The Dame Charmian O'Connor Faculty of Science - Leading creativity and innovation in the sciences

Testimonials from past Ecology students

Stephanie Behrens, National Manager of the New Zealand Branch of the Zoo & Aquarium Association


Stephanie is based at the Auckland Zoo. Her primary focus is managing breeding programmes for advocacy and/or recovery of New Zealand’s unique native fauna. Stephanie holds an MSc in Biology, First Class Honours and a Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental Management, awarded with Distinction.

During her studies at the University of Auckland Stephanie modelled the habitat preferences of the 15 metre long Bryde’s whales that inhabit Auckland’s waters. It was the hope of her research to reduce the number of whales accidentally killed by ships coming into port by better understanding their distribution. Stephanie says “this to me is ecology – both scientific discovery and a real contribution to better management of our natural resources. I can’t think of a better day at the office!”

Justin Smith, Senior Biosecurity Technician at MAF


“Undergraduate course in Ecology was a rich and learning environment which was made even more enjoyable with other like minded lecturers and students. The degree has given me a solid foundation in science with a diverse range of topics and the flexible course structure has kept my career options open.

"My Masters in ecology has given me the freedom to design and conduct research on a topic I was passionate about. It's given me a broad range of experiences from laboratory skills to collaborating with colleagues. Most excitingly is that I could get outside and conduct fieldwork on a desert island. Ecology wasn't just a degree. It was an adventure.

"For the past year I have been working in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Plant Health and Environment Laboratory. I originally started a contract in bee surveillance programme, testing honey bees for presence of mite and other pest biosecurity threats. In subsequent contracts I moved on to working on a project to build and develop border security in the Pacific that is part of the New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID). My day-to-day work entails a range of activities including insect curation, publication research, scientific imaging, development of diagnostic manuals and contributing and administrating an online image library."

Kristina Hillock, Technical Support Officer (Marine) at the Department of Conservation


At the University of Auckland Kristina studied ecology, biology and marine sciences, and her MSc project was on the ecology of marine invasive species. After graduating, she worked for an environmental consulting company and now works for the Department of Conservation.

“My undergraduate and graduate studies in marine ecology helped prepare me for my job in a number of ways, such as learning about marine systems and ecological interactions, as well as how to think critically, and the value of brainstorming.

"Working as a marine ecologist for DOC I have the opportunity to be involved in a great variety of marine projects, such as marine mammal management and marine reserve monitoring. I have the opportunity to work with, seek advice from, and share ideas with other marine professionals who are passionate about their work."

Josie Galbraith, PhD student


"I have always been fascinated by the natural world – by things that crawl, fly and walk, and how they interact with their environment. It is this curiosity and passion that has shaped my broad research interests in the field of ecology and encouraged my decision to continue into post-graduate studies in Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland.

"The undergraduate courses in Ecology at Auckland cultivated my curiosity, and have equipped me with a sound knowledge of ecological theory and a broad set of practical skills from numerous (and extremely fun!) trips into the field. I have recently completed an MSc in Biosecurity, studying the ecology and impact of an introduced parrot, the eastern rosella (Platycercus eximius), focusing specifically on competition with native species for cavity nest sites, the capacity for rosella to act as reservoirs of disease, and factors affecting rosella detection during surveys. This research has also provided the opportunity to refine my scientific writing skills, and share my research with the wider community through public talks. Together these skills are a strong foundation for my future research endeavours.

"I am currently beginning a PhD at the University of Auckland, which will look at the effects of anthropogenic feeding of wild birds in urban environments. The project will be the first comprehensive look at the practise of bird feeding in New Zealand, and should keep me busy for the next three years."

Aidan O’Donnell, Research Assistant, University of Edinburgh


"While studying for a BSc at the University of Auckland it was apparent that I was being taught science with ‘real world’ applications. Many of my lecturers were conducting research that was highly regarded in their field and hearing about their work inspired me to stay and complete an MSc in Ecology."

"The connections I developed during my undergraduate degree helped me get my first job working for the New Zealand Arthropod Collection, and my skills and field experience gained at university were essential in obtaining various contracts as an Ecologist and then eventually a research technician position in Mycology with Landcare Research."

"I’ve since moved to Scotland and discovered that my degrees from the University of Auckland were highly regarded overseas. I currently work as a research assistant at the University of Edinburgh where I am conducting my own research investigating the biological rhythm of malaria parasites as well as assisting in research investigating the evolutionary ecology of the parasite."