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Effects of climate changes and marine heatwaves on rocky shore intertidal communities

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Mads Thomsen
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted

About This PhD Project

Project Description

We seek a PhD candidate to join a 3-year research program based at the University of Canterbury (UC) to investigate the effects of climate changes and marine heatwaves on rocky intertidal communities.

The person
We seek a PhD candidate with a demonstrated high level of academic achievement at the undergraduate and postgraduate level. S/he will be required to have a B.Sc. (Hons) or equivalent to enrol as a PhD candidate at the University of Canterbury.

The candidate will require a background in marine ecology, design of experiments and surveys, basic statistical analysis, taxonomy of marine organisms and scientific writing.
Having a background in plant physiology, familiarity with drones and having experience with image and/or spatial analysis will be considered advantageous.
The PhD candidate should also have a driver’s license, be comfortable in doing independent field and laboratory work, and will be expected to publish results in scientific journals.

The stipend will be for three years at NZD 21,000 p.a. (tax free) plus payment of tuition fees and associated charges.

The project
Detailed research has documented gradual changes to biological communities attributed to increases in global average temperatures. However, localized and abrupt temperature anomalies associated with heatwaves may cause more rapid biological changes. The south Island of New Zealand experienced the hottest summer on record from November 2017 to February 2018 causing dramatic decreases in populations of iconic bull kelp.

We now urgently need more research in this field to understand how past and future heatwaves will affect the unique marine biodiversity of New Zealand. This PhD project will undertake new surveys, revisit historical locations, carry out field and laboratory heat-related stress experiments, and review marine heatwave literature, to better understand how rocky shore intertidal communities have been affected by heatwaves.

The student will do research embedded in a fun and productive group of students and faculty at Centre of Integrative Research and the Marine Ecology Research Group at University of Canterbury, New Zealand.
For a motivated and dedicated student there will be an opportunity to visit Western Australia and also work with Prof. Thomas Wernberg and his research group, in another region where marine heatwaves have had devastating impacts on rocky shore communities.

For more information, see

The proposed start date for the research is as early as possible, depending on the availability of appropriate candidates.

Applications in writing, including CV, and (unofficial) academic records should be sent to [Email Address Removed] as early as possible.


1. Smale D, Wernberg T, Oliver E, Thomsen MS, Harvey B, Straub S, Burrows M, Alexander L, Benthuysen J, Donat M, Feng M, Hobday A, Holbrook N, Perkins-Kirkpatrick S, Scannell H, Sen Gupta A, Payne B, Moore P. 2019. Marine heatwaves threaten global biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services. Nature Climate Changes 9: 306–312
2. Thomsen MS, Gerrity S, Alestra T, South PM, Lilley S, Monstrani L, Schiel DR. 2019. Local extinction of bull kelp (Durvillaea spp.) due to a marine heatwave. Frontiers Marine Science 6, 84.
3. Thomsen MS, South P. 2019. Communities and attachment networks associated with primary, secondary and alternative foundation species; a case of stressed and disturbed stands of Southern Bull Kelp. Diversity 11(4): 56.
4. Martínez B, Wernberg T, Radford B, Thomsen MS, Russell BD, Connell SC, Bradshaw CJA, Carreño F, Fordham DA, Gurgel CFD. 2018. Distribution models predict large contractions in habitat-forming seaweeds in response to ocean warming. Diversity and Distributions 24: 1350-1366
5. Hobday AJ, Oliver ECJ, Gupta AS, Benthuysen JA, Burrows MT, Donat MG, Holbrook NJ, Moore PJ, Thomsen MS, Wernberg T, Smale DA. 2018. Categorizing and Naming Marine Heatwaves. Oceanography 31 63-73.
6. Wernberg T, Bennett S, Babcock RC Bettignies T, Cure K, Depczynski M, Dufois F, Fromont J, Fulton CJ, Hovey RK, Harvey ES, Holmes TH, Kendrick GA, Radford B, Santana-Garcon J, Saunders BJ, Smale DA, Thomsen MS, Tuckett CA, Tuya F, Vanderklift MA, Wilson S. 2016. Climate driven regime shift of a temperate marine ecosystem. Science 353: 169-172

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