Research priorities for the 2020 application round. The topics of the 10 masters scholarships awarded by DOC in December 2020 are highlighted in grey.

This list is part of the postgraduate scholarship programme.

State of biodiversity

  • Taxonomic inventories of coastal and oceanic species, land-based invertebrates, lizards, cryptic species (including some birds) and non-vascular plants using novel, advanced and cost-effective techniques.
  • Real time and remotely sensed data acquisition followed by automated processing and analysis using AI/computer vision etc, based approaches to monitoring the effectiveness of interventions for biodiversity conservation in terrestrial, freshwater and marine domains.
  • Understanding the role of genetic diversity in the long-term survival of individuals, populations, species and ecosystems.
  • Research on the most appropriate places for protection and restoration of indigenous biodiversity and areas to increase knowledge on integrated spatial plans that minimise net loss of areas of high biodiversity value.

Selected in 2020

Breeding movements and winter dispersal of Black-fronted Terns (Chlidonias albostriatus).

Ecology and habitat use of skinks in North Otago with a focus on the newly discovered alpine rock skink (Oligosoma sp.) and the scree skink (Oligosoma waimatense).

Utilising mycorrhizal fungi in the conservation of an endangered native orchid.

Tipping points for species and ecosystems

  • Long-term consequences of mammalian herbivores in native ecosystems such as our alpine ecosystem and North Island forests, and potential for forest collapse once a threshold is reached.
  • Understanding the consequences of managing a single pest species, or multiple pest species, on their competitors and predators.
  • Understanding the effects of contaminants and water regime/flow modification on aquatic ecosystem and species health (tolerances) and tipping points for biodiversity.

Selected in 2020

Overcoming barriers to biodiversity protection in Mōtu, New Zealand: A catchment-based study assessing tools and perspectives for overcoming net loss of areas of high biodiversity value.

Human dimensions including social licence

  • Improve our understanding of societal values, norms and beliefs, as well as the motivators, barriers and enablers of action to support biodiversity, natural and cultural heritage management and decision making.

Selected in 2020

Exploring local ecological knowledge in an ‘At Risk’ catchment as a resolution to shifting baselines: a case study from Pelorus/ Te Hoiere, Marlborough.

Terrestrial animal pests

  • Research that quantifies impacts of introduced browsers, including valued introduced species (pigs, deer, tahr and chamois), on indigenous biodiversity and could lead to management solutions.

Biosecurity – disease management for ecosystem and species resilience

  • Mātauranga Māori indicators of forest health and inclusion of values into forest health management.
  • Basic ecology of diseases – range, short and long term impacts, development of rapid assessment technologies.
  • Novel technologies to develop control strategies at scale to cost-effectively sustain desired species.

Selected in 2020

To develop a detailed understanding of Phytophthora agathidicida oospores and identify microbial antagonists for biocontrol in Kauri Dieback disease.

Improving techniques to manage Phytophthora agathidicida, the causal agent of Kauri Dieback disease.

Restoring New Zealand's vulnerable freshwater and estuarine ecosystems

  • Improving knowledge of the status, taxonomy, life-history and habitat requirements of threatened, at-risk and data deficient freshwater species.
  • Development and optimisation of tools to detect, control and eradicate freshwater pest species.
  • Understanding the impact of stream flow on fish passage and evaluating the effectiveness of different tools to enhance fish migration.
  • Evaluating the cultural and socio-economic value of migratory and mahinga kai species for traditional, recreational and commercial uses.

Coastal and marine protection

  • Developing effective methods for spatial distribution of marine species. This is to best utilise the variety of tracking and observational datasets.
  • Genetic population structure of marine species using genetic techniques to better understand the appropriate units for conservation.

Managing visitors

  • Further our understanding of 'limit setting' in response to environmental, social or cultural carrying capacities.
  • Explore different models of volunteer tourism or citizen science and their potential impact.
  • Assess opportunities for (co)governance arrangements at destination level under a regenerative tourism paradigm.
  • Advance understanding of tourism planning and/or experience design that delivers returns on the four capitals.
  • Understand better what the role of visitors is in kaitiakitanga, eg how to advance an ethic of care.

Selected in 2020

Covid tourism planning.

Visitor safety and risk

  • Conceptualise and explore implementation of visitor safety as an integral part of the visitor experience.

Selected in 2020

Observational analysis of the Mount Ruapehu crater lake, volcano tourism risk.

Climate change impacts and adaptation

  • Improve knowledge of how/which native species, like traits, will be vulnerable to climate change.
  • Improve knowledge of how critical climate drivers (eg temperature, rainfall, drought) interact with ecosystems (for example phenology), and their likely response to climate change.
  • Improve knowledge of how/which exotic animal and plant pests may be advantaged by climate change.
  • How does weather interact with visitor use patterns (eg hut/camping booking systems) to increase visitor risk, and what will be the consequence of more extreme weather events with climate change.
  • How will changing rainfall patterns affect water supply for DOC visitor facilities (eg huts, campsites) and possible adaption actions.
  • Develop and refine research tools (eg remote sensing) to monitor climate related processes (eg phenology).
  • How do natural systems contribute to climate resilience in New Zealand.

Selected in 2020

Modelling the effects of climate change on the Fiordland marine food web.

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