Dr Xavier Pochon

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Associate Professor


Trained as a marine phylogeneticist, my Ph.D. thesis investigated co-evolutionary traits and ecological adaptation of a group of large tropical foraminifera (soritids) and their symbiotic dinoflagellates (zooxanthellae; genus Symbiodinium). Over the last 15 years, I took part in various research projects in the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific regions,  looking at the diversity and ecological adaptation of host communities (foraminifera and corals) from shallow to mesophotic reef environments. My postdoctoral research at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology included the design of novel genetic markers and tools able to specifically detect free-living Symbiodinium from environmental DNA (eDNA).

Capitalising on this previous experience, my current research at the Cawthron Institute (Nelson, New Zealand) focuses on developing multi-species detection tools using high-throughput eDNA sequencing to identify the taxa present in various marine ecosystems.


Research | Current

My research at the Cawthron Institute is highly applied to marine industries and focuses on the developement of metabarcoding tools for bio-monitoring diversity changes around operation sites (e.g., aquaculture farms, deep-sea mining, and biosecurity in NZ marinas and ports). I particularly enjoy interacting with regulators and industry partners to find better ways of protecting our marine environment.

At the University of Auckland, I combine 'real-world' and 'blue-sky' research applications. The 'blue-sky' projects are varied and include; i) Developing molecular-based indices for measuring benthic impacts of fish farming, ii) metabarcoding Symbiodinium dinoflagellates in tropical forams, corals and giant clams, iii) characterizing the functional role of microbiomes in aquaculture settings (e.g. oysters, salmon), iv) applying paleogenomics analyses to study biodiversity change across 10% of New Zealand lakes, v) promoting field-deployable molecular diagnostics tools for citizen-based marine biosecurity surveillance, vi) studying associations between marine plastic debris and invasive species, and vii) unvealing the diversity and dynamics of open-ocean plankton communities in the South West Pacific.

Postgraduate supervision

Postgraduate research opportunities

  • Developing multi-trophic metabarcoding tools for environmental monitoring of marine industries
  • Investigating the functional underpinnings of symbiotic dinoflagellate communities in tropical soritid foraminifera, corals and giant clams
  • Marine plastic debris as vectors of spread for neo-pelagic invasive species (www.microplasticsaotearoa-sci.nz
  • Unravelling the eDNA secrets of 10% (380) of NZ lakes (www.lakes380.com)
  • Marine biosecurity surveillance and citizen science (https://www.biosecurity-toolbox.org.nz).  
  • Exploring the diversity and dynamics of open-ocean plankton communities in the South-West Pacific (www.planktonplanet.org)


2022 Publications:

Pearman, J., et al. 2022. A bacterial index to estimate lake trophic level: national scale validation 
Journal. Science of the Total Environment, 812:152385. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.152385

2021 Publications:

Barrick A, Laroche O, Boundy M, Pearman JK, Wiles T, Butler J, Pochon X, Smith KF, Tremblay LA. First transcriptome of the copepod Gladioferens pectinatus subjected to chronic contaminant exposures. Aquatic Toxicology, 243: 106069. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2021.106069

Pawlowski, J., et al. 2021. Environmental DNA metabarcoding for benthic monitoring: A review of sediment sampling and DNA extraction methods. Science of The Total Environment, in press. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.151783

Zaiko, A., Greenfield, P., Abbott, C., von Ammon, U., Bilewitch, J., Bunce, M., ... & Pochon, X. 2021. Towards reproducible metabarcoding data‐lessons from an international cross‐laboratory experiment. Molecular Ecology Resources, in press. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/1755-0998.13485

Thomson-Laing G, Parai R, Kelly LT, Pochon X, Newnham R, Vandergoes MJ, Howarth JD, Wood SA. 2021. Development of droplet digital Polymerase Chain Reaction assays for the detection of long-finned (Anguilla dieffenbachii) and short-finned (Anguilla australis) eels in environmental samples. PeerJ 9:e12157 http://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.12157 

Vignier, J., Laroche, O., Rolton, A., Wadsworth, P., Kumanan, K., Trochel, B., Pochon, X. and King, N., Dietary exposure of Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) larvae to compromised microalgae results in impaired fitness and microbiome shift. Frontiers in Microbiology, 12: 706214. doi: https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2021.706214 

Brasell, K.A., Howarth, J., Pearman, J.K., Fitzsimons, S.J., Zaiko, A., Pochon, X., Vandergoes, M.J., Simon, K. and Wood, S.A., 2021. Lake microbial communities are not resistant or resilient to repeated large‐scale natural pulse disturbances. Molecular Ecology, in press. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.16110

Laroche, O., Pochon, X., Wood, S.A. and Keeley, N., 2021. Beyond taxonomy: Validating functional inference approaches in the context of fish‐farm impact assessments. Molecular Ecology Resources, in press. doi: 10.1111/1755-0998.13426

Frühe, L., Dully, V., Forster, D., Keeley, N. B., Laroche, O., Pochon, X., . . . Stoeck, T. (2021). Global Trends of Benthic Bacterial Diversity and Community Composition Along Organic Enrichment Gradients of Salmon Farms.. Frontiers in microbiology, 12, 637811. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2021.637811

Keeley, N., Laroche, O., Birch, M., & Pochon, X. (2021). A Substrate-Independent Benthic Sampler (SIBS) for Hard and Mixed-Bottom Marine Habitats: A Proof-of-Concept Study. Frontiers in Marine Science, 8, 627687. doi:10.3389/fmars.2021.627687

Bowers, H. A., Pochon, X., von Ammon, U., Gemmell, N., Stanton, J. -A. L., Jeunen, G. -J., . . . Zaiko, A. (2021). Towards the Optimization of eDNA/eRNA Sampling Technologies for Marine Biosecurity Surveillance. Water, 13(8), 1113. doi:10.3390/w13081113

Steiner, K., Heasman, K., Laroche, O., Pochon, X., Preece, M., Bowman, J. P., . . . Symonds, J. E. (2021). The microbiome of Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in a recirculation aquaculture system. Aquaculture, 534, 736227. doi:10.1016/j.aquaculture.2020.736227

Pochon, X., & LaJeunesse, T. C. (2021). Miliolidium n. gen, a New Symbiodiniacean Genus Whose Members Associate with Soritid Foraminifera or Are Free-Living.. The Journal of eukaryotic microbiology, e12856. doi:10.1111/jeu.12856

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: Anastasija Zaiko
  • 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: Anastasija Zaiko
  • Hédouin L, Rouzé H, Berthe, C., Perez-Rosales, G., Martinez, E., Chancerelle, Y., ... Pochon, X. (2020). Contrasting patterns of mortality in Polynesian coral reefs following the third global coral bleaching event in 2016. Coral Reefs, 39 (4), 939-952. 10.1007/s00338-020-01914-w
  • 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: Anastasija Zaiko
  • Guibert, I., Bourdreux, F., Bonnard, I., Pochon, X., Dubousquet, V., Raharivelomanana, P., ... Lecellier, G. (2020). Dimethylsulfoniopropionate concentration in coral reef invertebrates varies according to species assemblages. Scientific reports, 10 (1)10.1038/s41598-020-66290-5
  • Borja, A., Andersen, J. H., Arvanitidis, C. D., Basset, A., Buhl-Mortensen, L., Carvalho, S., ... Grenz, C. (2020). Past and Future Grand Challenges in Marine Ecosystem Ecology. Frontiers in Marine Science, 7.10.3389/fmars.2020.00362
  • Pearman, J. K., Biessy, L., Thomson-Laing, G., Waters, S., Vandergoes, M. J., Howarth, J. D., ... Wood, S. A. (2020). Local factors drive bacterial and microeukaryotic community composition in lake surface sediment collected across an altitudinal gradient. FEMS microbiology ecology, 96 (6).10.1093/femsec/fiaa070
  • Guibert, I., Lecellier, G., Torda, G., Pochon, X., & Berteaux-Lecellier, V. (2020). Metabarcoding reveals distinct microbiotypes in the giant clam Tridacna maxima. Microbiome, 8 (1)10.1186/s40168-020-00835-8

Contact details

Alternative contact

Phone +64 3 548 2319 ext 285

Email xavier.pochon@cawthron.org.nz

Primary office location

Level G, Room G01
New Zealand