Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon

Director, Otago Palaeogenetics LaboratoryNic moa bone

(Co-Director: Professor Jon Waters)


Phone 64-3-479-5385

Research Gate

Google Scholar


Research Interests

  • Ancient DNA (Otago Palaeogenetics Laboratory)
  • Evolution and palaeoecology of extinct fauna
  • Effects of climate change and human impact on past ecosystems
  • Palaeoenvironmental DNA
  • Conservation biology
  • Fisheries induced evolution
  • Conservation Palaeontology/Palaeoecology

Nic cave 2

Research projects

  • Impact of humans and climate change on New Zealand's terrestrial, coastal and marine fauna
  • Evolution and phylogeography of New Zealand's extinct avian fauna
  • Southern hemisphere biogeography
  • Fisheries induced evolution

Research Highlights and Publicity

Chatham Island sea lion

Otago and Foveaux Shag

Shag demographics

Penguin turnover,-yellow-eyed-penguin-in

Elephant birds

Polynesian chickens

Current student projects in the Otago Palaeogenetics Laboratory

  • Afroditi Kardamaki – PhD – ancient DNA of New Zealand waterfowl
  • Luke Easton – PhD – ancient DNA of Leiopelmatid frogs
  • Megan Askew – MSc – ancient DNA of elephant seals
  • Eduard Mas – visiting MSc student – ancient DNA of takahe

Recent student projects in the Otago Palaeogenetics Laboratory

  • Afroditi Kardamaki – visiting MSc student – ancient DNA of black swans
  • Nick Yeats – BSc Hons – population genetics of blue-eyes shags
  • Alex Salis – BSc Hons – ancient DNA of New Zealand fur seals

Nic cave 1Otago Shag


Rawlence, N. J., Collins, C. J., Anderson, C. N. K., Maxwell, J. J., Smith, I. W. G., Robertson, B. C., Knapp, M., Horsburgh, K. A., Stanton, J.-A. L., Scofield, R. P., … Matisoo-Smith, E. A., & Waters, J. M. (2016). Human-mediated extirpation of the unique Chatham Islands sea lion and implications for the conservation management of remaining New Zealand sea lion populations. Molecular Ecology, 25(16), 3950-3961. doi: 10.1111/mec.13726

Rawlence, N. J., Wood, J. R., Bocherens, H., & Rogers, K. M. (2016). Dietary interpretations for extinct megafauna using coprolites, intestinal contents and stable isotopes: Complimentary or contradictory? Quaternary Science Reviews, 142, 173-178. doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2016.05.017

Rawlence, N. J., Kennedy, M., Anderson, C. N. K., Prost, S., Till, C. E., Smith, I. W. G., Scofield, R. P., … Hamel, J., Lalas, C., Matisoo-Smith, E. A., & Waters, J. M. (2015). Geographically contrasting biodiversity reductions in a widespread New Zealand seabird. Molecular Ecology, 24(18), 4605-4616. doi: 10.1111/mec.13338

Rawlence, N. J., Perry, G. L. W., Smith, I. W. G., Scofield, R. P., Tennyson, A. J. D., Matisoo-Smith, E. A., Boessenkool, S., … Waters, J. M. (2015). Radiocarbon-dating and ancient DNA reveal rapid replacement of extinct prehistoric penguins. Quaternary Science Reviews, 112, 59-65. doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.01.011

Mitchell, K. J., Llamas, B., Soubrier, J., Rawlence, N. J., Worthy, T. H., Wood, J., … Cooper, A. (2014). Ancient DNA reveals elephant birds and kiwi are sister taxa and clarifies ratite bird evolution. Science, 344(6186), 898-900. doi: 10.1126/science.1251981

Back to top