Associate Professor Mike Clearwater

Team Leader - Ecology & Biodiversity

Qualifications: BSc, MSc(Hons) Auckland, PhD Edinburgh

About Mike

Mike is a plant physiologist with broad interests in plant functioning in natural and managed systems, and a particular focus on plant vascular transport and water relations. His research centres on two major areas:

  • Tree physiology – tree water transport and hydraulic architecture, the measurement of sap flow and tree water use, the impact of drought on tree performance, and the importance of plants for water fluxes through planted and natural vegetation
  • Flower and fruit development - vascular functioning and the water relations of developing flowers and fruit, nectar production by flowers, and the drivers of variation in the timing and amount of flowering

Mike enjoys working with colleagues across a number of institutions to supervise graduate students working on topics within horticultural and agricultural industries and indigenous plant communities. Examples of current or recently completed projects include the physiology and phenology (timing) of nectar production in mānuka (Leptsopermum scoparium), water use and irrigation of Hass avocado, fruit growth and flavour development in kiwifruit, the drought tolerance and environmental physiology of New Zealand native trees, root development and productivity of pastoral rye-grass and clover, and the micro-propagation of medicinal cannabis.

Mike is an active supporter and treasurer of the New Zealand Society of Plant Biologists and the Waikato Botanical Society, and an Associate Editor of the New Zealand Journal of Crop and Horticultural Science.


If you love plants and are interested in research with the University of Waikato on any aspect of plant functioning, please contact Mike to discuss possibilities, and check our lab website for current vacancies.

We are currently (March / April 2021) offering a PhD scholarship to study water use by New Zealand indigenous tree species. Applications are now closed, but may be reopened if we are unsuccessful in recruiting a candidate.

See my Google Scholar page for a full list of publications.

Research Supervised


  • Ella Grierson (in progress).  Elucidating key genes responsible for DHA accumulation in mānuka nectar
  • Kramer-Walter, Kris (in progress). Carbohydrate dynamics of fruit development in kiwifruit.
  • Spaak, Johanna (in progress). Floral traits in New Zealand native tree species.
  • Noe, Stevie (in progress). The effects of soil nitrogen and phosphorous on growth and reproductive allocation in mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium).
  • Kaneko, Teruko (in progress). Submitted - Water use of Hass avocado in New Zealand
  • Subasinghe, Rasika (2018). Investigation of Host cell wall degrading strategies of Pseudomonas syringae pv. Actinidiae (Psa).
  • Black, Mary (2012). The kiwifruit (Actinidia sp.) vine root system: Responses to vine manipulations.
  • Mazzeo, Maria Rosaria (University of Basilicata, 2007). Xylem transport in the developing the kiwifruit berry.
  • Nardozza, Simona (University of Bologna, 2007). Genotypic variation in kiwifruit berry development.
  • Woodward, Tim (2006). Variation in 'Hayward' kiwifruit quality characteristics.

MSc (Research)

  • Milena Janke (in progress). Fruit and leaf properties of native shrubs
  • Ngow, Zachery (in progress). Herbicide tolerance in weeds of maize
  • North, Elizabeth (2021). The effect of deferment length on perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) in established grazing pasture and under controlled conditions
  • Truman, Georgia-Leigh (2021). Investigations into cannabinoid production and micropropagation of Cannabis sativa L.
  • Unteregger, Joana (2021).Flowering phenology of mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium) in Aotearoa, New Zealand
  • Wade, Ashley (2020). Predicting site productivity drivers for Podocarpus tōtara and modelling its growth with 3-PG.
  • Obeng-Darko, Sylvester (2018). Anatomical and molecular basis of floral nectar secretion by mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium).
  • Hunter, Shannon (2018). Determining the risk of phosphite tolerance in Phytophthora species in New Zealand and the United States: a case study on the implications of long-term use of phosphite to control Phytophthora cinnamomi in avocado (Persea americana)
  • Yeates, Rebecca (2018). Development of a Rhizosheath Selection Tool for screening perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) for reduced root competition against white clover (Trifolium repens L.) for soil phosphorus.
  • Le Lievre, Danielle (2017). The development of flavour in the G3 cultivar of kiwifruit.
  • Noe, Stevie (2017). Investigating the determinants of nectar yield and quality in manuka (Leptospermum scoparium Myrtaceae).
  • Kaneko, Teruko (2016). Water requirements for 'Hass' avocado flowering and fruit development in New Zealand.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dominic (2015). Tree species sorting along temperature gradients: How do frost-resistant traits influence competitive ability in the forest environment?
  • Hennessy, Louise (2015). Epoxy-janthitrems, effects of temperature on in planta expression and their bioactivity against porina larvae.
  • Bylsma, Rebecca (2012). Structure, composition and dynamics of Metrosideros excelsa (pōhutukawa) forest, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.
  • Efford, Jackson (2012). Treeline vegetation composition, structure and dynamics across the AD 1655 Burrell Lapilli deposit, Mt Taranaki, New Zealand.
  • Morrison, Daniel (2012). Vascular functioning and development of the kiwifruit berry (Actinidia deliciosa).
  • Myron, Kirsty (2012). Pittosporum kirkii: Autecology of an endemic shrub epiphyte.
  • Bryan, Catherine (2011). Ecology of vascular epiphytes in urban forests with special reference to the shrub epiphyte Griselinia lucida.
  • Miller, Kieran (2011). Understory restoration in Hamilton urban forests.
  • Trivedi, Pathik (2010). Aspects of biology of the weed of arable crops broom corn millet (Panicum miliaceum L).

Teaching Commitments


Agriculture; Agriculture and Biosystems; Biochemistry; Biology; Biotechnology; Climate; Ecology; Environment; Environmental Change; Environmental Science and Technology; Plants; Science; Sustainability

Recent Publications

  • Kaneko, T., Gould, N., Campbell, D., Snelgar, P., & Clearwater, M. J. (2022). The effect of soil type, fruit load and shaded area on ‘Hass’ avocado (Persea americana Mill.) water use and crop coefficients. Agricultural Water Management, 264. doi:10.1016/j.agwat.2022.107519

  • Ravi, S., Bader, M. K. F., Young, T., Duxbury, M., Clearwater, M., MacInnis-Ng, C., & Leuzinger, S. (2022). Are the well-fed less thirsty? Effects of drought and salinity on New Zealand mangroves. Journal of Plant Ecology, 15(1), 85-99. doi:10.1093/jpe/rtab071

  • Lievre, D. L., Anderson, R., Boldingh, H., Cooney, J., Seelye, R., Gould, N., . . . Richardson, A. (2021). Modifying carbohydrate supply to fruit during development changes the composition and flavour of actinidia chinensis var. Chinensis ‘zesy002′ kiwifruit. Plants, 10(7). doi:10.3390/plants10071328

  • Clearwater, M. J., Noe, S. T., Manley‐Harris, M., Truman, G., Gardyne, S., Murray, J., . . . Richardson, S. J. (2021). Nectary photosynthesis contributes to the production of mānuka ( Leptospermum scoparium ) floral nectar.. New Phytologist. doi:10.1111/nph.17632

View All research publications by Mike Clearwater

Contact Details

Room: D.1.05A
Phone: +64 7 838 4613