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Course Adviser
Fourth-Year Co-ordinator

Contact details

Office 310 Castle Street, room 101
Tel+64 3 479 7470

Academic qualifications

BA (Geology, Biology) Colby College
SM (Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences) Massachusetts Institute of Technology
DPhil (Earth Sciences) University of Waikato

Research interests

Bryozoans are important carbonate producers

Marine bryozoans are the most important carbonate sediment producers on shelves in the Southern Hemisphere, and largely unstudied. My students and I work on taxonomy and systematics, identification, growth and production, ecology, and geochemistry of New Zealand's bryozoans. I am an active member (and currently Treasurer) of the International Bryozoology Association.

Geochemical signals in skeletons

Variations in isotopic composition and mineralogy of skeletal carbonate may contain information about age, environment, and productivity. Our research team investigates geochemical signals in carbonate (both modern and fossil), and how they can be used to understand calcification, age and growth in temperate organisms, particularly bryozoans, as well as how they might reflect longer-term changes in climate and water chemistry.

Temperate carbonate sediments

Cool water reefs and temperate carbonate sediments differ from their tropical counterparts, requiring new ideas about budgets, production, destruction, preservation and lithification. My students and I investigate these processes in a range of environments, from the coast out to the shelf and beyond. The Otago and Southland continental shelves are unusual in their cool-water carbonate reefs and mixing of carbonate and terrestrial sediments. We have studies underway off Otago Peninsula, in Paterson Inlet, through Foveaux Strait, and in Doubtful Sound.

Ocean acidification on the temperate shelf

Ocean acidification and its effect on calcification is emerging as the major global climate challenge. Rapid anthropogenic production of CO2 has driven the carbonate chemistry of the sea, causing lowered pH in surface waters and affecting calcification in some marine organisms. We study the temperate carbonate budget – production, geochemistry, dissolution, and accumulation in cool temperate environments. Temperate shelf carbonate sediments, which blanket southern shelves of New Zealand and Australia, are key biological reservoirs, possibly ameliorating the effects of acidification in shelf depths.


Abby is the Chief Course Adviser for the Department of Marine Science.

She is also the fourth-year co-ordinator.

She teaches in:

  • EAOS 111 Earth and Ocean Science
  • MARI 112 Marine Biology: The Living Ocean
  • MARI 202 Ecology and Biology of Marine Invertebrates (Lecturer)
  • MARI 322 Coastal and Shelf Seas Oceanography
  • MARI 401 Advanced Methods in Marine Science (Co-ordinator, principal lecturer)
  • MARI 480/490/495 Research Projects and Proposals (Co-ordinator)

Postgraduate students

  • Peter Batson, PhD: Aspects of the biology of Hornerid bryozoans
  • Aaron Conroy, MSc: Study the geochemistry of crayfish
  • Tyler Feary, MSc: The effect of environmental change on the growth, calcification, and survival of Watersipora subatra, and its suitability as a model organism


Smith, A. M. (2023). Sediment runoff from the land is killing NZ's seas: It's time to take action. The Conversation. Retrieved from

Feary, T. M., & Smith, A. M. (2023). Food for thought: Investigating the impacts of feeding regime on the growth and survival of a locally invasive cheilostome bryozoan, Watersipora subatra. In M. M. Key, Jr, J. S. Porter & P. N. Wyse Jackson (Eds.), Bryozoan Studies 2022: Proceedings of the Nineteenth International Bryozoology Association Conference. (pp. 17-24). Abingdon, UK: CRC Press. doi: 10.1201/9781003454915-3

Smith, A. M., Achilleos, K., & Gordon, D. P. (2023). Distribution patterns of shelf bryozoans around southern Aotearoa New Zealand. In M. M. Key, Jr, J. S. Porter & P. N. Wyse Jackson (Eds.), Bryozoan Studies 2022: Proceedings of the Nineteenth International Bryozoology Association Conference. (pp. 113-128). Abingdon, UK: CRC Press. doi: 10.1201/9781003454915-13

Smith, A. (2023). [Letter of the week]. Critic Te Ārohi, (23). Retrieved from

Smith, A. (2023). Our oceans' tiny recyclers. Otago Daily Times, (6 February). Retrieved from

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