Research Opportunities

Interested in joining our team?

Get in touch! Send us an email, and include:

  • A cover letter.
  • Curriculum Vitae.
  • A copy of your academic transcript.
  • A sample of your written scientific work.
  • Names of three referees
  • We look forward to hearing from you!
Gemmell Lab at their 2022 Xmas function.
Celebrating the end of year 2022. Top left to right are: Joanne Gillum, Gert-Jan Jeunen, Gracie Kroos, Haylee Quertermous, Chloe van der Burg, Neil Gemmell, Benjamin Duran-Vinet, Jessica Moffitt, William Pearman, Kristen Fernandes, Sara Ferreira. Bottom row: Alana Alexander, Kaj Kamstra, Jonika Edgecombe, Michelle Liddy, Allison Miller, Jackson Treece.

Current Opportunities

PhD scholarship in eDNA of coastal reefs and kelp forests – Use of eDNA and other molecular tools to unravel the effects of land-based influences on rocky reef biodiversity and function.
Date Posted: 11th October 2023

This project is part of a nationwide Coastal Programme between several New Zealand universities, institutes and agencies, entitled Toka ākau toitu Kaitiakitanga – building a sustainable future for coastal reef ecosystems. Its central purpose is to develop solutions for managing land-based stressors on nearshore marine ecosystems at large scales.

Kelp forests and rocky reef communities are declining in New Zealand and worldwide from a wide range of anthropogenic and environmental stressors. The consequences of continued decline in these highly diverse and productive ecosystems are culturally and economically immense, with considerable effects on food, fisheries, aquaculture, carbon sequestration, and the ‘blue economy’. On coastal reefs, kelp forest decline is mostly due to catchment-derived sediment and contaminant discharges smothering reefs and altering the light environment, while marine activities (e.g., over-fishing, substrate disturbances) and warming seas further degrade nearshore ecosystems. Management has been unable to respond effectively to the degree and increasing pace of change. Our objectives are to reverse the decline of Aotearoa NZ’s kelp ecosystems, improve the health of the coastal environment, and empower Māori iwi/hapū as strong partners in effective coastal management by integrating indigenous knowledge and perspectives (Mātauranga) and much-needed multi-disciplinary insight.

This PhD student will:

  • Combine eDNA and taxonomic identification of specimens from disturbed and non-disturbed rocky reefs to gain an understanding of the diversity patterns and ecosystem functions in four key biogeographical regions in New Zealand.
  • Compare data, including other biophysical and socio-ecological data, from different regions and over time to better understand the effects of land-based influences and stressor interactions (e.g., sedimentation and warming).
  • Combine results to help create recommendations and tools for managers/kaitiaki in order to promote recovery and build resilience of rocky reefs and kelp forests.

Skills required:

The successful candidate must have an interest in and knowledge of ecology and biology. The candidate will ideally have a background in marine ecology or biological sciences, molecular biology, and familiarity with genetic laboratory methods. It would be advantageous to have some experience in one or more of:

  • DNA extraction and amplification;
  • Biological field work in remote areas;
  • Knowledge of New Zealand marine organisms;
  • Bioinformatics and R;
  • An ability to work both independently and within a team;
  • A history of high academic achievement;

Candidates should have a BSc Honours, Master’s degree or equivalent, with excellent grades, appropriate research experience, and be motivated to work in a cross-disciplinary field and interact with scientists in the wider programme.

The scholarship:

The successful candidate will work within the Gemmell Lab team at the University of Otago. Full research costs for the projects as well as scholarship support ($35,000 pa) will be provided for 3 years.

Please email an expression of interest letter (outlining your interests and background), your academic record/transcripts (unofficial), your CV, and the names of at least three referees to Dr. Allison Miller at Program Lead Investigators, Professor David Schiel (, Professor Chris Battershill (, Professor Neil Gemmell ( may also be contacted. The position will close once a suitable candidate is found so we encourage interested applicants to apply promptly.