Dr Nick Shears

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Associate Professor


I carried out my PhD at the University of Auckland's Leigh Marine Laboratory, where I utilised the long-established Leigh Marine Reserve to experimentally investigate the ecological effects of fishing on kelp forest ecosystems. I then carried out a three year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California Santa Barbara where I studied the effects of the Channel Islands Marine Reserve Network on kelp forest ecosystems. In 2011 I was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship to support my research into the combined effects of terrestrial-derived sedimentation and climate change on rocky reef ecosystems.

I am based at the Leigh Marine Laboratory.

See my publications on Google Scholar.


Research | Current

My main research interests lie in rocky reef ecology and marine conservation. I aim to address fundamental questions in modern ecology that have clear applications to management of marine ecosystems.

Current research areas include:

  • Kelp forest restoration 
  • Role of kelp forests in buffering ocean acidification
  • Marine protected areas
  • Tipping points in marine ecosystems
  • Long-term change in sea surface temperature and occurence of heatwaves in New Zealand's coastal waters (in collaboration with Dr Melissa Bowen, School of Environment)
  • Using hydrothermal vents to examine the effects of ocean acidification on reef ecosystems (in collaboration with Drs Craig Radford and Mary Sewell)
  • Investigating long-term changes in marine reserves (Department of Conservation, eCoast Ltd) and on rocky reefs in the Hauraki Gulf (Auckland Council)


Teaching | Current


Postgraduate supervision

Postdoctoral Fellows:

  • Caitlin Blain - Role of kelp forests in carbon sequestration amd pH buffering 

Current students:

  • Harry Allard (PhD) - Long-term changes in reef communities within marine reserves
  • Ohad Peleg (PhD) - Understanding ecosystem health on temperate reefs
  • Benn Hanns (PhD) - Fishery-marine reserve interactions in the spiny lobster Jasus edwardsii
  • Kaitlin Lawrence (MSc) - Mapping long-term changes in urchin barrens
  • Sara Kulins (MSc) - Investigating the biodiversity value of urban marine reserves


Past students:

  • Dr Christine Hansen - Resilience and recovery of kelp forests across a sedimentation gradient - PhD Marine Science 2019
  • Dr Caitlin Blain - Drivers of variation in kelp (Ecklonia radiata) forest productivity - PhD Marine Science 2018
  • Oliver Evans - Refining video techniqes for marine reserve monitoring - MSc 2017, Jointly supervised by Dr Richard Taylor 
  • Dr Jared Kibele – Using satellite imagery to map rocky reef habitats - PhD Marine Science 2017
  • Dr Blake Seers – Predicting the effects of climate change on sedimentation in the coastal environment - PhD Statistics 2017
  • Arie Spyksma - Direct and indirect effects of predators on the behaviour and morphology of sea urchins - PhD Marine Science 2017 - Jointly supervised by Dr Richard Taylor
  • Dr Kate James – Invasive kelp Undaria pinnatifida in the Hauraki Gulf (PhD 2016)
  • Evan Brown - Indirect effects of marine reserves on reef fish assemblages (MSc 2015)
  • Josh Richardson - Using unbaited cameras to monitor reef fish in marine reserves (MSc 2015) Jointly supervised by Dr Richard Taylor
  • Pam Kane - Lobster catchbility (MSc 2014) Jointly supervised by Dr Ian Tuck
  • Dr Kirsten Rodgers – The effects of multiple anthropogenic stressors on the ecological function and resilience of kelp forest ecosystems (PhD Marine Science 2015)
  • Benn Hanns - Morphology of the kelp Ecklonia radiata (MSc 2014)
  • Sarah Roth - Blooms of the green algae Microdictyon umbillicatum (MSc 2014)
  • Edwin Ainley - Effects of deposited sediments on macroalgal assemblages (MSc Marine Science 2013)
  • Alessandra Bisquera - Sediment effects on intertidal rocky reef assemblages in the Hauraki Gulf (MSc - Statistics 2012)
  • Blake Seers – Investigation into the current state and trends of Auckland's coastal water quality (MSc Statistics, 2011)
  • Richard Hughes - Sedimentation and the ecology of shallow macroalgal habitats in the Hauraki Gulf (MSc Marine Science, 2011)

Potential research topics (MSc or PhD):

  • Impacts of toxic dinoflagellates (Ostreopsis sp.) on rocky reef ecosystems
  • Exploring the use of environmental health indicators on rocky reefs
  • Direct and indirect effects of marine reserves on intertidal reef communities
  • Sea urchin-kelp dynamics across an environmental stress gradient
  • Habitat and resource-use of spiny lobster (Jasus edwardsii) in marine reserves


Deputy Head (Research) - Institute of Marine Science (2018-present)

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Spyksma, A. J. P., Shears, N. T., & Taylor, R. B. (2020). Injured conspecifics as an alarm cue for the sea urchin Evechinus chloroticus. MARINE ECOLOGY PROGRESS SERIES, 641, 135-144. 10.3354/meps13301
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Richard Taylor
  • Blain, C. O., & Shears, N. T. (2020). Differential response of forest-forming seaweeds to elevated turbidity may facilitate ecosystem shifts on temperate reefs. MARINE ECOLOGY PROGRESS SERIES, 641, 63-77. 10.3354/meps13308
  • Blain, C. O., & Shears, N. T. (2020). Nutrient enrichment offsets the effects of low light on growth of the kelpEcklonia radiata. LIMNOLOGY AND OCEANOGRAPHY, 65 (9), 2220-2235. 10.1002/lno.11449
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Caitlin Blain
  • Zitoun, R., Connell, S. D., Cornwall, C. E., Currie, K. I., Fabricius, K., Hoffmann, L. J., ... Sander, S. G. (2020). A unique temperate rocky coastal hydrothermal vent system (Whakaari-White Island, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand): constraints for ocean acidification studies. MARINE AND FRESHWATER RESEARCH, 71 (3), 321-344. 10.1071/MF19167
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mary Sewell
  • Blain, C. O., Rees, T. A., Hansen, S. C., & Shears, N. T. (2019). Morphology and photosynthetic response of the kelp Ecklonia radiata across a turbidity gradient. LIMNOLOGY AND OCEANOGRAPHY, 65 (3), 529-544. 10.1002/lno.11321
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Caitlin Blain, Alwyn Rees
  • Blain, C. O., & Shears, N. T. (2019). Seasonal and spatial variation in photosynthetic response of the kelp Ecklonia radiata across a turbidity gradient. Photosynthesis research, 140 (1), 21-38. 10.1007/s11120-019-00636-7
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Caitlin Blain
  • Wernberg, T., Coleman, M. A., Babcock, R. C., Bell, S. Y., Bolton, J. J., Connell, S. D., ... Shears, N. T. (2019). BIOLOGY AND ECOLOGY OF THE GLOBALLY SIGNIFICANT KELP ECKLONIA RADIATA. In S. J. Hawkins, A. L. Allcock, A. E. Bates, L. B. Firth, I. P. Smith, S. E. Swearer, P. A. Todd (Eds.) (pp. 265-323). CRC PRESS-TAYLOR & FRANCIS GROUP.
  • Teck, S. J., Lorda, J., Shears, N. T., Ben-Horin, T., Toseland, R. E., Rathbone, S. T., ... Gaines, S. D. (2018). Quality of a fished resource: Assessing spatial and temporal dynamics. PloS one, 13 (6)10.1371/journal.pone.0196864


Contact details

Primary office location

Level G, Room G01
New Zealand

Web links