Institute of Marine Science

Our research

The Institute of Marine Science is multidisciplinary in its scientific approach, combining a wide range of disciplines, including biology, ecology, physics, statistics, chemistry and mathematics, to work towards improving our understanding of the marine environment.

We are interested in how marine organisms sense and respond to their environment; the interactions between human activities and natural processes in the marine environment; the development of useful properties of marine organisms for human uses; and gaining a better understanding of how natural processes in the marine environment operate.

The work of our academics and postgraduate students falls within one, or more, of the five main research themes below (Aquaculture, Biodiversity, Environmental management, Marine megafauna and acoustic ecology, Marine sociological systems). 

You can also find out about the facilities available at Leigh Marine Laboratory, browse the postgraduate research opportunities available and read about the research our academics publish.


Aquacultured Hapuka (Photo by Paul Caiger)

Research into how we can optimise the production performance of cultured species such as fish, lobsters, mussels, oysters and other species. Working alongside the seafood industry to improve aquaculture farming brings economic benefits to New Zealand.

Biodiversity and conservation

Macro diversity on a reef  (Photo by Paul Caiger)

Research which focuses on how we can protect marine biodiversity from climate change, land-based impacts such as sediment runoff and human impacts such as shipping and fishing. 

Environmental management

Marine reserve (Photo by Paul Caiger)

Research which aims to understand the causes, consequences and scale of environmental change. By exploring and monitoring these changes we can learn how best we can restore our natural marine ecosystems.

Marine megafauna and acoustic ecology

Doctoral candidate Rosalyn Putland taking sound recordings of underwater noise

Research which tracks the population status of Hauraki Gulf whales, dolphins, large fish, sharks and seabirds (collectively known as megafauna).  Marine acoustics is a primary tool for understanding, assessing, and monitoring marine megafauna ecosystems.

Marine social-ecological systems

Postgraduate students conducting research at Leigh Marine Reserve

Research into the interactions between nature, coasts, oceans and society is a new way of connected thinking that allows marine scientists to raise awareness and develop solutions to safeguard our coastal environment.

Leigh Marine Laboratory facilities

Leigh Marine Reserve research facility

The Institute of Marine Science provides purpose-built facilities for students undertaking research at the Leigh Marine Laboratory, and access to some NIWA facilities.

Postgraduate research opportunities

Postgraduate marine science student conducting research

If you are looking for a topic for your masters or PhD thesis, select your postgraduate thesis topic from our diverse range of research projects, find a supervisor in your area, and become inspired by the projects other students are currently working on.

Research in academic publications

Books and journals on library shelves

Our academics contribute to a number of journals and other publications in New Zealand and internationally. Read a list of our most recent marine science publications.

The Joint Graduate School in Coastal and Marine Science

The University of Auckland and National Institute of Water and Atmosphere (NIWA) have joined forces to form the Joint Graduate School in Coastal and Marine Science with the specific purpose to build New Zealand’s research expertise on these critical issues.

The partnership maximises the university's strengths in coastal science and marine ecology and NIWA’s complementary expertise in oceanography and modelling.

The Joint Graduate School provides the unique opportunity to undertake postgraduate research across a range of coastal and marine topics alongside New Zealand’s leading scientists. Find out more.