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Phone +64 3 479 7971

Professor Carolyn Burns


Research Interests

  • Effects of climate change and human impacts on the biodiversity, processes, conservation and management of lakes and wetlands.
  • Biological processes in lakes, particularly trophic interactions
  • Plankton ecology
  • Microbial food webs

Mountain and Lake environmentPlease contact me if you are interested in research projects in any of these areas.

  1. Structure and function of microbial food webs in lakes and wetlands, particularly their role:
    a) in carbon transfer up the food chain
    b) as early warning indicators of eutrophication and pollution
    c) nutrient recycling
  2. Biological interactions in lakes with particular reference to:
    a) population dynamics and production of zooplankton
    b) zooplankton distribution (patchiness)
    c) the role of competition, predation and parasitism in structuring zooplankton communities in New Zealand ecosystems
  3. Size-selective processes in aquatic ecosystems, particularly the effects of particle size and concentration on:
    a) selection and retention efficiency by grazers
    b) capture by predators.
    The development and testing of models related to these processes.
  4. Physiological ecology, behaviour and life history strategies of zooplankton, primarily:
    a) the effects of food, temperature and salinity on growth and reproduction
    b) resistance to starvation
    c) the role of chemical inhibitors from cyanobacteria, predators and competitors (allelopathy) in depressing feeding and reproduction.

Current Projects

  • Pelagic processes in lakes, particularly effects on water quality
  • Biodiversity and population dynamics of picocyanobacteria in lakes
  • Behaviour and life history strategies of freshwater crustaceans
  • Fatty acid trophic markers in planktonic food webs
  • Cyanobacteria-zooplankton interactions
  • Effects of invasive species on lake ecosystem dynamics

Current Postgraduate Students

  • Lena Schallenberg - (MSc) "Effects of nutrients, light and temperature on picocyanobacterial diversity in lakes of different trophic status"
  • Helen Trotter - (MSc) "Daphnia-phytoplankton interactions in Lakes Hayes and Johnson: potential for biomanipulation to improve water quality"
  • Samiullah Khan - (PhD) "Food web biomanipulation techniques to enhance ecological processes and water quality of New Zealand Lakes"

Recent Research students

  • Beate Bierschenk - (PhD) "Life history and distribution of mysid species in a large open estuary"
  • Tina Bayer - (PhD) "Effects of climate change on two large, deep oligotrophic lakes in New Zealand"
  • Amy Weaver - (PhD) "Low-intensity land use in grassland catchments: effects on a large oligotrophic lake"
  • Theresa Downs - (MSc) "Phytoplankton response to trace elements and nutrients in a shallow lake"
  • Lisa Galbraith - (MSc) "Effects of land use on pelagic food webs in a range of Otago wetlands"
  • Carolyn Faithfull - (BSc Hons) " The effects of salinity and source of inocula on germination of Anabaena flos-aquae akinetes from a New Zealand lake"
  • Catherine Hall - (PhD) "Effects of tidal intrusions of  seawater on the crustacean zooplankton community of a tidal coastal lake"
  • Graeme Haywood - (PhD) "Feeding, growth and population dynamics of the euphausiid, Nyctiphanes australis, in coastal Otago waters"


Schallenberg, L. A., Wood, S. A., Puddick, J., Cabello-Yeves, P. J., & Burns, C. W. (2022). Isolation and characterisation of monoclonal picocyanobacterial strains from contrasting New Zealand lakes. Inland Waters, 12(3), 383-396. doi: 10.1080/20442041.2022.2053455

Schallenberg, L. A., Pearman, J. K., Burns, C. W., & Wood, S. A. (2021). Metabarcoding reveals lacustrine picocyanobacteria respond to environmental change through adaptive community structuring. Frontiers in Microbiology, 12, 757929. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2021.757929

Schallenberg, L. A., Pearman, J. K., Burns, C. W., & Wood, S. A. (2021). Spatial abundance and distribution of picocyanobacterial communities in two contrasting lakes revealed using environmental DNA metabarcoding. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 97(7), fiab075. doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiab075

Ye, Z., Williams, E., Zhao, C., Burns, C. W., & Lynch, M. (2021). The rapid, mass invasion of New Zealand by North American Daphnia “pulex”. Limnology & Oceanography, 66, 2672-2683. doi: 10.1002/lno.11780

Bierschenk, B. M., Burns, C. W., Schallenberg, M., & Closs, G. P. (2021). Life histories of two hyperbenthic mysids (Mysidacea: Mysidae) in an open estuary. New Zealand Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research, 55(3), 466-485. doi: 10.1080/00288330.2020.1840403

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