Members of the Research Centre for Oceanography

Sylvia Sander University of Otago

Sylvia is the Director of the Research Centre for Oceanography and a Research Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry, University of Otago. Her research focus lies in the field of trace metal biogeochemistry and trace metal speciation in fresh, estuarine and sea water. Her research group is involved in deep sea hydrothermal vents studies of trace metals including modelling element and energy fluxes from these vents into the ocean.

Sylvia is co-chair of the SCOR WG 139 on Organic Ligands—A Key Control on Trace Metal Biogeochemistry in the Ocean and an vice-chair of the SCOR WG 145 MARCHEMSPEC. She is an associate editor of Marine Chemistry and currently supervises 6 PhD students.

Cliff Law NIWA

Cliff is the Co-Director of the Research Centre for Oceanography, Leader of the NIWA Oceanic Control of Atmospheric Composition Programme, and a Professor in the Department of Marine Chemistry, University of Otago. His research focuses on the interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere; how biogeochemical cycling in the surface ocean influences atmospheric composition, and how climate variability feedbacks to ocean biogeochemistry. Specific research areas include the production and exchange of trace gases, controls of phytoplankton productivity and biodiversity, and the impact of ocean acidification and climate variability on the structure and functioning of pelagic ecosystems. He was a member of the International SOLAS Steering Committee for 6 years, the NZ delegate on the IMO Working Group on Ocean Fertilization for the London Convention, and was awarded the Hutchinson Medal by the Institute of Chemical Engineers in 2013.

Keith A. Hunter University of Otago

Keith is a Professor in the Department of chemistry and the Pro Vice Chancellor Science at the University of Otago. His main research interest is in chemical equilibria in marine and fresh waters, particularly involving CO2; measurement techniques for the CO2 equilibrium system in seawater as well as trace metals in natural waters and their interactions with phytoplankton; analytical techniques for trace metals; trace metal speciation in natural waters. He is further looking at colloids and surfaces in marine and freshwater systems; the sea-surface microlayer; mechanisms and kinetics of colloid aggregation.

Keith is a co-founder of the Research Centre for Oceanography (formerly known as the Centre for Chemical and Physical Oceanography) and currently on the Research Centre’s board. He is a member of the Royal Society of New Zealand Advisory Committee on Marine Science, New Zealand delegate to SCOR, Co-editor of Marine & Freshwater Research (CSIRO Publishing). He was a co-chair Co-chair, together with Professor David Turner, University of Goteborg, of the joint SCOR-IUPAC Working Group 109, The Biogeochemistry of Iron in Seawater. Keith is also a member, GESAMP Working Group 38, The Atmospheric Input of Chemicals to the Ocean.

Rob Murdoch NIWA

Rob is the General Manager, Research at NIWA and currently on the Research Centre’s board. Rob completed his PhD in Marine Science at the University of Otago and his specialist interest is in oceanography and marine ecology. He has been a practising scientist on projects associated with the Southern Ocean, aquaculture, oil and gas exploration, and marine conservation. He has overseen the planning and direction of NIWA's science, the operation of their research vessels (since 1999), and helps manage NIWA’s relationships with key stakeholders and collaborators.

Abigail M. Smith University of Otago

Associate Professor Abby Smith is currently the Head of Department of Marine Science. Her research interests include: Rapid anthropogenic production of CO2 has driven the carbonate chemistry of the sea, causing lowered pH in surface waters. Abby studies the temperate carbonate sediment budget -- production, geochemistry, dissolution, and accumulation in cool temperate environments. Variations in skeletal carbonate provides information about age, environment, and productivity. Abby’s team investigates how to deduce production, age and growth rate in temperate organisms, particularly bryozoans, as well as how they might reflect longer-term changes in climate and water chemistry. Bryazoans are the major taxon producing carbonate sediments on shelves in the Southern Hemisphere. Abby works on taxonomy and systematics, identification, growth and production, ecology, and geochemistry of New Zealand's Bryozoa.

Andres Gutierrez University of Otago

Andres Gutierrez. is a marine plankton ecologist with research interests biased towards microbial ecological processes, which represent the bulk of marine ecosystems metabolism. His research focusses on phytoplankton and bacterial community structure and functioning, and aims to understand how these interplay with physical and chemical processes to determine productivity and elemental cycling across coastal and open-ocean systems.

He is particularly interested in biological interactions in marine microbial food-webs (e.g. predation, mutualism), how these highly dynamic interactions respond to environmental variability. He has followed an experimental approach that combined laboratory and field work to assess phytoplankton/bacterial growth and grazing dynamics at population and community level, and the carbon fluxes associated to these rates. More recently he got interested in photosymbiotic interactions in the eukaryotic plankton (protist-microalgae), with a special focus on radiolarians and foraminiferas, and their contribution to carbon and sulphur cycling.

Claudine Stirling University of Otago

Claudine is a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Director of the Community Trust of Otago Centre for Trace Element Analysis.

Claudine’s research team explores the analysis of metallic element isotope systems using multiple-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICPMS) with wide ranging applications in (bio)geochemistry, environmental chemistry, paleoclimatology and cosmochemistry. Two key areas of research include: examining the different pathways taken by trace metals through the oceanic systems, to understand the interlinked cycles involved ; and reconstruction of the timing, duration and extent of anoxia across known anoxic events of the Mesozoic Ocean. These so-called 'ocean anoxic events' devastated Earth's ecosystems for up to half a million years at a time, as “'super-greenhouse' climates prevailed and vast expanses of the oceans were devoid of oxygen.

This work is largely funded by the NZ Marsden Fund, and the research is undertaken in collaboration with GEOTRACES.

Evelyn Armstrong University of Otago

Evelyn Armstrong is a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Chemistry and maintains the NIWA/University of Otago Research Centre for Oceanography’s phytoplankton culture collection. The isolates are sourced from the Antarctic and subantarctic with new strains added periodically. Nutrient and photo-physiological experiments using these cultures are performed to better understand the role of these organisms in their natural waters and how they may be affected by climate change

Federico Baltar University of Otago

Federico is a lecturer at the Department of Marine Science; Otago University. Federico’s research integrates marine microbial ecology and biogeochemistry within the framework of physical oceanography. This research is based on microbes, trying to arrive to a mechanistic understanding of the regulation of marine carbon cycling.

The three main focuses of research include: 1) the role of bacteria on marine biogeochemical cycles in surface and deep waters, 2) the influence of mesoscale hydrological features (e.g. fronts, eddies, etc.) on microbial functioning and diversity, and 3) the impact of anthropogenic perturbations (i.e., acidification, eutrophication, etc.) on marine microbes and carbon cycle.

Helen Bostock NIWA

Helen Bostock is a Marine Geochemist at NIWA in Wellington. Her current focus is on the Southern Ocean, studying the modern ocean chemistry and using marine cores to understand past changes in the ocean currents and fronts. She is specifically interested in the carbonate mineralogy of organisms, chemistry of the oceans and the potential impact of Ocean acidification in the future.

Judith Murdock University of Otago

Judith is a Research Technician in the Research Centre for Oceanography Laboratory in Dunedin (Water World). Together with Kim Currie she operates the NZOA-ON (New Zealand Ocean Acidification-Observing Network). The Network consists of 14 coastal sites throughout the country where sampling partners (aquaculture and fishing industries, regional councils, and the Department of Conservation) take fortnightly bottle samples for DIC and alkalinity analyses. Sea FET pH sensors collect data to give high temporal resolution data.

Judith does the alkalinity and DIC analyses, organises the logistic of the bottles and crates and manages the database. She does same commercial analytical service for the industry and councils, prepares seawater-buffers and dye and certifies them. She comes from an analytical background (HPLC, LC-MS) in the Pharmaceutical industry.

Karl Safi NIWA

Karl’s expertise is in marine and freshwater algal taxonomy and grazing of phytoplankton. His marine research focuses on microzooplankton, microzooplankton grazing and understanding the role of, and processes within, the microbial food web. Karl’s current research focus is looking at long term changes in microzooplankton populations in both the coastal and open marine environment around New Zealand. He also manages NIWA Algal Services which provides algae monitoring for various commercial and local government organizations.

Kim Currie NIWA/University of Otago

Kim Currie is a marine carbonate chemist, working for NIWA in a collaborative project with the University of Otago. Dr. Currie has been PI on the Munida Time Series since its beginnings in 1998, studying the spatial and temporal variability in carbon uptake of the waters associated with the subtropical front in the South-west Pacific Ocean. This time series approach is now being extended to the development of a coastal ocean acidification observing network. Quantification of the uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide by the waters of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone is another thread of the marine carbon work. Dr Currie applies carbon chemistry expertise to many collaborative projects, particularly those around ocean acidification and biogenic carbonate solubility. Kim manages the New Zealand Ocean Acidification Observing Network (NZOA-ON), a programme to determine the rate and magnitude of ocean acidification in NZ coastal waters.

Linn Hoffman University of Otago

Linn is a lecturer at the Department of Botany at Otago and her research focusses on marine phytoplankton eco-physiology. She thereby mainly concentrates on trace metal bioavailability and climate change related stressors such as ocean acidification and ocean warming and how they affect phytoplankton productivity and community composition. She is further especially interested in the importance of volcanic eruptions for the marine trace metal budget and its impact on marine phytoplankton. Being the base of the marine food web, any changes in phytoplankton composition and productivity can have significant implications for higher trophic levels.

Malcolm Reid University of Otago

Malcolm is lab manager for the Community trust Trace Element analysis lab, and he also manages the Munida time series project, measuring CO2 and pH levels off the Otago coastline over a long period in order to assess changes. The Munida Time Series project looks for evidence of increased CO2 uptake from the atmosphere, and a correlated lowering of the pH level. Malcolm’s research measures both dissolved CO2 and pH in seawater samples, taken from transects running out from the Otago coast to a distance of 60 km.

Moira Decima NIWA

Moira is a Postdoctoral Fellow at NIWA Wellington, specializing on zooplankton ecology in marine pelagic environments. Her main interests involve trophic structure and material fluxes within the pelagic food-web, including a mechanistic understanding of the factors determining energy transfer from phytoplankton to zooplankton (grazing), the links between protistan and metazoan zooplankton, and relations to carbon export. She uses a variety of methods to investigate the processes involved (grazing and production rates, trophic linkages, community composition, etc.) which include pigment estimation, bulk and compound-specific stable isotopes, microscopy, and incubations. Primary production ultimately fuels the marine pelagic, yet zooplankton are the essential intermediates that package and modify material and energy, significantly influencing elemental cycling and ecosystem function. Understanding the linkages between phyto-, micro- and mesozooplankton, and the spatial and temporal variability of the determinant processes, are key to predicting short and long-term patterns in energy and elemental cycling, as well as the structure and function of pelagic food-webs.

Pat Langhorne University of Otago

Pat is currently the Head of the Physics Department at Otago.

The major ice shelves of Antarctica buffer the land-based continental ice sheets. Under natural circumstances melting occurs deep in the ice shelf cavity; this less saline water rises to the surface, becoming supercooled on the way, and spills out under the coastal sea ice. The ice crystals contained within it accumulate and grow in a low porosity layer at the interface. As this layer freezes it contains a signature of processes that took place in the ice shelf cavity. Pat examines the physical and isotopic properties of the sea ice cover and its crystallographic structure, concurrently with measurements of the upper ocean, then models of these processes. This work has been carried out in partnership with NIWA and Callaghan Innovation.

Rob Middag University of Otago

Rob is a lecturer at the Department of Chemistry at Otago. His research focusses on the biogeochemistry of trace metals in sea water. This involves large oceanic expeditions as well as local field work to determine the sources, sinks and cycling of metals in the world’s oceans and seas. Many trace elements are critical for marine life - for example, iron, zinc and cadmium play a crucial role in the growth of phytoplankton that form the basis of the ocean food chain (primary production). Metals like lead on the other hand, are toxic contaminants, and even essential metals can be toxic to life at high concentrations. Human activities have increased levels of many metals in coastal environments. These anthropogenic as well as the natural levels need to be monitored for environmental and human health reasons.

Ross Vennell University of Otago

Ross is a Senior Lecturer in the Marine Science Department at the University of Otago. He works in a range of areas spanning theoretical and observational coastal and shelf physical oceanography. Current interests centre around the fluid mechanics of tidal stream power generation. The strong interaction between power extraction and the strength of the currents makes this a complex and fun area to work on. Other theoretical works have turned up new examples of resonance. The work has applications to understanding storm surge and also to meteotsunami events which can produce surges of up to 4m in some locations. Ross’s research uses Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers to make high horizontal resolution measurements of the spatial patterns of tidal currents. The measurements have been used to better understanding the physics of tidal flows on sub-kilometre scales.

Russell Frew University of Otago

Russell is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry. Currently he is working at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, but is due to return to Otago in 2015. He is an analytical chemist with research interests in applying analytical tools to gain understanding of environmental systems. His research has focussed on the interaction of chemistry (nutrients) with biology in controlling primary productivity. This involves a range of studies from microbial production of biogenic gases; phytoplankton- nutrient cycles and even the influence of ecological vectors (e.g. seabirds) on the chemical composition (and productivity) of the surface ocean. The main tools used in this work are light isotopes using many different preparative techniques including bulk analysis, pyrolysis and compound-specific analysis.

Sara Mikaloff-Fletcher NIWA

Sara’s research focuses on understanding the global biogeochemical cycles of carbon dioxide, oxygen and radiocarbon associated with climate change and ocean biogeochemistry. Over recent decades, earth's oceans and terrestrial biosphere have taken up about half of all the carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning, deforestation, and other human activities. These natural carbon sinks have dramatically slowed climate change. Sara combines observations of species in the atmosphere and oceans with models and statistical methods in order to improve our understanding of carbon uptake by these natural carbon sinks and the impact of this on ocean acidification. By shedding light on these biogeochemical processes Sara hopes to improve our grasp of how these will evolve in response to future changes.

Scott Nodder NIWA

Scott is a marine geologist at the NIWA, based in Wellington, New Zealand. Since 1993, he has been involved in research investigating carbon fluxes within marine ecosystems, Southern Ocean iron fertilisation, pelagic-benthic coupling and ocean time-series observations. Scott has participated in almost 50 research voyages and at various stages of his career has been the programme co-ordinator of NIWA’s ocean ecosystems research, including involvement in the first meso-scale iron fertilisation experiment in the Southern Ocean (SOIREE). Over the last 10 years, he has focussed on the collection of time-series information from subantarctic (and subtropical) water masses at the northern terminus of the Southern Ocean to look at potential linkages between surface processes and the export of organic material to the deep ocean interior.

Stephen Chiswell NIWA

Steve is a physical oceanographer based at NIWA in Wellington. He has wide range of interests spanning physical oceanography and its impacts on and control of biogeochemical processes in the ocean. Steve’s interest includes making better observations of the mean and variability of the ocean circulation of the New Zealand region. He uses these observations to evaluate numerical ocean circulation models. He has also investigated the dispersal of marine organisms that leads to the connectivity of separated populations. More recently, he has become interested in the physical control of primary production and the consequent fate of organic material in the global ocean.

Steve Wing University of Otago

Steve is a Professor in the Marine Science Department at Otago. He is a marine ecologist with a research emphasis on understanding food web structure and metapopulation dynamics within coastal marine communities. Together these processes are directly relevant to conservation and management of marine resources. Steve’s research focuses on biogeochemical cycling in food webs to resolve how diversity of basal organic matter sources and changes to food web structure influence productivity and resource use by groups such as rock lobsters, reef fish, marine mammals and sea birds. The work involves direct observations, in situ experiments and state-of-the-art forensic chemistry, including stable isotopes and trace metal signatures. Outside of Fiordland he has active research projects in Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands.

Vonda Cummings NIWA

Vonda is a marine benthic ecologist with a particular interest in the functioning of coastal benthic communities and the environmental drivers that influence them. Most recently her research has focussed on likely responses of key New Zealand and Antarctic mollusc species to predicted future changes in temperature and carbonate conditions resulting from warming and acidification of our oceans.