Dr Darren Francis Ward

BSc Honours (Otago); MSc (La Trobe); PhD (Auckland)

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Senior Lecturer

Research | Current

Biodiversity, Biosecurity and Conservation

I study the biology of insects, especially Hymenoptera (ants, bees, social and parasitoid wasps)

My main interests are: diversity across different landscapes; invasive species; and taxonomy


Please contact me if you are interested in a research project on Hymenoptera, or other groups of insects.

I work at Landcare Research, but have a joint appointment with the University, and have an office at the University of Auckland Tāmaki Innovation campus (building 733).

There are also volunteer opportunities at the New Zealand Arthropod Collection. Based at Tāmaki, this is the largest collection in NZ, with over 1 million invertebrates. If you are interested in entomology and would like a career in this discipline, then volunteering some of your time can lead into summer scholarships and graduate projects.

Teaching | Current

Terrestrial Ecology 396

Entomology 320

Post-grad Entomology 730

Post-grad Biosecurity & Conservation 747

Postgraduate supervision

Potential Student Projects


Foodwebs on kanuka. Kanuka is a very abundant and common tree around NZ, providing a rich variety of resources for animals. We know very little about the insect biodiversity that lives on/within kanuka, and how insect communities change in different habitats or situations.


Invasive Species/Biosecurity & Biocontrol

Biocontrol. What determines the succes of species released for biocontrol of weeds; how does their biology affect dispersal and establishment?

Establishment of exotic species. What factors affect the intitial establishment and early-stage spread of exotic species? How can these be placed into metapopulation theory.

The impacts of Paper wasps. There are many different invasive species in NZ where we have very little information. Projects can examine impacts, foraging strategies, distribution, and population structure.


Taxonomy & Collections

Searching for patterns: using historical data in natural history collections (e.g. museums, NZ Arthropod Collection). Natural history collections contain a huge amount of largely undocumented data. How can this data be better utilised to help biodiversity, biosecurity and land-use change projects?

The biology of native Austroponera ants: one species or two? Currently there are two species but they are very similar and difficult to tell apart. Are there really two species?, what makes them different. This project will employ molecular and morphological methods, and field studies to better understand these species.

Current Students

Hester Williams (PhD). Drivers of establishment in small populations

Anna Probert (PhD, co-supervisor). Risk frameworks for exotic species in native ecosystems

Julia Schmack (PhD, co-supervisor). Population modelling of Vespula wasps - colonies to landscapes

Rebecca Le Grice (PhD, co-supervisor). Insect communities in seaside wrack (kelp)

Melissa Kirk (MSc, 2017). Establishment and dispersal of exotic ladybirds


Previous Students

Delayn Fritz (MSc, 2017). Invasion filters for invasive ants

Keely Paler (MSc, 2017). Response of alpine insects to climate change

Kiran Horrocks (MSc, 2017, co-supervisor). Drosophila and their parasitoids in New Zealand

Zane McGrath (MSc, 2016). Parasitism rates across landscapes


Tom Saunders (MSc, 2016). Optimising sampling of parasitoid wasps.

  • Saunders TE, Ward DF. 2017. A new species of Lusius (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) from New Zealand. New Zealand Entomologist. In Press. 10.1080/00779962.2017.1357427

Liam Kendall (MSc, 2015). Factors affecting the diversity of parasitoid wasps in native forests.

  • Kendall L, Ward DF. 2016. Habitat determinants of the taxonomic and functional diversity of parasitoid wasps. Biodiversity & Conservation. 25(10), 1955-1972

Emma Edney-Browne (MSc, 2015). Spatial and temporal patterns of invasive invertebrates in NZ

  • Ward DF, Edney-Browne E. 2015. Poles apart: comparing trends of alien Hymenoptera in New Zealand with Europe (DAISIE). Plos One. 10.1371/journal.pone.0132264

Ming Lee (MSc, 2015, co-supervisor). Amblydromalus limonicus: relationship between habitat complexity and cannibalism

Thomas Goodman (MSc, 2012, co-supervisor). Interactions among ant species of the Auckland region, New Zealand

Jarrod Thompson (MSc, 2010, co-supervisor). Coexistence in ant communities invaded by Argentine ants.

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Saunders, T. E., & Ward, D. F. (2017). A new species of Lusius (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) from New Zealand. New Zealand Entomologist, 1-7. 10.1080/00779962.2017.1357427
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Tom Saunders
  • Hodge, S., Ward, D. F., Merfield, C. N., Liu, W. Y. Y., & Gunawardana, D. (2017). Seasonal patterns of drosophilid flies and parasitoid wasps attracted to rotting fruit and vegetable baits in Canterbury, New Zealand. New Zealand Entomologist, 40 (1), 7-15. 10.1080/13235818.2017.1307097
  • Ward, D. F., Anderson, D. P., & Barron, M. C. (2016). Using spatially explicit surveillance models to provide confidence in the eradication of an invasive ant. Scientific reports, 610.1038/srep34953
  • Kendall, L. K., & Ward, D. F. (2016). Habitat determinants of the taxonomic and functional diversity of parasitoid wasps. Biodiversity and Conservation, 25 (10), 1955-1972. 10.1007/s10531-016-1174-y
  • Ward, D. F., Leschen, R. A. B., & Buckley, T. R. (2015). More from ecologists to support natural history museums. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 30 (7), 373-374. 10.1016/j.tree.2015.04.015
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Thomas Buckley
  • Groenteman, R., Forgie, S. A., Hoddle, M. S., Ward, D. F., Goeke, D. F., & Anand, N. (2015). Assessing invasion threats: Novel insect-pathogen-natural enemy associations with native New Zealand plants in southern California. Biological Invasions, 17 (5), 1299-1305. 10.1007/s10530-014-0804-0
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/35279
  • Waite, D., Dsouza, M., Biswas, K., Ward, D. F., Deines, P., & Taylor, M. W. (2015). Microbial community structure in the gut of the New Zealand insect Auckland tree weta (Hemideina thoracica). Archives of Microbiology, 197 (4), 603-612. 10.1007/s00203-015-1094-3
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mike Taylor, Kristi Biswas
  • Ward, D., & Edney-Browne, E. (2015). Poles apart: Comparing trends of alien Hymenoptera in New Zealand with Europe (DAISIE). PLoS ONE, 10 (7)10.1371/journal.pone.0132264
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/35278