sadie is the Collection Manager of the NIWA Invertebrate Collection in Wellington. She manages a team that are responsible for curating over 300,000 jars of specimens from New Zealand, Antarctica and the wider SW Pacific. Sadie regularly participates in biodiversity research cruises on NIWA’s R/V Tangaroa cataloguing and preserving the specimens, which will be used for a whole raft of research including understanding vulnerable marine ecosystems, assessing potential impacts of fishing and mining, and the effects of climate change. Working on her MSc thesis got her really interested in the diversity of the tiny animals living in the estuaries near Dunedin so it’s great that her job allows her the constant discovery of new weird and wonderful creatures.

MSc topic: Benthic macrofauna assemblages of fragmented seagrass (Zostera capricorni) beds in two southern New Zealand inlets.

Supervisors: Katrin Berkenbusch and Keith Probert (Marine Science).

^ Top of Page

Deanna Clement, PhD (2005)


Deanna is a Marine Mammal Ecologist, working for the Cawthron Institute - an independent science organisation that does consulting and research. She studied biology and marine ecology in the United States, and then did her PhD in zoology and marine science at the University of Otago. She works with the marine mammals that live or visit the top of the South Island: fur seals, orca, dolphins, and whales. They are attracted to the area because Cook Strait, the Marlborough Sounds and Tasman Bay are rich in food.  However, as the area becomes more developed, there is a need to find out how human activity (aquaculture, boating, logging, sedimentation, etc) may impact on wildlife and its migratory and seasonal patterns.  Deanna has designed several resource consent monitoring studies and impact assessments and recently led a three-year study to update the South Island Hector's dolphin population's abundance estimate for the Ministry of Primary Industries.

PhD Topic: Distribution of Hector’s Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori) in Relation to Oceanographic Features.

Supervisors: Mark Gibbs (Marine Science), Liz Slooten (Zoology), George Benwell (Business), Peter Whigham (Information Science).

^ Top of Page

Serean Adams, PhD (2003)


Serean is the Cawthron Institute’s Aquaculture Group Manager. She’s passionate about New Zealand’s aquaculture industry and aims to increase the value of New Zealand’s aquaculture sector through research and innovation. Her group’s research is varied, from selective breeding and hatchery technology right through to open ocean aquaculture and new aquaculture species. Serean and her group collaborate with universities, including the University of Otago, as well as other research institutes and industry stakeholders.

Much of Serean’s own research has focussed on cryopreservation including her PhD. Serean has worked on cryopreservation of gametes and larvae of shellfish and finfish as well as microalgae, kakapo sperm and honey bee sperm. She now serves on the Board of Governors for the Society for Cryobiology - an organisation for scientists involved in low temperature research.

Serean has also worked on improving the reliability of hatchery methods for shellfish larval rearing and triploidy and more recently, on bioactives from shellfish and microalgae.

PhD Topic: Cryopreservation of gametes and larvae of the sea urchin Evechinus chloroticus and of other marine invertebrate species.

Supervisors: Philip Mladenov (Marine Science), Paul Hessian (Physiology).

^ Top of Page

Armagan Sabetian, MSc (2001)


Armagan decided to do a Masters in coral reef fisheries in the Solomon Islands through the University of Otago. He followed that up with a PhD in the same area at James Cook University in Australia. He is currently the programme leader of Marine Biology at Auckland University of Technology where he maintains his interest in coral reef ecology by teaching a field course paper in the Solomons every year, while in terms of research he is interested in reproductive lipidomics.

MSc topic: Coastal Reef Fisheries and Management Dynamics: A case study from Kolombangara, Solomon Islands.

Supervisors: Richard Walter (Anthropology), Steve Wing (Marine Science).

^ Top of Page

Shaun McConkey, MSc (1997)


Since 2001 Shaun has worked for Elm Wildlife tours as a wildlife guide taking tourists to see penguins, albatross, fur seals and sea lions. Shaun, with Elm’s owner Brian Templeton, established the New Zealand Sea Lion Trust in 2003 and Shaun remained a trustee until 2015. This allowed him to remain actively involved in research of the New Zealand sea lions and he continued with his photographic identification work until 2014. Through Elm Shaun has been able to share some of his intimate knowledge of the Otago sea lions with others and remain in regular contact with the local sea lion population. Working for Elm has also enabled Shaun to accompany wildlife tours to Borneo.

MSc Topic: Individual Identification, Population Dynamics and Moult of the New Zealand Sea Lion at Otago.

Supervisors: Chris Lalas and Steve Dawson (Marine Science).

^ Top of Page