Professor George Perry

BSc(Hons)/MSc (Canterbury), PhD (Melbourne), PGCAP (London)

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I completed undergraduate and Masters studies in the Departments of Geography and Plant and Microbial Sciences at the University of Canterbury, before doing a PhD at the University of Melbourne. I worked in the Department of Geography at King's College London for four years before moving to the School of Environment.

Research | Current

I am interested in the dynamics of forest ecosystems at spatial scales from the population to the landscape and at temporal scales from decades to milennia. All of my research involves a strong field-based component supported by simulation and/or statistical modelling.

My current research is primarily focused on understanding the effects of humans on forest ecosystems.  I am particularly interested in how anthropic changes to disturbance regimes, especially fire, have restructured ecosystems and the legacies and challenges this has left for modern ecosystems. Recently I have begun to consider how forest loss modifies and disrupts plant-animal mutualisms and drives extinction.  In this context I have developed high-resolution chronologies for prehistoric extinction events, including NZ's iconic moa and the cryptic waitaha penguin. Finally, I have worked with graduate students on a variety of topics concerned with understanding how landscape structure influences habitat connectivity, seed dispersal and animal movement. I am an AI on a MBIE-funded project called BeST, which is focused on developing socio-ecological simulation models to support decision-making for ecosystem services in multi-functional landscapes.  In the past I have conducted research in ecosystems in SW Australia, Spain, and New Caledonia.



I have designed an Excel add-in for spatial point pattern analysis (including nearest-neighbour methods, refined nearest neighbour, Ripley's K, the neighbourhood density function, etc.) called SpPack. This software is currently being used by a number of researchers around the world and is described in a paper in Environmental Modelling & Software. This software is freely available on email request.


Teaching | Current

My teaching is focused in the broad area of terrestrial ecology and associated quantitative methods.  My main contributions are in ENVSCI 101 (Environment, Science & Management), GEOG 261 (Climate, Hydrology & Biogeography), GEOG 334 (Environmental Change) and ENVSCI 737 (Applied Terrestrial Ecology).  I also contribute to two courses in the School of Biological Sciences: BIOSCI 396 (Terrestrial Ecology) and BIOSCI 734 (Terrestrial Plant Ecology).

Postgraduate supervision

Current doctoral students

  • Erin Kennedy ‘A spatially-explicit approach to assessing and resolving human-wildlife conflict’ Co-supervised with Dr Todd Dennis (SBS)

  • Alice Baranyovits ‘Seasonal movements of kereru (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) through fragmented landscapes and the implications for seed dispersal’ Co-supervised with Prof Mick Clout and Assoc Prof Jacqueline Beggs (both SBS)

  • Craig Simpkins ‘Interactions between environmental variability and interspecific interactions in determining dispersal success’. Co-supervised with Dr Todd Dennis (SBS). 

  • James Brock 'Ecosystem engineers? The role of tree-ferns (Cyathea) in New Zealand's forest ecosystems'. Co-supervised with Dr Bruce Burns (SBS).

  • Sandra Anderson 'The consequences of unravelling plant-bird mutualisms in NZ ecosystems' Co-supervised with Assoc Prof Janet Wilmshurst (Landcare Research & School of Environment).

  • Alex Boast  'Paleoecology and ancient DNA of the kakapo Strigops habroptilus' Co-supervised with Assoc Prof Janet Wilmshurst (Landcare Research & School of Environment).

  • Bree Powers 'Ecosystem services and land-use and cover change modelling in multi-functional landscapes'.

  • Finn Lee 'How is metacommunity structure and connectivity influenced by network structure in dendritic systems?' Co-supervised with Assoc Prof Kevin Simon (School of Environment).

  • Tristan Webb 'Agent-based models of interactions between humans, vegetation and fire in New Zealand's initial burning period' Co-supervised with Assoc Prof Janet Wilmshurst (Landcare Research & School of Environment).

Recently completed doctoral students

  • Jingjing Zhang (SBS, University of Auckland, 2016) ‘Modelling animal movement in heterogeneous environments: f rom statistical inferential models to individual-based models’. Co-supervised with Dr Todd Dennis (SBS)

  • Narkis Morales (SENV, University of Auckland, 2014) 'The role of post-dispersal regeneration processes in Beilschmiedia tawa forest fragments, Waikato, Northern New Zealand'

  • Tom Etherington (SENV, University of Auckland, 2013) ‘Spatial modelling in support of vertebrate pest management’.

  • Claas Damken (SENV, University of Auckland, 2013) ‘Insects in mountainous landscapes: influence of habitat fragmentation and climate change’.

  • Andrew Pegman (SENV, University of Auckland, 2012) ‘Seed Dispersal and Demographics in Miro and Puriri’ (UoA funded).

  • Xilai Li (SENV, University of Auckland, 2012) ‘Spatial dynamics of Kobresia populations as affected by human disturbance on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau’.


Charles Bullard Fellow, Harvard Forest, 2012

Areas of expertise

Forest ecology, fire ecology, palaeoecology, ecological modelling

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Perry, G. L. W., & O Sullivan, D. (2017). Identifying Narrative Descriptions in Agent-Based Models Representing Past Human-Environment Interactions. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 1-23. 10.1007/s10816-017-9355-x
  • Tepley, A. J., Veblen, T. T., Perry, G. L. W., Stewart, G. H., & Naficy, C. E. (2016). Positive feedbacks to fire-driven deforestation following human colonization of the South Island of New Zealand. Ecosystems, 19 (8), 1325-1344. 10.1007/s10021-016-0008-9
  • Bowman, D. M. J. S., Perry, G. L. W., Higgins, S. I., Johnson, C. N., Fuhlendorf, S. D., & Murphy, B. P. (2016). Pyrodiversity is the coupling of biodiversity and fire regimes in food webs. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 371 (1696).10.1098/rstb.2015.0169
  • Dickson, M., & Perry, G. (2016). Identifying the controls on coastal cliff landslides using machine-learning approaches. Environmental Modelling and Software, 76, 117-127. 10.1016/j.envsoft.2015.10.029
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mark Dickson
  • Etherington, T. R., & Perry, G. L. W. (2016). Visualising continuous intra-landscape isolation with uncertainty using least-cost modelling based catchment areas: common brushtail possums in the Auckland isthmus. International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 30 (1), 36-50. 10.1080/13658816.2014.926365
  • (2016). A quantitative assessment of shoot flammability for 60 tree and shrub species supports rankings based on expert opinion. International Journal of Wildland Fire10.1071/WF15047
  • Perry, G. L. W., Wilmshurst, J. M., Ogden, J., & Enright, N. J. (2015). Exotic mammals and invasive plants alter fire-related thresholds in southern temperate forested landscapes. Ecosystems, 18 (7), 1290-1305. 10.1007/s10021-015-9898-1
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Janet Wilmshurst
  • Bowman, D. M., Perry, G. L., & Marston, J. B. (2015). Feedbacks and landscape-level vegetation dynamics. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 30 (5), 255-260. 10.1016/j.tree.2015.03.005


Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
New Zealand

Web links