Dr Darren Michael Parsons

BSc & MSc (University of Auckland), PhD (North Carolina State University)

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Senior Lecturer


Darren completed a BSc and MSc at the University of Auckland where he studied the movements of snapper within the Goat Island Marine Reserve. Darren then completed a PhD at North Carolina State University where he investigated the indirect effects of recreational fishing on spiny lobster. Since 2006 Darren has been at NIWA, where he has worked on a range of fish ecology and inshore fisheries projects. In 2017 Darren was co-appointed through the University of Auckland's Joint Graduate School in Coastal and Marine Science and currently works one day a week at the University.

Research | Current

My research interests centre on fish ecology, and understanding how it is modified by human induced stressors such as fishing, land based effects and climate change. I am particularly interested in fish life-history, movement, behaviour and personality, and how fisheries select and modify these aspects within fish populations. I also have existing projects investigating (i) nursery habitat association in juvenile snapper, and (ii) the effects of ocean acidification on snapper larvae.


Potential graduate student research topics:

Using marine reserves to understand how fishing affects the behaviour and personality of snapper and lobster

This PhD level project will survey the approachability/sheltering behaviour of snapper and lobster across a gradient of exposure to fishing pressure. Other methods that could be employed include disturbance and attraction experiments, tank based quantification of animal personality and acoustic tagging. Acceptance for this project is conditional upon being awarded a University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/study/scholarships-and-awards/scholarship-types/postgraduate-scholarships/doctoral-scholarships.html


Using morphology to understand population structure and life-history variation of New Zealand snapper

Previous research suggests that life history variation and phenotypic plasticity occur amongst snapper within the Hauraki Gulf. We now aim to investigate how snapper population structure and the potential selective forces driving morphological variation vary across New Zealand. This MSc level project will collect snapper from around New Zealand (including from some up coming trawl surveys), and will conduct morphological and diet analysis on these fish.


Can fish otoliths help to understand fish life history mode and how it interacts with fishing pressure?

Fish with different life history modes are likely to also have different growth rates, which can now be revealed by new methods in interpreting the otolith ring increments of individual fish. We will use these new methods to understand how the growth rate (and fine scale population structure) of snapper varies in relation to areas or habitats where we suspect individual fish to have different life history modes. Furthermore, we are also interested in how fishing pressure acts as a selective force on the prevalence of snapper with different life history modes. We can now assess this by comparing the individual growth rates of snapper from fished and unfished (via a collection of otoliths from snapper poached from marine reserves) areas.


Teaching | Current

I currently do not coordinate any courses, but contribute to BIOSCI 328 (Fisheries and Aquaculture) and other courses as requested

Postgraduate supervision

Recent previous graduates:

Tony Pan, MSc candidate (main supervisor Neill Herbert), "Effects of CO2 on the growth performance, respiratory physiology and visual behaviour of key coastal marine fishes"

Kirsty Goode, MSc candidate, "Development of a metabolic bio-indicator of nursery habitat quality for juvenile snapper (Chrysophrys auratus, Sparidae)"

Current students:

Devina Shetty, MSc, "Incidence of microplastics in New Zealand inshore fish species"

Veronica Rotman, MSc, "Physiological effects of microplastics on snapper"

Richa Garg, MSc, "Using fishery data to understand the influence of environmental variables on snapper movement and recruitment"

Laura Drummond, MSc, "How does diet affect snapper movement?"

Shannon McMahon, PhD (James Cook University, Townsville, Australia, main supervisor Philip Munday), "The effects of climate change on predatory reef fishes"

I am currently looking to supervise new graduate students for the topics listed in the research interests section above.

Areas of expertise

Fish ecology, juvenile fish and nursery habitats, snapper, lobster, behavioural ecology, animal personality, ocean acidification, climate change, land based effects, fish tagging, acoustic tags, fish movement, fishery stocks, seagrass, inshore fisheries, recreational fisheries, catch per unit effort (CPUE) 

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.
  • Jarrold, M. D., Welch, M. J., McMahon, S. J., McArley, T., Allan, B. J. M., Watson, S.-A., ... Nicol, S. (2020). Elevated CO2 affects anxiety but not a range of other behaviours in juvenile yellowtail kingfish. Marine environmental research, 15710.1016/j.marenvres.2019.104863
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Neill Herbert
  • Parsons, D. M., Buckthought, D., Edhouse, S., & Lohrer, A. M. (2020). The paradox of the Hauraki Gulf snapper population: Testing the nursery habitat concept. MARINE ECOLOGY-AN EVOLUTIONARY PERSPECTIVE, 41 (2)10.1111/maec.12582
  • McMahon, S. J., Parsons, D. M., Donelson, J. M., Pether, S. M. J., & Munday, P. L. (2020). Elevated CO<inf>2</inf> and heatwave conditions affect the aerobic and swimming performance of juvenile Australasian snapper. Marine Biology, 167 (1).10.1007/s00227-019-3614-1
  • Munday, P. L., Schunter, C., Allan, B. J. M., Nicol, S., Parsons, D. M., Pether, S. M. J., ... Smith, N. (2019). Testing the Adaptive Potential of Yellowtail Kingfish to Ocean Warming and Acidification. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 7, 253-243. 10.3389/fevo.2019.00253
  • Frommel, A. Y., Brauner, C. J., Allan, B. J. M., Nicol, S., Parsons, D. M., Pether, S. M. J., ... Munday, P. L. (2019). Organ health and development in larval kingfish are unaffected by ocean acidification and warming. PeerJ, 710.7717/peerj.8266
  • Lohrer, A. M., McCartain, L. D., Buckthought, D., MacDonald, I., & Parsons, D. M. (2018). Benthic structure and pelagic food sources determine post-settlement snapper (Chrysophrys auratus) abundance. Frontiers in Marine Science, 5 (NOV).10.3389/fmars.2018.00427
  • Parsons, D. M., Cook, D. G., Thompson, A., Ranjard, L., Zarate, E., & Dunphy, B. J. (2018). Discrimination of juvenile snapper ( Chrysophrys auratus ) growth and nutrition via metabolomic GC-MS methods. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 506, 72-81. 10.1016/j.jembe.2018.06.002
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Brendon Dunphy
  • Watson, S.-A., Allan, B. J. M., McQueen, D. E., Nicol, S., Parsons, D. M., Pether, S. M. J., ... Wilson, C. (2018). Ocean warming has a greater effect than acidification on the early life history development and swimming performance of a large circumglobal pelagic fish. Global change biology, 24 (9), 4368-4385. 10.1111/gcb.14290

Contact details

Alternative contact

Cell: 021 170 1724

Office hours

I work part time for the University and my office hours are flexible, but I usually work Fridays on main campus. Meetings can be arranged at alternative times by appointment

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 3, Room 324
New Zealand

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