Associate Professor Janet M Wilmshurst

BSc (Hons) (Plymouth); PhD (Canterbury))

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Associate Professor

Research | Current

I am a member of the Joint Graduate School for Biodiversity and Biosecurity and am employed by both Landcare Research and the University of Auckland. My role at the University of Auckland mainly involves supervising post-graduate students and at Landcare Research I lead a palaeoecological team.  My particular research interests are in:

  • reconstructing past diets of the introduced Pacific rat (kiore) through analysis of coprolites.
  • defining the impact of natural (e.g., fire, volcanism, erosion) and human disturbance regimes (e.g., fire, clearance, extinctions and introductions) on the functioning of New Zealand terrestrial ecosystems.
  • defining pre-human ecological states to inform restoration and conservation.
  • reconstructing high-resolution (temporal and spatial) records of human impacts on the flora and fauna of New Zealand to provide a context for understanding current and future rates of change and extinctions.
  • establishing the timing of initial human and commensal arrival in New Zealand and the East Polynesian region.
  • examining the ecosystem services and herbivory of extinct birds and introduced mammals in New Zealand forest ecosystems.
  • Developing Holocene climate proxies: using testate amoebae from peat bogs to reconstruct past precipitation, and surface moisture conditions; and developing transfer functions to reconstruct past temperatures.

My research is based on the analyses of sediments (mainly pollen, charcoal, dung fungi, and plant macrofossils) collected from bogs, swamps, lakes, organic soils and caves, and from coprolites (preserved droppings). I have study sites spanning from islands in the Pacific, right down to the subantarctic Campbell, Auckland and Snares Islands.

I welcome enquiries from students about potential research projects linked to any of the above themes, especially if you want to spend some time working in our new palaeoecology and ancient DNA laboratory at Landcare Research Lincoln where I am based.  


Selected publications (since 2008)

Perry GLW, Wilmshurst JM, Etherington TR, Wainwright J. 2016. Simulating the past: using models to explore human environment interactions. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution Palaeoecology 4, 109.

Wood JR, Perry GLW, Wilmshurst JM. 2016. Using Palaeoecology to determine baseline ecological requirements and interaction networks for de-extinction candidate species. Functional Ecology. Online early 0.1111/1365-2435.12773

McGlone MS, Wilmshurst JM. 2016. Obituary Neville Taylor Moar BSc, MSc, PhD (Cant.), 31 July 1926-1 June 2016. New Zealand Journal of Botany ( ) 520-526

Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM. 2016. Changes in New Zealand forest plant communities following the prehistoric extinction of avian megaherbivores. Journal of Vegetation Science.

Wood JR, Herrera MJB, Scofield RP, Wilmshurst JM. Origin and timing of the earliest domestic chickens in New Zealand: Polynesian commensals or European introductions? Royal Society Open Science 3, 160258.

Wood JM, Crown A, Cole TL, Wilmshurst JM. 2016. Microscopic and ancient DNA profiling of prehistoric dog (kurī) coprolites from northern New Zealand. Journal of Archaeological Science 6, 496-505.

Wood JR, Wilmshurst  JM.  2016. A protocol for subsampling Late Quaternary coprolites for multi-proxy analysis. Quaternary Science Reviews 138, 1-5.

Wood, JR, Wilmshurst JM, Turney CSM, Fogwell, CJ. 2016. Palaeoecological signatures of vegetation change induced by herbivory regime shifts on subantarctic Enderby Island Quaternary Science Reviews 134, 51-58.

Turney CSM, McGlone, MS, Palmer, J, Fogwill C, Hogg A, Thomas Z, Lipson M, Wilmshurst JM, Fenwick P, Jones R, Hines B, Clark G.  2016. Intensification of Southern Hemisphere westerly winds 2000-1000 Years Ago: Evidence from the Subantarctic Campbell and Auckland Islands (52-50˚S). Journal of Quaternary Science 31 (1), 12-19. DOI: 10.1002/jqs.2828.


Turney CSM, Palmer, J, Hogg A, Fogwill C, Jones R, Bronk Ramsey C, Fenwick, P, Grierson P, Wilmshurst JM, O’Donnell A, Thomas Z, Lipson M. 2016. Multidecadal variations in Southern Hemisphere atmospheric 14C: Evidence against a Southern Ocean sink at the end of the Little Ice Age CO2 anomaly. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 30: 2211–218. DOI: 10.1002/2015GB005257.

Jara IA, Newnham RM, Vandergoes M, Foster C, Lowe D, Wilmshurst JM, Moreno PI, Renwick JA, Homes A. 2015. Pollen-climate reconstruction from northern South Island, New Zealand (41°S), reveals high- and low-latitude teleconnections over the last 16,000 years. Journal of Quaternary Science 30 (8):817-829

Perry GLW, Wilmshurst JM, Ogden J, Enright, N. 2015. Exotic mammals and invasive plants alter fire-related thresholds in southern temperate forested landscapes.  Ecosystems 18 (7), 1290-1305. DOI: 10.1007/s10021-015-9898-1.

Richardson SJ, Laughlin DC, Lawes MJ, Holdaway RJ, Wilmshurst JM, Wright M, Curran TJ, Bellingham PJ, McGlone MS. 2015. Functional and environmental determinants of bark thickness in fire-free temperate rain forest communities. American Journal of Botany. 102 (10) 1590-1598.

Lyver, P OB’, Wilmshurst JM, Wood JR, Bellingham PJ, Jones CJ, Towns DR, Stone C, Moller H. 2015. Looking back for the future: local knowledge and palaeoecology inform biocultural restoration of coastal ecosystems in New Zealand. Human Ecology 43, 681-695. DOI 10.1007/s10745-015-9784-7

Rogers GND, Bonner KI, Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM 2015. The rail-cutter: a simple, cheap and compact system for opening sediment cores in the lab and field. Journal of Paleolimnology 53 (4) 433-436. DOI 10.1007/s10933-015-9830-x

Richardson SJ, Clayton R, Rance RD, Broadbent H, McGlone MS, Wilmshurst JM. 2015. Small wetlands are critical for safeguarding threatened plant species Applied Vegetation Science 18 (2) 230-241.  DOI: 10.1111/avsc.12144

Whitlock C, McWethy DB, Tepley AJ, Veblen TT, Holz A, McGlone MS, Perry GLW, Wilmshurst JM, Wood SW. 2015. Past and present vulnerability of closed-canopy temperate forests to altered fire regimes: a comparison of the Pacific Northwest, New Zealand, and Patagonia. Bioscience 65 (2) 151-163. 10.1093/biosci/biu194.

Wilmshurst JM, McGlone MS, Turney MSM, 2015. Long-term ecology resolves the timing, region of origin, and process of establishment for a disputed alien tree. Annals of Botany Plants. 7: plv104.

Wood JR, Dickie IA, Moeller HV, Peltzer DA, Bonner KI, Rattray G, and Wilmshurst JM. 2015. Novel interactions between non-native mammals and fungi facilitate establishment of invasive pines. Journal of Ecology. 103 (1) 121–129. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12345

Wilmshurst JM, Moar NT, Wood JR, Bellingham PJ, Findlater AM, Robinson JJ, Stone C. 2014. Pollen and ancient DNA provide conservation baselines for offshore islands in New Zealand. Conservation Biology 28 (1): 202-212.

Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM. 2014 Late Quaternary terrestrial vertebrate coprolites from New Zealand. Quaternary Science Reviews. 98 1-12.

Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM, Richardson SJ, Rawlence NJ, Wagstaff SJ, Worthy TH, Cooper A. 2013. Extinct herbivore community structure resolved by analysis of coprolites from four sympatric New Zealand moa species (Aves: Dinornithiformes). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110 (42), 16910-16915.

Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM. 2013. Accumulation rates or percentages? How to quantify Sporormiella and other coprophilous fungal spores to detect late Quaternary megafaunal extinction events. Quaternary Science Reviews 77, 1-3.

McWethy, DB, Higuera, PE, Whitlock, C, Veblen, TT, Bowman, D, Cary, GJ, Haberle, SG, Keane, RE, Maxwell, BD,  McGlone, MS, Perry, GLW, Wilmshurst, JM, Holz A, Tepley AJ. 2013. A conceptual framework for predicting temperate ecosystem sensitivity to human-impacts on fire regimes. Global Ecology and Biogeography 22 (8) 900–912.

Newnham R, McGlone M, Moar N, Wilmshurst JM, Vandergoes M. 2013. The vegetation cover of New Zealand at the last glacial maximum. Quaternary Science Reviews 74, 202-214.

Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM, Worthy TH, Holzapfel, Cooper A. 2012. A Lost Link between a Flightless Parrot and a Parasitic Plant and the Potential Role of Coprolites in Conservation Paleobiology. Conservation Biology 26 (6) 1091-1099.

Perry, G, Wilmshurst, J.M., McGlone, M.S. Napier, A. 2012. Reconstructing spatial vulnerability to forest loss by fire in prehistoric New Zealand. Global Ecology and Biogeography (21) 1029 -1041.

Perry, G, Wilmshurst, J.M., McGlone, M.S., McWethy, D. Whitlock, C. 2012. Explaining fire-driven landscape transformation during the Initial Burning Period of New Zealand’s prehistory. Global Change Biology 18 (5) 1609-1621.

Rieth, T, Hunt, TL, Lipo, C, Wilmshurst J.M. 2011. The thirteenth century Polynesian colonisation of Hawai'i Island. Journal of Archaeological Science (38) 2740-2749.

Wilmshurst, JM, Hunt T, Lipo C. Anderson A.  2011. Reply to Mulrooney et al: Accepting lower precision radiocarbon dates results in longer colonization chronologies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 108 (23) E195.

Moar NT, Wilmshurst JM, McGlone MS. 2011. Standardising names applied to pollen and spores in Quaternary New Zealand palynology. New Zealand Journal of Botany 49 (2) 201-229.

Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM, Cooper A, Worthy TH. 2011. Sporormiella as a proxy for non-mammalian herbivores in island ecosystems. Quaternary Science Reviews (30) 915-925. DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.01.007.

Wilmshurst JM, Hunt T, Lipo C, Anderson A.  2011. High precision radiocarbon dating shows recent and rapid initial human colonization of East Polynesia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 108 (5) 1815-1820.

McWethy D.B., Whitlock C, Wilmshurst JM, McGlone MS, Fromont M, Li X, Dieffenbacher-Krall A, Hobbs WO, Fritz S, Cook ER. 2010. Rapid landscape transformation in South Island, New Zealand following initial Polynesian settlement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107 (50) 21343-21348.

McGlone MS, Turney CSM, Wilmshurst JM, Renwick R, Pahnke, K. 2010. Divergent trends in land and ocean temperature in the Southern Ocean over the past 18,000 years. Nature Geoscience 3(9):622-626.

Forsyth, DM, Wilmshurst JM, Allen RB and Coomes DA. (2010) Impacts of introduced deer and extinct moa on New Zealand ecosystems. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 34 (1): 48–65.

Prebble M, Wilmshurst JM. (2009). Detecting the initial impact of humans and introduced species on island environments in Remote Oceania using palaeoecology.  Biological Invasions 11:1529-1556. 

Wilmshurst JM, Anderson AJ, Higham TFG, Worthy TH. 2008. Dating the late prehistoric dispersal of Polynesians to New Zealand using the commensal Pacific rat. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 105 (22) 7676–7680. 


Postgraduate supervision

PhD - Alex Boast on the Palaeoecology of Kakapo



  • 'Award for Outstanding Publication on New Zealand Ecology' from New Zealand Ecological Society (2016) 
  • Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand (2015)
  • 'Te Tohu Taio Award for Ecological Excellence' from the New Zealand Ecological Society (2013)

Areas of expertise

palaeoecology; human impacts; extinctions; fire history; environmental change; vegetation change; subantarctic islands; pollen and charcoal analyses; sediment analyses (bogs, lakes, caves, coprolites).

Committees/Professional groups/Services

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.
  • Wilmshurst, J. M., Moar, N. T., Wood, J. R., Bellingham, P. J., Findlater, A. M., Robinson, J. J., & Stone, C. (2014). Use of pollen and ancient DNA as conservation baselines for offshore islands in New Zealand. Conservation Biology, 28 (1), 202-212. 10.1111/cobi.12150


Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 301 - Bldg 301
Level 7, Room 733
New Zealand

Social links

Web links