Dr Anastasija Zaiko

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Senior Lecturer


  • 2017-present Senior Lecturer, University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • 2015-present Marine Scientist, Coastal and Freshwater Group, Cawthron Institute, New Zealand
  • 2014-present Adjunct Senior Researcher, Klaipeda University, Lithuania
  • 2015 writer of Statistical Analysis course, Open Polytechnic, New Zealand
  • 2012-2014 Senior Researcher, Marine Science and Technology Centre, Klaipeda University, Lithuania
  • 2009-2012 Researcher, Coastal Research and Plannin Institute, Klaipeda University, Lithuania
  • 2004-2009 Research Assistant, Coastal Research and Plannin Institute, Klaipeda University, Lithuania

My major areas of expertise in aquatic ecology and marine biosecurity. Over the last 15 years, I participated in a number of large-scale international research projects aimed at assessing the effects of human activities on aquatic ecosystems (freshwater, estuarine and marine) and participated in implementing European Water Framework and Marine Strategy Framework Directives. As a part of a key expert group, I was involved in the development and validation of HELCOM core indicators on biodiversity and non-indigenous species.

I have well-established collaborations with researchers in Australia, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, USA. I have participated in a number of regional and international field expeditions, conducting experimental and observational studies in aquatic ecosystems and employing a range of different surveillance techniques (traditional and molecular).

Research | Current

My current research focuses on different aspects of anthropogenic impacts on aquatic environment, developing and validating molecular tools for environmental and biosecurity surveillance. In Cawthron, I am co-leading an MBIE-funded research programme “A toolbox to underpin and enable tomorrow’s marine biosecurity system”, overseing a research stream aimed at development and assessment of molecular tools for monitoring and surveillance. My other research areas include identifying pressures and state variables of coastal ecosystems for better protectiong and monitoring their health; assessing the marine biosecurity risks associated with shipping vectors; assessing bioinvasion impacts on aquatic biodiversity, ecosystem good and services.

Postgraduate supervision

Areas of interes for postgraduate research:

  • Developing molecular tools for biomonitoring of aquatic ecosystems
  • Investigating shipping-related biosecurity risks
  • Developing methods for surveillance and control of shipping vectors (ballast water and biofouling)
  • Investigating the invasiveness and ecosystem-level impacts of marine non-indigenous species


  • Leader of research subprogram on biological invasions at Marine Science and Technology Center, Klaipeda University, Lithuania (2014-2017)
  • Developer and editor of the "AquaNIS" database (www.corpi.ku.lt/databases/aquanis) (2012-2016)
  • Nomination for the European Foundations Award for Responsible Research & Innovation as a cooperation partner of the project “Environmental DNA and citizen science for exploration, inventory and safeguarding biodiversity” (2016)
  • Member of the Scientific Council, Marine Science and Technology Center, Klaipeda University, Lithuania (2013-2015)
  • Reviewer and Evaluator of Master Theses, EMBC and EMBC+ programs, Ghent University, Belgium (2013-2014)
  • Emerging Scientist Award granted by the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences (2013)
  • Emerging Scientist Award by the World Federation of Scientists, Switzerland (2011)
  • Fast-track Scientist Award received from Klaipeda University, Lithuania (2011)

Areas of expertise

  • Aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem functioning
  • Biodiversity indicators and anthropogenic impact assessment
  • Aquatic biological invasions and biosecurity
  • Molecular tools for biodiversity assessment and biosecurity surveillance

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.
  • Aylagas, E., Borja, A., Pochon, X., Zaiko, A., Keeley, N., Bruce, K., ... Theroux, S. (2020). Translational Molecular Ecology in practice: Linking DNA-based methods to actionable marine environmental management. The Science of the total environment, 74410.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.140780
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Xavier Pochon
  • Darling, J. A., Pochon, X., Abbott, C. L., Inglis, G. J., & Zaiko, A. (2020). The risks of using molecular biodiversity data for incidental detection of species of concern. Diversity and Distributions, 26 (9), 1116-1121. 10.1111/ddi.13108
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Xavier Pochon
  • Clark, D. E., Pilditch, C. A., Pearman, J. K., Ellis, J. I., & Zaiko, A. (2020). Environmental DNA metabarcoding reveals estuarine benthic community response to nutrient enrichment - Evidence from an in-situ experiment. Environmental pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987), 26710.1016/j.envpol.2020.115472
  • Zaiko, A., Wood, S. A., Pochon, X., Biessy, L., Laroche, O., Croot, P., & Garcia-Vazquez, E. (2020). Elucidating Biodiversity Shifts in Ballast Water Tanks during a Cross-Latitudinal Transfer: Complementary Insights from Molecular Analyses. Environmental science & technology, 54 (13), 8443-8454. 10.1021/acs.est.0c01931
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Xavier Pochon
  • Wood, S. A., Biessy, L., Latchford, J. L., Zaiko, A., von Ammon, U., Audrezet, F., ... Pochon, X. (2020). Release and degradation of environmental DNA and RNA in a marine system. The Science of the total environment, 70410.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135314
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Xavier Pochon
  • Zilius, M., Samuiloviene, A., Stanislauskienė R, Broman, E., Bonaglia, S., Meškys R, & Zaiko, A. (2020). Depicting Temporal, Functional, and Phylogenetic Patterns in Estuarine Diazotrophic Communities from Environmental DNA and RNA. Microbial Ecology10.1007/s00248-020-01562-1
  • von Ammon, U., Wood, S. A., Laroche, O., Zaiko, A., Lavery, S. D., Inglis, G. J., & Pochon, X. (2019). Linking Environmental DNA and RNA for Improved Detection of the Marine Invasive Fanworm Sabella spallanzanii. FRONTIERS IN MARINE SCIENCE, 610.3389/fmars.2019.00621
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Shane Lavery, Xavier Pochon
  • Schernewski, G., Friedland, R., Buer, A. L., Dahlke, S., Drews, B., Höft S, ... Zaiko, A. (2019). Ecological-social-economic assessment of zebra-mussel cultivation scenarios for the Oder (Szczecin) Lagoon. Journal of Coastal Conservation, 23 (5), 913-929. 10.1007/s11852-018-0649-2

Contact details

Primary office location

Level G, Room G01
New Zealand