Professor Wendy Alison Nelson

BSc Auckland, BSc Hons Victoria University of Wellington, PhD University of British Columbia

Research | Current

Marine Macroalgae – systematics, phylogeny, distribution

I am a member of the Joint Graduate School in Coastal and Marine Science, employed by both NIWA and the University of Auckland. At NIWA I am a Principal Scientist in the Coasts & Oceans National Centre. I am part of the Te Mana o Rangitāhua programme being co-led by Ngāti Kuri and Auckland Museum as well as the Centre for Research Excellence Coast People:Southern Skies.

My research in marine phycology includes work on systematics, biogeography, ecology and life histories, with a primary focus on discovery and documentation of the NZ flora. I have a number of research projects underway on diverse groups of seaweeds. Some examples of recent and current research projects include:

Bangiales – Karengo, nori, laver are some of the names applied to these economically and culturally valuable red algae. Our discoveries of diversity within the NZ members of the order Bangiales have led to a radical re-shaping of understanding of the relationships within this globally distributed order. Much research is still required on this intriguing group with many NZ species remaining to be described.

Coralline algae – in the past 15 years research on calcified red algae have led to the development molecular identification tools, the first ecological study of rhodolith beds in NZ (internationally recognised biodiversity ‘hotspots’), and an overview of the state of current knowledge, as well as research on the impacts of ocean acidification. There are many reasons to investigate these algae – for example, coralline algae are known to play key roles in the metamorphosis of invertebrates (including paua, corals); as calcified organisms they are potentially vulnerable to the impacts of ocean acidification.

Prasiolales – these small green algae are frequently found associated with guano deposits (marine birds and marine mammals). Our recent research has revealed greater diversity in NZ than previously understood – including the discovery of a new species in the NZ subantarctic that is the first representative of its genus in the southern hemisphere. The life histories and ecology of the NZ Prasiolales remain poorly understood.

Introduced algae – during field work on various projects we encounter macroalgae that are not native species and that have apparently been introduced to NZ waters via various vectors. More research is needed to understand the impact of non-native species on coastal communities. We have just compiled an up-to-date account of marine macroalgae considered to be introduced to NZ (2021). 

Gigartinaceae – these red algae include economically important carrageenophytes. In NZ we have a very high diversity within the family including many endemic species, a number of which remain undescribed. Several new genera are being investigated.

Key Colleagues:

Roberta D’Archino, Kate Neill & Judy Sutherland – NIWA; Chris Hepburn – Marine Science, University of Otago; Chris Cornwall - VUW

Recent publications:


  • Nelson, W. A. (2020). New Zealand Seaweeds: an illustrated guide. Wellington, N.Z.: Te Papa Press.
  • Riosmena-Rodriguez, R., Nelson, W., & Aguirre, J. (Eds.) (2017). Rhodolith/Maërl Beds: A Global Perspective. Switzerland: Springer. Pages: 368. 10.1007/978-3-319-29315-8

Journal articles

  • Nelson, W.A., D’Archino, D., Neill, K.F., Robinson, N.M. (2021) Introduced marine macroalgae: new perspectives on species recognition and distribution in New Zealand. Botanica Marina
  • Nelson, W.A., Neill, K.F., Twist, B.A., Sutherland, J.E. (2021) A new genus and species in the Sporolithales (Corallinophycidae, Rhodophyta) from northern New Zealand: Roseapetra farriae sp. nov. Phytotaxa 490: 35-46.
  • Méndez Trejo, M.C., Neill, K.F., Twist, B., Nelson, W.A. (2021) Cryptofauna diversity associated with two species of rhodoliths at sites in northern New Zealand. Marine Ecology. 2021;00:e12647.
  • Heesch, S., Sutherland, J.E., Ringham, S., Nelson, W.A. (2021) Ulva (Ulvales, Chlorophyta) from Manawatāwhi / Three Kings Islands, New Zealand: Ulva piritoka Ngāti Kuri, Heesch & W.A.Nelson, sp. nov.. and records of two non-native species, U. compressa and U. rigida. Cryptogamie, Algologie 42 (9): 129-140.
  • Graf, L., Shin, Y.H., Yang, J.H., Choi, J.W., Hwang, I.K., Nelson, W., Bhattacharya, D., Viard, F., Yoon, H.S. (2021) A genome-wide investigation of the effect of farming and human-mediated introduction on the ubiquitous seaweed Undaria pinnatifida. Nature Ecology & Evolution,
  • Huisman, J.M., D’Archino, R., Nelson, W., Boo, S.M., Petrocelli, A. 2021. Cryptic cryptogam revealed: Hypnea corona (Gigartinales: Cystocloniaceae), a new red algal species described from the Hypnea cornuta complex. Pacific Science 75: 263–268. doi:10.2984/75.2.8
  • Jeong, S.Y., Nelson, W.A., Sutherland, J., Peña, V., Le Gall, L., Won, B., Cho, T.O. (2020) Corallinapetrales and Corallinapetraceae: A new order and family of coralline red algae including Corallinapetra gabrieli comb. nov. J.Phycol., doi: 10.1111/jpy.13115
  • Twist, B.A., Kluibenschedl, A., Pritchard, D., Desmond, M.J., D’Archino, R., Nelson, W.A., Hepburn, C.D. (2020) Biomass and diversity relationships in macroalgal communities that span intertidal and subtidal zones. Marine Ecology Progress Series 654: 67–78.
  • Twist, B.A., Cornwall, C., E., McCoy, S.J., Gabrielson, P.W., Martone, P.T., Nelson, W.A. (2020) The need to employ reliable and reproducible species identifications in coralline algal research. Marine Ecology Progress Series 654: 225–231.
  • Huanel, O.R., Nelson, W.A., Robitzch, V., Mauger, S., Faugeron, S., Preuss, M., Zuccarello, G.C., Guillemin, M.-L. (2020) Comparative phylogeography of two Agarophyton species in the New Zealand archipelago. Journal of Phycology
  • Narvarte, B.C., Nelson, W., Roleda, M. (2020) Inorganic carbon utilization of tropical calcifying macroalgae and the impacts of intensive mariculture-derived coastal acidification on the physiological performance of the rhodolith Sporolithon sp. Environmental Pollution 266(Pt 1):115344, DOI:10.1016/j.envpol.2020.115344
  • Heesch, S., Rindi, F., Guiry, M., Nelson, W.A. (2020) Molecular phylogeny and taxonomic reassessment of the genus Cladostephus (Sphacelariales, Phaeophyceae). European Journal of Phycology DOI: 10.1080/09670262.2020.1740947
  • Preuss, M., Muangmai, N., Nelson, W.A., Guillemin, M.L., West, J., Zuccarello, G.C. (2020) Agarophyton transtasmanicum sp. nov., from Australia and New Zealand. Phycologia DOI: 10.1080/00318884.2020.1734435
  • Velásquez, M., Fraser, C., Nelson, W., Tala, F., Macaya, E.C. (2020) Concise review of the genus Durvillaea Bory de Saint-Vincent, 1825. In: Synopses of Biological Data on Seaweeds of Current and Future Economic Value. Journal of Applied Phycology 32:3–21.
  • Fraser, C.I., Velásquez, M., Nelson, W.A., Macaya, E.C., Hay, C.H. (2020) The evolutionary importance of buoyancy in macroalgae: a case study of the southern bull-kelp genus Durvillaea (Phaeophyceae) including descriptions of a new species. Journal of Phycology 56: 23-36. 

Teaching | Current

I contribute to teaching in the following courses:

  • BIOSCI 333 Marine Ecology
  • BIOSCI 724 Marine Ecology 



Hutton Medal, RSNZ

Burbidge Medal 

Areas of expertise

Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour

Committees/Professional groups/Services

President International Phycological Society

Member: National Systematics & Taxonomic Collections Working Group

Member: IPBES Task Force - Capacity Building


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.
  • Nelson, W. A., Sutherland, J. E., Ringham, S., & Murupaenga, H. (2019). Dictyota korowai sp. nov. (Dictyotales, Phaeophyceae) from Manawatawhi/Three Kings Islands, northern New Zealand, previously confused with Dictyota intermedia. PHYCOLOGIA, 58 (4), 433-442. 10.1080/00318884.2019.1625256
  • Nelson, W., Duffy, C., Trnski, T., & Stewart, R. (2018). Mesophotic Ecklonia radiata (Laminariales) at Rangitāhua, Kermadec Islands, New Zealand. Phycologia, 57 (5), 534-538. 10.2216/18-9.1
  • Nelson, W. A., Bilewitch, J. P., & Sutherland, J. E. (2018). Distribution of the genus Zonaria (Dictyotales: Phaeophyceae) in New Zealand, and description of Zonaria cryptica sp. nov from Stewart Island. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 1-12. 10.1080/0028825X.2018.1478310
  • Twist, B. A., Sutherland, J. E., & Nelson, W. A. (2018). Epiphytic Jania in New Zealand: Jania sphaeroramosa sp nov (Corallinales, Rhodophyta). PHYTOTAXA, 357 (1), 30-40. 10.11646/phytotaxa.357.1.3
  • Desmond, M. J., Suárez-Jiménez R, Nelson, W. A., & Hepburn, C. D. (2018). Epifaunal community structure within southern New Zealand kelp forests. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 596, 71-81. 10.3354/meps12587
  • Nelson, W. A., & Sutherland, J. E. (2018). Prasionema heeschiae sp. nov. (Prasiolales, Chlorophyta) from Campbell Island, New Zealand: first record of Prasionema in the southern hemisphere. European Journal of Phycology, 53 (2), 198-207. 10.1080/09670262.2018.1423577
  • Law, C. S., Bell, J. J., Bostock, H. C., Cornwall, C. E., Cummings, V. J., Currie, K., ... Hurd, C. L. (2018). Ocean acidification in New Zealand waters: trends and impacts. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 52 (2), 155-195. 10.1080/00288330.2017.1374983
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Darren Parsons, Mary Sewell
  • Sondak, C. F. A., Ang, P. O., Beardall, J., Bellgrove, A., Boo, S. M., Gerung, G. S., ... Kawai, H. (2017). Carbon dioxide mitigation potential of seaweed aquaculture beds (SABs). Journal of Applied Phycology, 29 (5), 2363-2373. 10.1007/s10811-016-1022-1


Contact details

Alternative contact

Phone: 64 4 386060064 4 3860600
NIWA,Private Bag 14-901, Wellington 6241

Primary office location

Level 3, Room 301
New Zealand

Web links