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

  • Ross, P. M., McFadgen, B., & Smith, H. (2016). Ahumoana tawhito (ancient aquaculture) and the influence of early-Māori on the distribution and dynamics of toheroa. In New Zealand Archaeological Association Conference. Wairau Bar, Blenheim. Retrieved from

  • 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

  • Cadwallader, H., Battershill, C., & Ross, P. M. (2016). The ecology and movement of short tail stingrays in an urban harbour. In New Zealand Marine Sciences Society and Australian Marine Sciences Association joint conference. Held at Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand. 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