Dr Philip Ross

Research Fellow

Qualifications: BSc, MSc Auckland, PhD Waikato

About Philip

I am a marine ecologist working at the University of Waikato’s Coastal Marine Field Station in Tauranga. I completed a BSc and then MSc at the University of Auckland and Leigh Marine Laboratory where I examined the utilisation of seafloor habitats by juvenile fish and the effects of trawling on seafloor habitats. After stints working overseas as an oceanography technician and fish biologist, I returned to New Zealand to undertake a PhD at the University of Waikato using genetic methods to investigate larval dispersal of coastal invertebrates.

Since 2012 I have worked as a Research Fellow at the University of Waikato, in Tauranga. When not working I enjoy surfing, kayaking, mountain biking and spearfishing. The Bay of Plenty is a great place to work and play.

Research Interests

My area of specialty is marine community ecology and molecular ecology with a focus on temperate soft sediment and rocky reef ecosystems. I’m interested in understanding how communities of sea creatures respond to and recover from disturbances, particularly man-made disturbances. For the last few years my research has been focused on trying to determine the ecological effects of the MV Rena grounding on Astrolabe Reef. Recently, I have begun working on toheroa, a large endemic surf clam occurring on only a handful of west coast surf beaches. For this work I will be combining archaeology and population genetics with Matauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) to gain a better understanding of early human influences on the distribution of toheroa and the extent to which early Māori manipulated their marine environment.

Research Supervised


  • Cadwallader,  Helen (in progress) Diet composition and heavy metal accumulation in NZ Batoid Elasmobranchs. (Chief supervisor: Chris Battershill).
  • McCormack, Sam (in progress) Sponge taxonomy and conservation. (Chief supervisor: Chris Battershill).


  • Cope, Jane (in progress) The effects of changing land use on habitat suitability and the recovery of toheroa.
  • King, Staci (in progress) Connectivity between aquaculture farms and Sabella spallazanii: rafting potential and treatment options. (Chief supervisor: Chris Battershill).
  • Kellet, Melissa  (in progress) Coastal habitat partitioning by sharks and rays (elasmobranchs). (Chief supervisor: Chris Battershill).
  • Sorenson, Stine (in progress) Seagrass vulnerability and resilience: The threat of sedimentation. (Chief supervisor: Chris Battershill).


  • Brooke, Nathania (2015) Larval fish ecology of Tauranga Harbour. (Chief supervisor: Chris Battershill).
  • Sturgess, Nicole (2015) Mapping the ecological and biophysical character of seabed habitats of the Paraninihi Marine Reserve, Taranaki, New Zealand.
  • Dempsey,  Te Puea (2015) Toitu Te Moananui a Toi – The Effects of the MV Rena on the Water Quality, Chemistry and Zooplankton of Otaiti (Astrolabe Reef). (Chief supervisor: Chris Battershill).
  • McSweeney, Caleb (2015) Rena copper sediment effects to Paua (Haliotis iris). (Chief supervisor: Chris Battershill).
  • McCormack, Sam (2015) The Taxonomy of Demospongiae (Porifera) from the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand - connecting Linnaean and Phylogenetic Classification. (Chief supervisor: Chris Battershill).
  • Taikato, Vanessa (2014) Estuarine condition and macro-benthic communities in Te Tāhuna o Rangataua, Te Awanui, Tauranga Harbour. (Chief supervisor: Chris Battershill).


  • Platt,  Amy(2015) Effects of copper on macroalgae recruitment.

Teaching Commitments

Recent Publications

  • Schiel, D. R., Ross, P. M., & Battershill, C. N. (2016). Environmental effects of the MV Rena ship wreck:
    cross-disciplinary investigations of oil and debris impacts on a coastal ecosystem. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 50(1), 9 pages. doi:10.1080/00288330.2015.1133665

  • Battershill, C. N., Ross, P. M., & Schiel, D. R. (2016). The MV Rena shipwreck: time-critical scientific response and environmental legacies. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 50(1), 173-182. doi:10.1080/00288330.2015.1134593

  • Dempsey, T., Ross, P. M., Hartland, A., McSweeney, C., & Battershill, C. N. (2016). Measurement of shipwreck-derived waterborne trace metals using DGT samplers. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 50(1), 115-130. doi:10.1080/00288330.2015.1127829

  • Ross, P. M., Smith, H., Smith, S., & McFadgen, B. (2016). Can knowledge of early-Māori fisheries practices help restore the Toheroa?. In New Zealand Marine Sciences Society Conference. Wellington. Retrieved from

View All research publications by Philip Ross

Contact Details

Room: Coastal Marine Field Station, 58 Cross Road, Sulphur Point, Tauranga
Phone: 07 571 2951