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Our people

Principal Investigators

Dr Sergio E. Morales

Lab website | Google Scholar Profile | Pubmed Profile | ResearchGate Profile

Sergio E. Morales is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Otago (New Zealand). He specialises in environmental microbiology and microbial ecology. His research uses molecular and omic approaches to study microbiomes with the aim of linking ecosystems processes with the key players driving them.

Dr Federico Baltar

Federico Baltar is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Marine Science at the University of Otago (New Zealand). His research in microbial oceanography integrates marine microbial ecology and biogeochemistry. His research group mainly focuses on the role of microbes on the marine biogeochemical cycles by looking at the factors that control their diversity and function, trying to follow a multidisciplinary approach with the aim to draw connections between different scientific disciplines. He has received different research-related awards, including the 2016 European Geosciences Union (EGU) Award for Outstanding Young Scientist in Biogeosciences and the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship (Royal Society of New Zealand).


Dr Kim Currie

Kim_Currie_sampling_on_boatKim Currie is a marine chemist with NIWA, based in the NIWA / University of Otago Research Centre for Oceanography in Dunedin. Kim is the PI for the Munida Time Series, a 65 km-long surface transect covering Otago coastal waters, modified subtropical waters and subantarctic surface water. Carbonate chemistry and associated parameters have been measured along this transect since 1998, the longest such record in the Southern Hemisphere.

Kim is also responsible for the New Zealand Ocean Acidification Observing Network, monitoring the pH at 14 coastal sites around New Zealand.

Kim is also co-Chair of the International Ocean Carbon Coordination Project (IOCCP) and serves on the Advisory Boards of GOOS (Global Ocean Observing System) and the OA-ICC (Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center). Photograph taken by Dave Allen (NIWA) on 15 November 2012.

Blair Thomson

Blair_sampling_onboatBlair Thomson is a PhD student in the Departments of Marine Science and Biochemistry at the University of Otago (New Zealand). He has been involved with the MOTS project since 2016. His research focuses on marine microbial extracellular enzymatic activity (EEA) and its connection to biogeochemical cycles in the oceans. Identifying extracellular enzymes and the taxa that carry them are a key part of his research, which remain almost completely uncharacterised.

Blair combines experimental approaches in the lab with long-term enzyme assessments in the field, investigating potential control mechanisms for EEA, how this activity varies across seasons, and how this activity changes across the water masses of the Munida transect.

Jess Wenley

Jess copyJess Wenley is a PhD student in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Otago (New Zealand). She has been involved with the MOTS project since 2016.

Her research involves development and use of flow cytometry techniques to understand the role of oceanic fronts in shaping spatial and seasonal dynamics of microbial populations. She is also working on developing flow cytometry techniques to help to understand connections between different trophic levels across the front and whether these ecosystems are controlled by top down or bottom up processes.

Fenella Deans

Fenella Deans is a PhD student in the Departments of Marine Science, Microbiology and Immunology, and Chemistry at the University of Otago (New Zealand). Her research involves researching the production of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide in New Zealand waters and how different groups of organisms contribute to this production.

She also researches how nitrous oxide production, as well as related parameters, will change under ocean warming and ocean acidification scenarios.

Scott Lockwood

Scott_sampling_on_boatScott Lockwood is a PhD student in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Otago (New Zealand). He joined the MOTS project during his honours year in 2016. His research focuses on the “marine methane paradox” (MMP), investigating aerobic production of methane by microbial nutrient cycling in oceanic surface waters.

Scott’s research takes a bioinformatics approach, analyzing metagenomic data to identify key organisms and environmental conditions that drive the MMP across the Munida Transect. He is also working towards creating statistical models that represent the dynamics of the players and drivers of the MMP across a spatio-temporal gradient.