Professor Max Suckling
BSc Honours (Massey University); Dip Biotech (Massey University); PhD (Lincoln/Canterbury)
1979 BSc. (Hons.) 1st Class, Zoology, Massey University
1981 Dip. Technology, Biotechnology, Distinction, Massey University
1984 PhD, Entomology, University of Canterbury, Lincoln College
2001 New Zealand Institute of Directors, Certificate in Company Direction
1983–present Scientist – Principal Scientist, (DSIR, HortResearch, Plant & Food Research)
2004–present Science Group Leader, Biosecurity, Plant & Food Research
2003–04 Commercial Leader, Sustainable Production & Biosecurity, HortResearch
1998–2002 Portfolio Manager, Pipfruit Sustainable Production/Biosecurity, HortResearch
1991–2012 Programme Leader, Sustainable IPM for NZ Horticulture
2003-2011 Member, Environmental Risk Management Authority of New Zealand
2008–11 Deputy Chair, Environmental Risk Management Authority of New Zealand
2003 Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand
2017 New Zealand plant Protection Medal
Research | Current
Biosecurity and Conservation - Listening to the Conversations of Nature
I study the biology and behavior of a wide range of pest and beneficial organisms, with a strong Chemical Ecology and Biosecurity focus. By listening to the conversations of nature, we can sometimes gain control of insects in novel ways with minimal non-target impacts. We can also gain new knowledge of the world around us. My interests include chemical ecology in diverse ecosystems, invasive species including social insects like wasps and ants, pheromone identification and development for pest suppression, and pollination and honeybee learning, chemically-mediated mechanisms underpinning biological control, and combinations of tactics with the sterile insect technique. My research group based at the science park at Lincoln near Christchurch has a wide range of funding sources and projects running internationally and nationally with many visitors. The vibrancy of the Biosecurity Group in the rural setting of Lincoln offers students a chance to gain a full range of academic and non-academic skills, spanning basic to applied and mission-orientated questions, in a highly social and supportive science working but park-like environment with picnic tables. The groups equipment includes a 2m laminar wind tunnel with tracking system for flying insects (90 fps), electrophysiology suites for insect and portunid crab olfactory receptor neuron and brain recording, honey bee proboscis extension reflex and many other behavioural assays with web cams and machine vision, camera traps, motion sensors for insects, pheromone and semiochemical formulation, a full discovery chemistry laboratory with GCMS and coupled GC-electrophysiology apparatus (2), glasshouses, field laboratories and temperature control units, wasps nests and honeybees >10 hives, diverse field sites, containment facilities and field use of semiochemicals. Discussions with my group - scientists including Dr Ashraf El-Sayed (www.pherobase.com), Dr Kye Chung Park (electrophysiology) and Dr Flore Mas (pollination) can add valuably to shape student projects.
Teaching | Current
BIOSCI 730 Seminars and assignments
BIOSCI 320 Biosecurity lectures
Current doctoral students
- Lloyd Stringer (Scientist, Biosecurity Group, PFR, Lincoln) (co-S with A/Prof J Beggs and Dr J Kean, AgResearch)
Current masterate students
- 2015-2017 Andrew Twidle (Research Associate, Biosecurity Group, PFR, Lincoln) with School of Chemical Sciences (A/Prof D Barker and B Frederizzi) Kiwifruit floral volatiles
- 2017 - Kiran Horrocks (Biotic resistance to exotic insect pests)(CoS Dr Darren Ward, LCR)
- 2017 - Georgia Paterson (coS with Prof George Perry (SES) and Dr Jim Walker, PFR) Imported sterile codling moths from Canada can help New Zealand's innovative apple industry in Hawke’s Bay get even greener, in a high tech knowledge intensive approach at landscape scale. Can codling moth be eradicated from peri-urban Hawkes Bay ?
- 2018 - Stephanie Morton, Pollination
- 2018/9 - Open for discussion
Previous PhD supervision and MSc supervision
- Robert Brown (UoA, with J Beggs and AM El-Sayed, awarded PhD)
- Fabian Westermann (Victoria University, with Phil Lester, awarded PhD)
- Davide Santoro ((Victoria University, with Phil Lester and Stephen Hartley, awarded PhD)
- Chris Russell (UoA, with Dr Flore Mas (PFR, Lincoln), awarded MSc)
- National Science Challenge project on wasps (co-S with Ashraf El-Sayed and A/Prof J Beggs) under the National Science Challenge on New Zealand’s Biological Heritage, this project will aim to continue to make and exploit discoveries on wasp chemical ecology for their selective suppression in native beech forests. The MSc project is based at Lincoln, near Christchurch and links to several other National Science Challenge wasp projects. Pre-requisite is PGDip Sci papers in entomology/biosecurity and acceptance at UoA (stipend and fees then paid)
New Zealand 1990 Commemorative Medal for Excellence in Science (Sesquicentenary Medal honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi).
- TEDx Talks Christchurch 2015 “Food Security and Biointegrity without Pesticides”
- Recipient of a MoRST Future Directors Award
- Member, International Atomic Energy Agency working group (2006--2020)
- MBIE assessor and lead assessor (2014-)
New Zealand Plant Protection Medal 2017; Chairman’s Award for Excellence 2013; OECD Fellowship (2011-12); Rod Bieleski Address (2008, NZIAHS); OECD Fellowship (2006); HortResearch Chairman’s Award for Excellence (2003); ISAT Award (2002); MORST Institute of Directors Award (2000); Trimble Award (1999); Int. Plant Protection Congress Travel Award (1999); British Crop Protection Council Senior Travel Bursary (1998); C. Alma Baker Fellowship (with Judy Pell, Rothamsted, 1998); Lincoln University Foundation Award (1996); Italian Fruitgrowers Award (1995); Swedish Travel Award (1994); C. Alma Baker Trust Award 1990; International Resistance Action Committee Travel Award (1987); Turners and Growers Award (1985, 1986, 1987); University Grants Committee Post‑Graduate Scholarship 1980; Mauri Bros. & Thomson Award for Higher Studies in Technology 1979; Mauri Bros. & Thomson Scholar 1979; People's National Bank of New Jersey Award 1974.
Science Group Leader and Principal Scientist, The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Ltd.
Professor, University of Auckland
Project Leader, FAO Joint Division/International Atomic Energy Agency (Vienna)
Project Leader, Queensland Fruit Fly SITplus (Sydney)
Eradication and Response for Better Border Biosecurity (www.b3nz.org)
Areas of expertise
Biosecurity and Pest Management using Chemical Ecology
I am interested in the biology and behavior of a very wide range of pest and beneficial insects, with a strong Chemical Ecology and Biosecurity focus.
My main interests are chemical ecology of insects and plants in diverse productive and natural ecosystems, invasive species including social insects like wasps and ants, pheromone identification and development for pest eradication and management to replace insecticides, and honeybee learning for improved pollination and biosecurity. My group is based at Lincoln and often has PhD or MSc students from international universities visiting, to get specialist experience in insect electrophysiology, pheromone identification or other topics. Several years ago we took the opportunity of a successful Marsden grant to move into pollination of carnivorous and other unusual plants by native insects, and we have expanded this into work with honeybees to improve pollination of horticultural and valuable arable seed crops. We have had one PhD student complete the degree through UoA based at Lincoln, and we look forward to hosting more.
Special Member, Environmental Protection Authority considerations to import Tamarixia tryoni and Macrolophus pygmaeus for release (2014 and 2016), with nine years regulatory experience on hazardous substances and new organisms including biological control agents for weeds and arthropod pests.
Joint Division Fao/International Atomic Energy Agency Working Group on the Sterile Insect Technique in Lepidotera (consultant, international reviewer, Working Group leader); Lecturer in regional course (2017)
Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)
- Twidle, A. M., Barker, D., Seal, A. G., Fedrizzi, B., & Suckling, D. M. (2018). Identification of Floral Volatiles and Pollinator Responses in Kiwifruit Cultivars, Actinidia chinensis var. chinensis. Journal of chemical ecology10.1007/s10886-018-0936-2
Other University of Auckland co-authors: David Barker, Andrew Twidle, Bruno Fedrizzi
- Mas, F., Harper, A., Horner, R., Welsh, T., Jaksons, P., & Suckling, D. M. (2018). The importance of key floral bioactive compounds to honey bees for the detection and attraction of hybrid vegetable crops and increased seed yield. J Sci Food Agric10.1002/jsfa.8967
- Welsh, T. J., Stringer, L. D., Caldwell, R., Carpenter, J. E., & Suckling, D. M. (2017). Irradiation biology of male brown marmorated stink bugs: is there scope for the sterile insect technique?. International journal of radiation biology, 1-7. 10.1080/09553002.2017.1388547
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Lloyd Stringer
- Twidle, A. M., Suckling, D. M., Seal, A. G., Fedrizzi, B., Pilkington, L. I., & Barker, D. (2017). Identification of in situ flower volatiles from kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis var. deliciosa) cultivars and their male pollenisers in a New Zealand orchard. Phytochemistry, 141, 61-69. 10.1016/j.phytochem.2017.05.011
Other University of Auckland co-authors: David Barker, Andrew Twidle, Bruno Fedrizzi, Lisa Pilkington
- Stringer, L., Corn, J., Roh, H., Jiménez-Pérez A, Manning, L., Harper, A., & Suckling, D. (2017). Thigmotaxis mediates trail odour disruption. Scientific Reports, 7.10.1038/s41598-017-01958-z
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Lloyd Stringer
- Suckling, D. M., & El-Sayed, A. M. (2017). Caterpillar-induced plant volatiles attract adult tortricidae. Journal of Chemical Ecology10.1007/s10886-017-0847-7
- Harper, A. R., Rikard Unelius, C., Townsend, R. J., & Suckling, D. M. (2017). Dose reduction and alternatives to the phenol pheromone in monitoring and management of the grass grub Costelytra zealandica. Pest Management Science10.1002/ps.4599
- Walker, J. T. S., Suckling, D. M., & Wearing, C. H. (2017). Past, Present, and Future of Integrated Control of Apple Pests: The New Zealand Experience. Annual Review of Entomology, 62, 231-248. 10.1146/annurev-ento-031616-035626