View the current academic and general staff vacancies in the School of Biological Sciences.


Multidisciplinary research opportunity for a PhD student in
New Zealand – marine habitat mapping

The Kāpiti Marine Reserve mapping group (Dr. Shane Geange of the Department of Conservation (DoC), Prof. Jonathan Gardner of Victoria University of Wellington (VUW), Dr. Sally Watson of the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA)) has an opportunity for a PhD student to carry out independent and multidisciplinary marine research. The study area is located in the marine waters around Kāpiti Island, including its marine reserve, and involves analysis and interpretation of a geophysical, geological and biogenic habitat dataset.

Project Background – Our research team has carried out an extensive mapping survey of the Kāpiti Island region, producing a comprehensive geophysical, geological and biogenic habitat dataset. To date, we have produced two maps and a book chapter that describe the seafloor geomorphology of the region. This project will make use of recently acquired datasets to integrate the geophysical data set with the seafloor morphology and ground truth information (including geological samples and metrics of biodiversity). The aim of the project is to link habitat boundaries to a range of environmental variables to characterise the diverse benthic communities in this dynamic shallow marine realm. The PhD candidate will produce a series of targeted habitat and habitat suitability maps, with associated uncertainties, for regions inside and outside the marine reserve.

The ideal candidate

  • You will have an interest in multidisciplinary marine research and an appropriate undergraduate degree (environmental science, marine surveying, marine biology, physical geography/geomorphology or any other relevant discipline). Preference will be given to
    students with a completed post-graduate degree (e.g., BSc Honours or Masters) in an appropriate discipline.
  • Ideally, you will have experience of processing large data sets and an understanding of how such data sets may be used to provide new insights into how physical properties of the seafloor may contribute to biological complexity.
  • You will be interested in integrating a range of marine datasets to characterise seabed environments using an holistic and comprehensive approach.
  • You will appreciate how such multidisciplinary data may contribute to management decisions about biological conservation and seabed protection.
  • You will be able to work as a member of a large multi-disciplinary team but will also be able to work independently (having received instruction) for periods of time.
  • Knowledge of Geographical Information System (GIS - ArcGIS, QGIS) would be helpful but good support will be provided to acquire the right skills in GIS work.

The research environment – Our team is based in Wellington, an outstanding science and public city. You will be jointly based at NIWA’s Greta Point campus, Victoria University’s Kelburn campus, and DoC’S main office, depending on the nature of the work being carried out at the time.

Scholarship stipend (living expenses) and fees – We are looking for a candidate with an outstanding academic record (transcript). We will support the successful candidate through the VUW PhD scholarship application process (a ‘Wellington Doctoral Scholarship’ - There are several important points to note:

  • This PhD position is open to all suitably qualified candidates regardless of gender and nationality
  • To win a Victoria University of Wellington doctoral scholarship an applicant will require a GPA of 8.5 or more on a scale of 9 (i.e., approx 95% or more on whatever scale you use)
  • Doctoral scholarship rounds are held each year on 1st November. We would like to support the successful candidate through this process
  • National (NZ and Australian citizens) and international (all other countries) students are welcome to apply: the scholarship stipend (= living expenses) and the degree fees are the same for both national and international students
  • New Zealand borders are now open following COVID and in principle there is no problem for international students to enter the country for study.

How to apply – Please send a letter of application outlining your suitability for the research project, a copy of your academic transcript and your CV, as well as the contact details of two academic referees to By sending us the details of your two academic referees you agree that we may contact these people to enquire about your suitability for this PhD position.

Closing date for applications – Applications close 30 September 2022

For more information please contact one of the following:;;

Lamarche G, Laferriere A, Geange A, Gardner J, Pallentin A. In Press. “Inner shelf habitat surrounding the Kapiti Marine Reserve, New Zealand; in GeoHab Atlas of seafloor geomorphic features and benthic habitat”, second edition.

Lamarche G, Pallentin A, Geange S, Gardner J, Laferriere A, Mackay E. 2016. Kapiti. NIWA Chart, Miscellaneous Series 98. Published by NIWA Ltd, New Zealand.

Lamarche G, Laferriere A, Gardner J, Geange S, Pallentin A, Mackay E. 2016. Beneath the waves: Kapiti. NIWA Chart, Miscellaneous Series 99. Published by NIWA Ltd, New Zealand.