Dr Nick Shears

Profile Image
Senior Lecturer


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 have a joint position between the Leigh Marine Laboratory and the Department of Statistics and am particularly interested in using marine reserves as experimental tools to better understand marine ecosystems and the effects that humans have on them.

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:

  • Long-term change in sea surface temperature around the New Zealand coast (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)
  • Blooms of benthic dinoflagellates (Ostreopsis) on shallow reefs (in collaboration with Dr Luisa Mangialajo, University of Nice)
  • Investigating long-term changes in marine reserves (Department of Conservation, eCoast Ltd) and on rocky reefs in the Hauraki Gulf (Auckland Council)


Postgraduate supervision

Current students:

  • Caitlin Blain - Drivers of variation in kelp (Ecklonia radiata) forest productivity - PhD Marine Science
  • Oliver Evans - Refining video techniqes for marine reserve monitoring - MSc, Jointly supervised by Dr Richard Taylor
  • Christine Hansen - Resilience and recovery of kelp forests across a sedimentation gradient - PhD Marine Science
  • Jared Kibele – Using satellite imagery to map rocky reef habitats - PhD Marine Science
  • Blake Seers – Predicting the effects of climate change on sedimentation in the coastal environment - PhD Statistics
  • Arie Spyksma - Direct and indirect effects of predators on the behaviour and morphology of sea urchins - PhD Marine Science - Jointly supervised by Dr Richard Taylor

Past students:

  • 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
  • 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

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Bowen, M., Markham, J., Sutton, P., Zhang, X., Wu, Q., Shears, N. T., & Fernandez, D. (2017). Interannual Variability of Sea Surface Temperature in the Southwest Pacific and the Role of Ocean Dynamics. Journal of Climate, 30 (18), 7481-7492. 10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0852.1
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Melissa Bowen
  • Teck, S. J., Lorda, J., Shears, N. T., Bell, T. W., Cornejo-Donoso, J., Caselle, J. E., ... Gaines, S. D. (2017). Disentangling the effects of fishing and environmental forcing on demographic variation in an exploited species. Biological Conservation, 209, 488-498. 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.03.014
  • Bonaviri, C., Graham, M., Gianguzza, P., & Shears, N. T. (2017). Warmer temperatures reduce the influence of an important keystone predator. The Journal of animal ecology, 86 (3), 490-500. 10.1111/1365-2656.12634
  • Spyksma, A. J. P., Taylor, R. B., & Shears, N. T. (2017). Predation cues rather than resource availability promote cryptic behaviour in a habitat-forming sea urchin. Oecologia, 183 (3), 821-829. 10.1007/s00442-017-3809-4
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Richard Taylor
  • Krumhansl, K. A., Okamoto, D. K., Rassweiler, A., Novak, M., Bolton, J. J., Cavanaugh, K. C., ... Ling, S. D. (2016). Global patterns of kelp forest change over the past half-century. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113 (48), 13785-13790. 10.1073/pnas.1606102113
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/32229
  • James, K., & Shears, N. T. (2016). Population ecology of the invasive kelp Undaria pinnatifida towards the upper extreme of its temperature range. Marine Biology, 163 (11).10.1007/s00227-016-2993-9
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/31250
  • Kibele, J., & Shears, N. T. (2016). Nonparametric Empirical Depth Regression for Bathymetric Mapping in Coastal Waters. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing, 9 (11), 5130-5138. 10.1109/JSTARS.2016.2598152
  • Rodgers, K. L., & Shears, N. T. (2016). Modelling kelp forest primary production using in situ photosynthesis, biomass and light measurements. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 553, 67-79. 10.3354/meps11801


Contact details

Primary location

Level G, Room G01
New Zealand

Web links