Joint Graduate School in Biodiversity and Biosecurity

Meet our students and alumni

Find out why these students chose Auckland for their postgraduate study, learn about their research interests and how they find studying at the Joint Graduate School.

You can find a list of our current and past students by visiting Our students.


Saronna Auina - Masters in Biosecurity student


"Living and learning in New Zealand’s biggest city is an advantage to me because Auckland provides an excellent base for biosecurity research as the main point of entry for cargo and people."

"The lecturers and supervisers are really great to work with. They are not only supportive and encouraging but they are easy to approach."

Josie Galbraith - PhD in Biosecurity 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.

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, along with post-graduate classes, has equipped me with a sound knowledge of ecological theory and a broad set of practical field skills. It 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 research endeavours, particularly my current PhD research on the impact of supplementary feeding on the success of introduced bird species.

Justin Smith, Senior Biosecurity Technician at MAF


"My masters thesis on pollination by New Zealand geckos gave 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. Studying Ecology with a focus on biodiversity 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."

Dr James Russell, Lecturer, University of Auckland


As a New Zealander I am passionate about conserving our native biodiversity, and at the University of Auckland I was able to match this passion with a rigorous scientific training allowing me to apply robust analytical methods to conservation. After graduating with my PhD in 2007 I was able to travel the world exporting New Zealand’s pioneering conservation biology practices, to help other places in the world.

By combining my scientific training with an overseas experience I was able to work in some of the most remote corners of the planet including Madagascar and the Western Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, French Polynesia in the Pacific, and more recently the subantarctic islands of the Southern Ocean and Faroe Islands of the North Atlantic. I have now returned to the University of Auckland where I am able to teach other graduate students the most current skills in island conservation which they too can take to the world, or back to their home countries.

Dr Darren Ward, Ecologist and taxonomist, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research


I completed my PhD in 2007 on “Invasive ants in the Pacific region”, with a focus on Fiji. The research had an academic perspective (competitive interactions, community assembly) and practical biosecurity applications (distribution modelling and dispersal of invasive species, taxonomic checklists). It was also a good excuse for field work in the tropics, but hard on shoes - as you can see.

Since then I have been employed at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research as an ecologist and a taxonomist in the New Zealand Arthropod Collection (NZAC). At present I am working on the spread and distribution of Argentine ants; online keys for Ichneumonidae, and the taxonomy of native parasitoid wasps.

Nick Goldwater, Ecologist, Wildland Consultants Ltd

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I returned to university in 2005 to study ecology as a somewhat mature student, after spending several years working in the advertising industry. In 2007, I completed my Masters research on the ecology of feral house mice at Tawharanui Open Sanctuary. My research gave me a very good grounding in vertebrate ecology, field techniques, and data analysis. During my three years at university I was also able to hone my botanical skills.

I was fortunate to get a job at Wildland Ecological Consultancy prior to handing in my thesis. My role has given me the opportunity to visit some fascinating parts of the country, and my knowledge of New Zealand’s special fauna and flora continues to grow. The job is intellectually (and occasionally physically) challenging, and comprises a good balance between the office and the field: one day I’ll be writing up an ecological assessment; the next day I’ll be wading in a stream netting fish and invertebrates or tramping in the far flung reaches of the Pureora Forest. I also get to fly in helicopters, which is pretty cool.