The research priorities for the 2021 application round of the DOC postgraduate scholarship programme.

This list is part of the postgraduate scholarship programme.

The priorities are informed by:

2021 research priorities

The priorities have been grouped into categories. The research thesis of applicants to the postgraduate scholarship programme will need to address one or more of these priorities.

State of biodiversity

  • Applying genetic tools (incl. eDNA) to better understand genetic diversity, rapid detection of species, disease outbreaks and sexing/parenting to support the long-term survival of individual native species and their populations.
  • 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.
  • A framework for identifying and prioritising the most appropriate places for protection and restoration of indigenous fauna and flora on public and private land and/or waters, thus minimising net loss of areas of high biodiversity value.
  • Quantifying cost and value of restoring indigenous biodiversity to inform decision making.

Selected in 2021

  • Conservation genomics of the mōhua (yellowhead/bird).
  • Resolving phylogeographic structure and taxonomy of Paryphanta land snails in Northland, New Zealand.
  • Invasive paper wasp biology and invertebrate conservation on Farewell Spit.

Tipping points for species and ecosystems

  • Stressor response relationships to inform limit setting for biodiversity.
  • Define the physiological tolerances of native species to changing levels of sediment and nutrients (deposited and suspended).
  • Understand the impacts of sediment deposition and nutrient enrichment on wetland and coastal ecosystem.
  • Small pest mammal behaviour, detection, and control, especially relating to mice.

Selected in 2021 

  • The influence of human-induced stressors on Austrovenus stutchburyi (tuangi/tuaki/New Zealand cockle) population structure.

Cultural heritage, tourism and the human dimension

  • Specific research on cat owner behaviour (linked to toxoplasmosis).
  • Tourism and ecological restoration: a new paradigm to build ecological capital.
  • Demand management: visitor flows, seasonality and dispersal in a post-covid Aotearoa.
  • Urban connection: how can our cultural heritage inform and drive increased biodiversity in the urban environment?

Biosecurity: disease management for ecosystem and species resilience 

  • Novel technologies (including biotech, breeding for resilience) to develop effective control strategies at scale to cost-effectively sustain desired flora species.
  • Risk assessment research into changes in mosaic landscapes for native ecosystems (new or changed composition of native vs introduced species regarding pest carriers).
  • Pest detection: development of eDNA, drones and other new tools for freshwater pest detection and monitoring.
  • Genetic integrity of native plant species: development of knowledge to help understand, advocate and protect from native and exotic threats.
  • Characterise and detect wildlife diseases of our threatened species (in hoiho, Māui dolphins, kākāpō, hihi, etc), especially using DNA methods.

Selected in 2021

  • Landscape level framework visualizing the linkages between kauri tree health and soil conditions.

Restoring New Zealand's vulnerable freshwater and estuarine ecosystems

  • Research into methods for estuary restoration (eg seashore armouring, coastal squeeze and associated attempts at offsetting).
  • Understand how to restore, improve or create habitat, and increase habitat connectivity for our indigenous aquatic species.
  • Develop a management framework on how to include ecological and cultural values/principles into the current process around drainage systems.
  • Testing the effectiveness of different methods of facilitating fish passage for different species and size classes.
  • Impact of pigs rooting and goats browsing wetlands and streams.

Selected in 2021

  • Influence of nocturnal illumination on the early life history traits and behaviour of inanga

Coastal and marine protection

  • Understand ecosystem-wide effects of pest plants in our freshwater and coastal systems.
  • Mapping the biodiversity values, services and vulnerabilities of marine species, habitats and ecosystems.
  • Develop a new and updated environmental classifications for our marine pelagic communities (like what we already have for our seabed communities).
  • Evaluation of the cultural and socio-economic value of migratory species in the traditional, recreational and commercial spaces.

Selected in 2021

  • The demographics of early life histories of marine taonga species in Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Climate change impacts and adaptation

  • Develop and test climate adaptation approaches relevant to specific native species and/or their habitat (especially on our offshore islands).
  • Develop and test predictive models that includes offshore islands (often the only refuges for our threatened species).
  • Effect of droughts on our native species (focusing on freshwater and marine).
  • Greenhouse gas storage (peatlands, wetlands) and pathway to policy.

Selected in 2021

  • Early warning signs of community collapse in drying streams.

Data sovereignty, ownership, governance and sharing

  • Strategic and cost-effective catchment-scale monitoring of rivers to support restoration and adaptive management in the face of climate change (novel technologies, data management).
  • Develop a framework to adequately address data sovereignty and ownership needs when Mātauranga Māori is used as evidence for conservation management decisions.
  • Develop and test a monitoring framework for riparian fencing and planting to track biodiversity outcomes.

Remote sensing, machine learning and data science

  • Develop automated species identification and classification from camera traps.
  • Detect mast readiness and onset from aerial imagery.
  • Improve compliance and efficacy for by-catch monitoring through remote sensing, cameras and AI identification.
  • Develop standardised eDNA protocols (eg sample effort, distribution and influence of physical factors thereon) for monitoring our aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

Selected in 2021

  • Chordata: an open platform to accelerate the adoption of machine learning for conservation.
Back to top