About this digital gallery

Evolution in isolation

New Zealand is home to an incredible variety of wildlife. In New Zealand you can find giant insects that weigh more than some birds, flightless parrots that camouflage themselves in green bushes, and lizards that reach up to 30 cm (1 foot) from nose to tail. Giant eagles and dinosaurs lived in New Zealand in ancient times, but today there are still many living fossils, like the fierce tuatara and small native frogs. The incredible fauna of New Zealand is the result of Evolution in Isolation: animal lineages drifting on islands through the South Pacific Ocean for many millions of years, separated from the outside world.


This digital gallery is an opportunity for Massey University researchers to share and showcase some of the wildlife projects and teaching they are involved in. Funding for the gallery website was generously provided through SIF fund EE#14-002.


Massey University

Massey University is a research-led university that is committed to the application of knowledge. Many of our staff are conducting world-leading research in relation to New Zealand’s wildlife, with topics including animal health and conservation, habitat use, behaviour, anatomy and evolution. Our study programmes in ecology and zoology are led by this research.


Contributor profiles

Dr Daniel Thomas

Lecturer in Vertebrate Zoology (website manager)

I am an ornithologist and an applied chemist with a deep interest in evolutionary biology. I have followed my interests from New Zealand to South Africa and on the the United States, and I have studied modern and fossil birds, as well as ancient humans, dinosaurs and other groups [...more].

Marleen Baling

PhD student

My research investigates the evolution and function of colour variation in lizards by quantifying the degree of variation at three ecological levels. This project will be the first detailed study into pronounced colour variation in New Zealand reptiles [...more].

Michael Gemmel

PhD student

Michael Gemmel

My focus is the genus Amalda. We want to do population level sampling of the species in this genus to get a better idea of the population dynamics and the species delimitation. Does the genetic data support current species definitions? [...more].

Dr Maria Minor

Senior Lecturer in Ecology / Zoology

My research interests cover the aspects of ecology - soil ecology, systems ecology, the interactions between human land use and biodiversity, and the ecology of soil invertebrates. In Ecology Group we have excellent facilities for studying invertebrates [...more].

Dr Karen Stockin

Senior Lecturer and Co-Director of the Coastal-Marine Research Group

Karen Stockin

My research interests are primarily in marine ecology and behaviour. I am particularly interested in marine mammals and their interactions with the ecosystem. Specific interests include the examination of anthropogenic impacts including tourism,

pollution and fisheries [...more].

Felix Vaux

PhD student

Felix Vaux

I am researching the speciation of New Zealand’s marine snails (Neogastropoda) and using this model system to test punctuated evolutionary hypotheses. Namely this addresses variation in rates of evolution and speciation, and the pattern of diversification [...more].

Dr Michael Anderson

Postdoctoral Fellow

My research focuses on behavioural and evolutionary ecology. I have sought to use model research systems to address in depth questions about evolution. I have specialised in avian systems, using brood parasites to address many of my research questions [...more].

Professor Dianne Brunton


My research contributions are in social behaviour and the evolution and ecology of animal communication. My main research interests include the evolution of song and my investigations have included Saddleback dialects (a completed Marsden project) and sexual selection in NZ bellbirds  [...more].

Dr Weihong Ji

Senior Lecturer

My research interest is in vetebrate behavioral ecology and the effect of human induced changes on behaviour, life history and fitness of wild animal populations. My research topics include 1. social and mating systems of vetebrates; 2. the effect of conservation management on behaviour of wild animals including pest species and native animals [...more].

Associate Professor Mary Morgan-Richards

Associate Professor in Ecology

I am an evolutionary biologist working within the Ecology group (IAE) on the Manawatu campus. My research expertise is in hybridisation of genetically distinct populations or species, and the process of speciation. I teach population genetics, conservation biology, and New Zealand Natural History to undergraduate students [...more].

Associate Professor Steven Trewick

Associate Professor in Ecology

I manage a dedicated ancient DNA lab and am co-leader of the 'Phoenix' Evolutionary Ecology and Genetics research group. evolves.massey.ac.nz. This research group has wide interests including tree weta behaviour and diet, reproductive systems in stick insects and phylogenetics of rails [...more].

Dr Anne Wignall

Lecturer in Invertebrate Zoology

I am a behavioural ecologist who uses invertebrate model systems, particularly spiders and insects, to answer evolutionary questions. I am particularly interested in the interactions between ecology and behaviour [...more].