Dr James Michael Robert Brock

PhD, MSc (Dist), BSc (Hons)

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Research Fellow


I completed my undergraduate at the University of Wales, Bangor, finishing in 2000, and working on plant ecology, then undertook a Masters degree at Coventry University in 2004. I worked as an ecological consultant on major infrastucture projects for Ove Arup, as well as for Wildlife Trust consultancies before moving to New Zealand to undertake a PhD in forest ecology in 2013.

Research | Current

I am interested in how the composition and structure of vegetation communities are influenced by abiotic and anthropic factors, and have a specific interest in fern ecology. Current areas of research include:

1. Spore ecology - I am currently working on a project to understand two areas of fern spore ecology - dispersal and persistence/tolerance. The aim of the dispersal project is to develop fern spore dispersal kernels to understand how far these propagules will disperse using air currents. I am also looking into the possibility of migratory and sea birds being vectors for ferns around the Pacific, and am examining how tolerant fern spores are to fresh and salt-water immersion, freezing and heating to consider limitations of dispersal. Spore persistence (temporal) is also being established be extracting spores from soil cores.

2. Gametophyte ecology - Our experimental work to date has shown that gametophyte establishment patterns may be driven by priority effects. To establish this in the laboratory and in the field, we are undertaking experimental work with multi-species communities of gametophytes. This work is a collaboration with Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research.

3. Cold-tolerance in sporophytes - Along with Bruce Burns and a PhD candidate in the School of Environment (André Bellvé), I am working on identifying cold-tolerance traits across the New Zealand tree fern flora including Cyathea smithii - the world's most high-latitude tree fern.

4. Tree fern phenology - To provide a context for the spore ecology project, the Burns Unit ecology team at the University of Auckland are establishing the frond and spore phenology of the iconic silver fern, a prominent native understorey species.

5. Tree fern eco-physiology - With colleagues at AUT and the University of Otago, I am working on comparing the physiological niche of both gametophytes and sporophytes of the New Zealand tree fern species.

6. Tree fern epiphytes - Epiphytes on tree ferns contribute significantly to forest composition and several native New Zealand tree species habitually establish epiphytically on tree ferns.

Teaching | Current

BioSci396: Terrestrial Ecology

BioSci206: Principles of Ecology


BSc(Hons) 2.1 Plant Biology; University of Wales, Bangor (2000)

MSc (Dist) Environmental Management; Coventry University (2005)

PhD Biological Sciences; University of Auckland (2018)

Areas of expertise

Tree fern ecology

Forest ecology

Landscape ecology

British plant community ecology

Planning, development and the environment

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Full Member of the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management

Hot Topics editor for New Zealand Ecological Society

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

Contact details

Primary office location

Level 1, Room 1002
New Zealand

Web links