Dr Nick Shears

Profile Image
Associate Professor


I carried out my PhD at the University of Auckland's Leigh Marine Laboratory, where I utilised the long-established Leigh Marine Reserve to experimentally investigate the ecological effects of fishing on kelp forest ecosystems. I then carried out a three year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California Santa Barbara where I studied the effects of the Channel Islands Marine Reserve Network on kelp forest ecosystems. In 2011 I was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship to support my research into the combined effects of terrestrial-derived sedimentation and climate change on rocky reef ecosystems.

I am based at the Leigh Marine Laboratory and have a joint position between the Institute of Marine Science and the Department of Statistics.

See my publications on Google Scholar.


Research | Current

My main research interests lie in rocky reef ecology and marine conservation. I aim to address fundamental questions in modern ecology that have clear applications to management of marine ecosystems.

Current research areas include:

  • Kelp forest restoration 
  • Role of kelp forests in buffering ocean acidification
  • Marine protected areas
  • Tipping points in marine ecosystems
  • Long-term change in sea surface temperature and occurence of heatwaves in New Zealand's coastal waters (in collaboration with Dr Melissa Bowen, School of Environment)
  • Using hydrothermal vents to examine the effects of ocean acidification on reef ecosystems (in collaboration with Drs Craig Radford and Mary Sewell)
  • Investigating long-term changes in marine reserves (Department of Conservation, eCoast Ltd) and on rocky reefs in the Hauraki Gulf (Auckland Council)


Teaching | Current


Postgraduate supervision

PhD opportunities (Aug 2019):

  •  Large-scale removal of sea urchins to restore kelp forests
  • Translocating and tracking large rock lobster to restore kelp forests


Postdoctoral Fellows:

Current students:

  • Harry Allard (PhD) - Long-term changes in reef communities within marine reserves
  • Ohad Peleg (PhD) - Understanding ecosystem health on temperate reefs
  • Benn Hanns (PhD) - Fishery-marine reserve interactions in the spiny lobster Jasus edwardsii
  • Kaitlin Lawrence (MSc) - Mapping long-term changes in urchin barrens
  • Sara Kulins (MSc) - Investigating the biodiversity value of urban marine reserves


Past students:

  • Dr Christine Hansen - Resilience and recovery of kelp forests across a sedimentation gradient - PhD Marine Science 2019
  • Dr Caitlin Blain - Drivers of variation in kelp (Ecklonia radiata) forest productivity - PhD Marine Science 2018
  • Oliver Evans - Refining video techniqes for marine reserve monitoring - MSc 2017, Jointly supervised by Dr Richard Taylor 
  • Dr Jared Kibele – Using satellite imagery to map rocky reef habitats - PhD Marine Science 2017
  • Dr Blake Seers – Predicting the effects of climate change on sedimentation in the coastal environment - PhD Statistics 2017
  • Arie Spyksma - Direct and indirect effects of predators on the behaviour and morphology of sea urchins - PhD Marine Science 2017 - Jointly supervised by Dr Richard Taylor
  • Dr Kate James – Invasive kelp Undaria pinnatifida in the Hauraki Gulf (PhD 2016)
  • Evan Brown - Indirect effects of marine reserves on reef fish assemblages (MSc 2015)
  • Josh Richardson - Using unbaited cameras to monitor reef fish in marine reserves (MSc 2015) Jointly supervised by Dr Richard Taylor
  • Pam Kane - Lobster catchbility (MSc 2014) Jointly supervised by Dr Ian Tuck
  • Dr Kirsten Rodgers – The effects of multiple anthropogenic stressors on the ecological function and resilience of kelp forest ecosystems (PhD Marine Science 2015)
  • Benn Hanns - Morphology of the kelp Ecklonia radiata (MSc 2014)
  • Sarah Roth - Blooms of the green algae Microdictyon umbillicatum (MSc 2014)
  • Edwin Ainley - Effects of deposited sediments on macroalgal assemblages (MSc Marine Science 2013)
  • Alessandra Bisquera - Sediment effects on intertidal rocky reef assemblages in the Hauraki Gulf (MSc - Statistics 2012)
  • Blake Seers – Investigation into the current state and trends of Auckland's coastal water quality (MSc Statistics, 2011)
  • Richard Hughes - Sedimentation and the ecology of shallow macroalgal habitats in the Hauraki Gulf (MSc Marine Science, 2011)

Potential research topics (MSc or PhD):

  • Impacts of toxic dinoflagellates (Ostreopsis sp.) on rocky reef ecosystems
  • Exploring the use of environmental health indicators on rocky reefs
  • Direct and indirect effects of marine reserves on intertidal reef communities
  • Sea urchin-kelp dynamics across an environmental stress gradient
  • Habitat and resource-use of spiny lobster (Jasus edwardsii) in marine reserves


Acting Head of Department - Institute of Marine Science (2019)

Deputy Head (Research) - Institute of Marine Science (2018-present)

President of the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society (2018-present)

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Blain, C. O., Rees, T. A., Hansen, S. C., & Shears, N. T. (2019). Morphology and photosynthetic response of the kelp Ecklonia radiata across a turbidity gradient. LIMNOLOGY AND OCEANOGRAPHY, 65 (3), 529-544. 10.1002/lno.11321
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Caitlin Blain
  • Blain, C. O., & Shears, N. T. (2019). Seasonal and spatial variation in photosynthetic response of the kelp Ecklonia radiata across a turbidity gradient. Photosynthesis research, 140 (1), 21-38. 10.1007/s11120-019-00636-7
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Caitlin Blain
  • Teck, S. J., Lorda, J., Shears, N. T., Ben-Horin, T., Toseland, R. E., Rathbone, S. T., ... Gaines, S. D. (2018). Quality of a fished resource: Assessing spatial and temporal dynamics. PloS one, 13 (6)10.1371/journal.pone.0196864
  • Spyksma, A. J., Shears, N. T., & Taylor, R. B. (2017). Predators indirectly induce stronger prey through a trophic cascade. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 284 (1866)10.1098/rspb.2017.1440
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Richard Taylor
  • Shears, N. T., & Bowen, M. M. (2017). Half a century of coastal temperature records reveal complex warming trends in western boundary currents. Scientific Reports, 710.1038/s41598-017-14944-2
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/44511
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Melissa Bowen
  • Bowen, M., Markham, J., Sutton, P., Zhang, X., Wu, Q., Shears, N. T., & Fernandez, D. (2017). Interannual variability of sea surface temperature in the southwest Pacific and the role of ocean dynamics. Journal of Climate, 30 (18), 7481-7492. 10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0852.1
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/44087
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Melissa Bowen, Philip Sutton
  • Teck, S. J., Lorda, J., Shears, N. T., Bell, T. W., Cornejo-Donoso, J., Caselle, J. E., ... Gaines, S. D. (2017). Disentangling the effects of fishing and environmental forcing on demographic variation in an exploited species. Biological Conservation, 209, 488-498. 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.03.014
  • Bonaviri, C., Graham, M., Gianguzza, P., & Shears, N. T. (2017). Warmer temperatures reduce the influence of an important keystone predator. Journal of Animal Ecology, 86 (3), 490-500. 10.1111/1365-2656.12634


Contact details

Primary office location

Level G, Room G01
New Zealand

Web links