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Chris Hepburn in a wetsuit imageDirector, Aquaculture and Fisheries Programme

Contact details

Office Portobello Marine Laboratory, room 309
Tel +64 3 479 7462
Mob +64 21 279 7462

Academic qualifications

PhD (University of Otago)

Research interests

Chris provides leadership to the Coastal People: Southern Skies collaboration that connects communities with world-leading, cross-discipline research to rebuild coastal ecosystems.
Coastal People: Southern Skies

He Kitenga: eDNA's species snapshot describes recent work detecting species in the diverse marine environments of Doubtful Sound and Aramoana.

His interests include:

  • Customary and ecosystem-based fisheries management
  • Fisheries restoration
  • Integrated Aquaculture
  • Impacts of elevated CO2 on coastal ecosystems
  • Ecology and physiology of macroalgae
  • Invasion by exotic marine organisms
  • Macroalgal/invertebrate interactions
  • Taiāpure Fish-tagging Program


  • MARI 112: Global Marine Systems
  • AQFI 301: Field Methods for Assessment of Fisheries and Aquatic Habitats (Coordinator)
  • AQFI 421: Advanced Aquaculture and Fisheries

Research projects

Customary and ecosystem-based fisheries management

Customary and ecosystem-based fisheries management

We provide ecological information to complement local and customary knowledge to enable community-based management of coastal fisheries. We work closely with managers of customary fishery areas (e.g. mātaitai and taiāpure) that have been established to allow Māori communities to exercise kaitiakitanga (guardianship) over fisheries and habitats. This work is conducted within the research group Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai( ).

Fisheries restoration Fisheries restoration

We are developing restoration plans for fisheries within customary areas using local resources (e.g. aquaculture facilities) to restore local fisheries that have become depleted due to overfishing and habitat loss. Using Haliotis iris (pāua, abalone) brood stock from the areas being reseeded will allow us to maintain the genetic integrity of local pāua stocks. Research to better understand the ecology of juvenile pāua (key predators, competitors), alongside state-of-the art techniques to trace the success of reseeding will help hone reseeding programmes to maximise success.

Integrated Aquaculture Integrated aquaculture

Technology that integrates aquaculture production systems to increase efficiency and reduce environmental impacts will be key in ensuring sustainable growth of aquaculture required to meet ever increasing global demand for marine products. Our research aims to reduce the environmental footprint of aquaculture by growing macroalgae (e.g. kelp) in conjunction with other production systems to reduce pollution while providing a high value crop.

ImpactsofelevatedCO2 Impacts of elevated CO2 on coastal ecosystems

We use an ecosystem-level approach to predict what changes will occur to complex and variable coastal ecosystems and related fisheries as a result of elevated CO2 (Ocean Acidification). This research uses carefully designed and controlled lab-based experiments alongside quantification the contribution of different groups of species of in coastal ecosystems of today to provide better predictions of likely changes in coastal seas as CO2 concentrations increase.

Ecology and physiology of macroalgae Ecology and physiology of macroalgae

Macroalgae (seaweeds) are the major primary producers of coastal seas and provide food and habitat that supports coastal food webs and fisheries. Our research focuses on key factors that control primary productivity by macroalgae such as the availability of light and nutrients. Past projects have included investigations into the physiology of deepwater macroalgae and work to determine how water motion influences primary productivity.

Invasion by exotic marine organisms Invasion by exotic marine organisms

This research focuses on the invasive kelp Undaria pinnatifida has spread through international shipping from its native range in North East Asia to be found in temperate locations worldwide. We conduct work on the physiology and ecology of this species and its impact on New Zealand's native macroalgal assemblages.

Macroalgalinvertebrate interactions Macroalgal / invertebrate interactions

Waste produced by animals that live on macroalgal surfaces (epifauna) may be an important source of nitrogen that supports macroalgal growth. We use a range of methods to trace nitrogen from epifauna into macroalgae to determine the contribution of recycled nitrogen from epifauna to coastal primary productivity.

Postgraduate students

Current students

  • Louise Bennett-Jones, PhD: Paua (Haliotis iris) in the East Otago Taiapure; Assessment, enhancement, management.
  • Namrata Chand, PhD: Ecosystem functioning and role of soft sediment macroalgal communities
  • Piyabutara Cheuyglintase, MSc: Distribution of biomass of Undaria pinnatifida across Southern New Zealand, A resource for new industry
  • Lily Heidman, MSc: Nitrogen Ecophysiology of  Asparagopsis armata in Co-Culture with Finfish
  • Avi Roberts, MSc: Salty & Malty. Aquaculture of marine Macroalgae, using CO2 waste produced in beer fermentation
  • Max Saunders, MSc: Ecophysiology of Asparagopsis armata
  • Ben Williams, PhD: Restoration of kelp forests (Macrocystis pyrifera) along the Otago coastline

Completed students

  • Blair Thomson, PhD: Microbial extracellular enzymes and the biogeochemical cycling of phosphorus in the marine environment
  • Timothy Howarth, MSc: The relationship of Undaria pinnatifida and native New Zealand seaweed species in the ocean under the effects of climate change
  • Gabrielle Keeler-May, PhD:Undaria pinnatifida management and control in Southern New Zealand
  • Duong Le, PhD: Giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera), a case study in New Zealand: Its vulnerability and adaptation strategy
  • Finn Ryder, MSc: Population dynamics of pāua in Peraki Bay, Banks Peninsula: Population structure, growth and reproduction
  • Isla Twigg, PhD: Giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) as a biogenic engineer


Czechowski, P., de Lange, M., Heldsinger, M., Kardailsky, A., Rayment, W., Hepburn, C., … Knapp, M. (2024). Comparison of traditional and molecular surveys of fish biodiversity in southern Te Wāhipounamu/Fiordland (Aotearoa/New Zealand). Environmental DNA, 6(e514). doi: 10.1002/edn3.514 Journal - Research Article

Le, D. M., Desmond, M. J., Knapp, M., Kardailsky, O., Nelson, W. A., Zuccarello, G. C., & Hepburn, C. D. (2024). Population genetic structure of the giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Marine Biology, 171, 80. doi: 10.1007/s00227-024-04397-3 Journal - Research Article

Ryder, F. J., Sainsbury, K. J., Hepburn, C. D., Pritchard, D. W., & Gnanalingam, G. (2024). Re-assessment of a blackfoot abalone (Haliotis iris) population in Peraki Bay, New Zealand, after 45 years. New Zealand Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research, 2316230. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/00288330.2024.2316230 Journal - Research Article

Hepburn, C. (2023). Supporting community-led restoration of kelp forest ecosystems and associated fisheries [Keynote]. Proceedings of the 24th International Seaweed Symposium. (pp. 255). Retrieved from Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

Kluibenschedl, A., Cornwall, C. E., Nelson, W. A., Lamare, M., Pritchard, D. W., & Hepburn, C. D. (2023). Interactive effects of ocean acidification and water flow on growth and recruitment of early successional coralline algal communities. Phycologia. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/00318884.2023.2272776 Journal - Research Article

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