Institute of Marine Science

Meet our alumni

Our students have different research interests and follow varied and exciting career paths after graduation. Meet some of our alumni and find out where their degree has taken them.


Jenna Martin - Fisheries Technician at the Northern Fisheries Centre, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

When I was younger, I was always telling everyone I wanted to be a Marine Biologist. It wasn’t until I started studying at The University of Auckland that I discovered that I wanted to be involved in the research and development of the aquaculture industry.

After finishing my Bachelor of Science majoring in Biology with a specialisation in Marine Science and a Postgraduate Diploma in Science at The University of Auckland, I wanted to continue studying to further develop my skills. After completing a summer studentship at the Leigh Marine Laboratory, I continued the research for my master’s thesis. My thesis examined maternal effects in egg quality in a batch spawning teleost (New Zealand snapper, Pagrus auratus). This research allowed me to greatly develop my problem solving skills and develop a strong aquaculture knowledge base to prepare me for my future jobs.

Since graduating, I have moved to Cairns, Australia and am currently working at the Queensland Government’s Northern Fisheries Centre. The major project that is run here is the development of new aquaculture species from the serranid family (Queensland grouper, goldspot cod, coral trout). We now successfully breed all three species in captivity and currently have 120,000 fish on farms around Australia. These are all high value species that have a large market both domestically and in the asia-pacific region. As well as assisting with broodstock husbandry, I am working as a fisheries technician for a collaborative project with James Cook University investigating climate change effects (both temperature and carbon dioxide (pH)) on coral trout (Plectropomus leopardus) populations. Our section of the project focuses on the early developmental stages (eggs and larvae).

I love my job. It’s challenging, rewarding and something I am so passionate about now. Aquaculture is an industry that needs to be focussed on if we are to have fish as a food source for future generations.


Dr Tim Sippel – Fishery Stock Assessment Scientist at NOAA, USA

I grew up in the USA were my interests in highly migratory fishes like marlin, tuna and sharks took seed, but blossomed in New Zealand... leading me to complete my PhD at The University of Auckland in 2010.

My research involved looking at movement ecology of striped marlin by modeling electronic tag data, looking at relationships between behavior and oceanography as they migrated through the southwest Pacific Ocean. My research involved working very closely with the local gamefishing community which was as rewarding as the research itself.

The skills I developed through my PhD ranged from learning to write my own computer models for quantitative data analysis to building and maintaining strong relationships with stakeholders. Acquiring these tangible and somewhat less tangible skills proved to be a good compliment for my career.

Upon completion of my PhD I took a post-doc at University of Hawaii where I continued working on quantitative animal movement ecology, while also beginning to develop new interest in population dynamics. In 2011, I accepted a new role as a fishery stock assessment scientist for NOAA’s Southwest Fishery Science Center (San Diego) in the Population Dynamics Group, where I continue to work.

The University of Auckland was a great springboard into my career, providing excellent opportunities while also allowing me to contribute back through mentorship of other students.


Cat Davis - Egg and Larvae technician at the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere (NIWA)

My name is Cat Davis and I work as an Egg and Larvae technician at the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere (NIWA) based in Bream Bay, Northland. NIWA Bream Bay is New Zealand’s top Aquaculture research facility where we focus on the development of hatchery techniques and procedures for the production of Hapuku and Kingfish as commercial aquaculture species’.

I have always wanted to study marine biology. So for me, a Bachelor of Science and a Postgraduate Diploma in Science majoring in Biology and Marine Science, at The University of Auckland, was an easy decision to make. From there, I decided to complete a Master’s degree in Marine Science at The University of Auckland’s Leigh Marine Laboratory. At Leigh, I demonstrated that the New Zealand eagle ray (Myliobatis tenuicaudatus) has tidally modulated activity patterns when synchronised by food and current reversal cycles under laboratory conditions.

Through my contacts at Leigh, I worked casually at the lab’s own Marine Discovery Centre, I was involved in Cockle and Pipi sampling for the Ministry of Primary Industry (MPI) in collaboration with Massey University and most recently, secured my current full time position at NIWA Bream Bay. My roles at NIWA include Hapuku broodstock care and maintenance, sampling and assessment of eggs and larvae, and production of rotifers and artemia as live feeds.


Dr Cedric Simon - Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Tasmania

I attended The University of Auckland as an international postgraduate student in 2006 after completing my undergraduate degree at James Cook University in Australia. In 2010, I graduated with a PhD in Marine Science. My PhD focused on the nutritional requirements and digestive physiology of juvenile rock lobsters.

The collaboration between The University of Auckland and NIWA provided me an invaluable opportunity to be part of the NIWA Mahanga Bay Aquaculture team working on a large commercial project looking at developing sea-cage technology and formulated feeds for rock lobster grow-out. During the project, I was involved in multidisciplinary teams from multiple sites across New Zealand. The accessibility and expertise of research staff from both institutions, the availability of scientific equipment, and the overall applied research perspective made my PhD an exciting and rewarding experience. This positive environment definitely contributed to my thesis being awarded the 2011 Vice-Chancellor’s Prize for Best Doctoral Thesis at The University of Auckland.

Since 2010, I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania in Australia. I undertake applied research in close association with industry in the field of digestive physiology and nutrition, contributing in solving production bottlenecks of rock lobster in aquaculture.

I would highly recommend this programme at The University of Auckland to any motivated student with a strong passion in marine science.


Liz Hartel - Marine researcher

I completed my undergraduate degree in the USA and worked in the Caribbean conducting research on sea turtles and coral reefs.

I attended The University of Auckland as an international student and received my MSc (Hons) degree in Marine Science. For my thesis, I studied bottlenose dolphin habitat use in the Bay of Islands, comparing dolphin habitat use between two separate time periods spaced ten years apart.

I lived up in the Bay and took the research boat out to follow the dolphins and record data used for a spatial analysis of their habitat use. I also took individual identification photos of the dolphins to determine individual use of the Bay.

Now, I'm back in the US working in academia researching bottlenose dolphin spatial use and population monitoring – now I am paid to use the skills I learned during my MSc.


Dr Darren Parsons - Fisheries Scientist at NIWA

I graduated from The University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science, both majoring in Marine Biology.

For my masters project I worked out of the University’s Leigh Marine Laboratory adjacent to the Goat Island Marine Reserve. Here I tracked the movements of snapper in the reserve using acoustic tags. These tags were able to provide fine scale information on the home ranges of snapper, which was relevant to managers.

These degrees, and the topics I studied, gave me a great platform towards a career in marine science.

I went on to study for PhD at a university in the United States and returned home to a job at NIWA in Auckland. I work as a Fishery Scientist and much of my research is focused on snapper ecology.


Katrina Subedar - Marine Biologist at the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of NZ

My name is Katrina Subedar and I am currently working for NZ’s oldest and largest conservation organisation, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of NZ. I work as a marine biologist and conservation advocate on a variety of marine issues. I was employed because of my strong science background and experience.

After completing my BSc and Postgraduate Diploma in Science I was inspired to do an MSc degree in Marine Sciences at the Leigh Marine Lab. I graduated with first class honours in 2009 and on reflection I wouldn’t have studied marine biology anywhere else in New Zealand. The wide variety of science knowledge and skills that I gained from completing my degrees at The University of Auckland and also working for the University gave me the ability to work with the government on important marine conservation issues.

A typical week usually involves me attending a working group with the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation. I represent the environmental sector and work on a range of marine and fisheries issues, like marine mammal by-catch of sea lions or Maui’s dolphins to fisheries issues like shark finning and the sustainability of our fish stocks. Every day I work with scientists or science, often interpreting and reviewing work and most importantly using it to help implement policy changes or to help better protect our marine biodiversity.

I love my job and being a voice for nature.


Schannel van Dijken - Marine Conservation Manager with Conservation International

My name is Schannel van Dijken and I studied Marine Science here at The University of Auckland, graduating in 2001 with an MSc(Hons).

My degree at Auckland has helped equip me with the skills and networks that have led me into a myriad of interesting jobs, including working for Crop and Food Research as research technician and Sanford’s Seafoods as a hatchery and live fish transport manager.

More recently after four years employment at The University of Auckland as a Senior Marine Biology Field and Research Teaching Technician I am now following my passion in marine conservation where I work as a Marine Conservation Manager with Conservation International, Pacific Islands Program. I am based out of Samoa with regional responsibilities. My position is very rewarding, challenging and varied, with roles including; grant management, grant proposals and fund raising, key biodiversity area analysis, guidance and support to protected area identification and design, supporting the development of successful initiatives (such as the Pacific Oceanscape) and networks such as the Big Ocean Network (network of largescale Marine Protected Area Managers). More locally I provide assistance to Samoa Government with MPAs and Marine conservation issues.

Through all this I still have strong links back to The University of Auckland and continue to benefit from the world-class education I received there.


Bhakti Patel – Marine Biology Technician at The University of Auckland

From a very young age I enjoyed and appreciated the marine environment. This then developed into a passion, which allowed a seven year old’s dream to become a reality with no looking back!

With the encouragement of my school biology teachers, I completed my BSc and PGDipSci in Marine and Biological Sciences at The University of Auckland. I then decided to pursue a master’s degree in Marine Science while being based at the Leigh Marine Laboratory.

My research investigated the physiological and behavioural response of juvenile snapper to environmental hypoxia, while monitoring water quality parameters in the Mahurangi Estuary (a known snapper nursery). This research involved a mixture of lab experiments, biochemistry, behavioural monitoring and field based environmental monitoring of the estuary.

I am now employed by The University of Auckland as a Marine Biology Technician and am enjoying it immensely. My job is dynamic, challenging and interesting. I even manage to put my diving and boating skills to the test and have loads of fun at the same time!


Tim Riding - Surveillance Advisor, Marine Biosecurity at the NZ Ministry for Primary Industries

Auckland University research staff have considerable strengths and expertise in shark and ray biology and ecology, and was a key driver for me to undertake my MSc in Marine Science at the Leigh Marine Lab. My thesis year took me all around the Auckland and Northland regions chasing and tagging eagle rays, which was fantastic in its own right!

After completion of my MSc I took a year out and travelled, working and diving in the Adriatic Sea, and working on a charter boat in the Tahitian islands- lots of amazing diving and surfing. Southland was my next stop, taking a position with the Regional Council, where I spent 4 years working on protecting the Southland marine and coastal areas from invasive marine pests. This included one week a month diving in Fiordland, where we are eradicating the invasive seaweed, Undaria.

I now work for the Ministry for Primary industries in Wellington, doing my best to protect all of New Zealand’s marine space from international marine pests. My work still takes me diving in Fiordland, which is a magical and totally unique experience, and highly recommended! My marine science degree has opened many doors for me, enabling global travel and some amazing diving in some of the most pristine environments in the world, including the Tuamoto and Kermadec Islands, and being involved with shark and ray tagging expeditions around New Zealand.

I’d thoroughly recommend Auckland Uni as an awesome, supportive place to study, with lots of opportunities- and the staff are fantastic!


Dr Matt Slater – Postdoctoral Scientist at Newcastle University

Immediately after completing my PhD at the Leigh Marine Laboratory under the supervision of Professor Andrew Jeffs I moved to Newcastle University in Northern England to begin my postdoctoral research into poverty alleviation through aquaculture.

My research within Newcastle's Marine Science and Technology School has taken me to Tanzania in Sub-Saharan Africa where I have worked with local fishing communities to establish small scale sea cucumber farming to supplement livelihoods as fisheries decline. I also established and lead a small aquaculture masters programme within the university and enjoy contacts with the aquaculture industry in the UK and in several African nations.

Since graduating from The University of Auckland I have enjoyed a wide range of travel opportunities and chances to expand my network of fellow researchers. This has led to new collaborations, funding opportunities and publications. My PhD training and the quality outputs obtained in terms of publications from it have been the key to my continued advancement in a research career.

The opportunity to complete a PhD at the Leigh Marine Laboratory and within the Auckland University system has been invaluable, fun and very rewarding for me.


Dr Kyle Morgan – Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Exeter

I started at the University of Auckland as a postgraduate student in 2006. During my studies I was involved in cross-disciplinary research which examined the linkages between ecological and geomorphic coastal systems in both temperate and tropical marine environments. My PhD research aimed to quantify the net production of calcium carbonate by coral reef communities for a reef in the Maldives, and established the role of different reef organisms in the generation of sand for island construction.

After completing this project in early 2013, I moved to the UK to work as a postdoctoral research fellow on a NERC funded project at the University of Exeter investigating the long-term growth and evolution of coral reef structures at turbid inner shelf sites on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.


Oriana Brine – Adviser in the Plants and Environment Response Team, Ministry for Primary Industries

Graduating with an MSc in Marine Science from the University of Auckland really helped in securing my position with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) as an Adviser in the Plants and Environment Response team.

At MPI, I develop readiness and response strategies and plans, contribute to and/or lead responses against pests and diseases, develop response plans and tools, and manage the contracts for the effective delivery of response operations and readiness. Working at MPI is a great opportunity, as it allows me to write about and communicate scientific issues in a manner that the media, members of the public, and government can engage in to implement new knowledge.


Matthew Dyck - Biosecurity Analyst for Kiwifruit Vine Health

Seeking further specialisation in my studies after undergrad, I returned to The University of Auckland to complete an MSc in Marine Sciences under the Technology for Industry Fellowship scheme. This saw me placed full time within New Zealand's largest commercial paua farm under the co-supervision of Andrew Jeffs and industry expert Rodney Roberts. It was an excellent opportunity to conduct applied research for industry while gaining industry experience and networks at the same time.

After completion of this degree I travelled to Malaysia where I was Environmental Manager for Malaysia's largest commercial finish farm. Located in a remote rainforest location, this was an extremely challenging but rewarding role and made for some amazing wildlife spotting including local elephants that would even roam right up to my bedroom window on occasion.

Continuing with aquaculture in South East Asia I then took a Project Manager role in Singapore where I commuted daily by boat to a small island based research facility. Using genomic platforms and next generation sequencing this was an advanced project with a highly competent team making selective breeding gains on two species of tropical food fish.

I then travelled through Europe in a van with my wife for a year and have now returned to NZ starting a role as a Biosecurity Analyst for Kiwifruit Vine Health in Mount Maunganui.

While still in its infancy, my career so far has been very interesting and fulfilling, allowing me to explore some amazing places while gaining valuable career experience. Without returning to university to advance my studies to an MSc level, I don't believe any of these opportunities would have been possible.