Professor Conrad Pilditch

Professor (Biological Sciences)

Qualifications: MSc Otago PhD Dalhousie

Personal Website:

About Conrad

Since joining the Department of Biological Sciences I have lectured primarily in the area of marine ecology and oceanography. In addition to coordinating the marine ecology courses (see below) I also contribute to undergraduate courses in environmental science (ENVS101) and ecology (BIOL212).

I maintain an active student research laboratory and really enjoy helping them develop as scientists.  I am looking for new students to join the laboratory and welcome inquires.

When not working I enjoy traveling with my family and outdoor activities. I am a keen (but not very good) surfer, enjoy diving, sailing and hiking.

Honours and Disctinctions

  • ASLO DIALOG III Participant (1999)
  • Elected New Zealand Marine Sciences Society elected council member (1999-2002, 2006-)
  • Editorial advisory board for New Zealand Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research

Membership of professional and learned societies

  • New Zealand Marine Sciences Society since 1989
  • American Society for Limnology and Oceanography since 1991
  • Oceanography Society since 1998

Contribution to wider community

  • Independent expert in various technical working groups co-ordinate by Environment Waikato, Auckland Regional Council and Department of Conservation to assess impacts of human activities on coastal environments.
  • Provide expert reviews of research proposals for funding agencies in the UK, USA and Chile, regular reviewer for leading marine ecology journals.
  • Assisted iwi groups to establish coastal monitoring programs and provided advice on environmental issues.
  • Participated in national workshops on marine conservation and classification of the marine environment.
  • Communicated the results of scientific research to the general public via numerous talks to community groups (e.g. Forest and Bird Society, high school students) and publication of popular articles.
  • Co-convener of the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society annual meeting in 2000 & 2007.

Research Interests

My area of speciality is benthic oceanography/ecology focusing on the processes that influence the structure and function of soft-sediment communities. Specifically, I am interested in how hydrodynamics and benthic organisms interact to affect sediment transport, recruitment, nutrient fluxes and food supply. Together with colleagues and students, research has been conducted in a wide range of environments ranging from the inter-tidal to the deep sea, a reflection of the extensive occurrence of soft-sediment habitats.

Research Supervised


  • Douglas, Emily (in progress). Resilience and response of estuaries to nutrient enrichment.
  • Drylie, Tarn (in progress). The effects of low level disturbances on coastal soft sediment biodiversity and ecosystem function.
  • Gladstone-Gallagher, Rebecca (submitted). The role of cross-boundary subsides of macrophyte detritus in soft sediment ecosystem function.
  • Monahan, Bradley (in progress). Dispersal and ecological connectivity of Austrovenus stutchburyi and Paphies australis larvae in Tauranga Harbour.
  • Niemand, Clarisse (in progress). The impact of macroalgal mats on the biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of benthic communities.
  • Harris, Rachel (2015). The effects of benthic organisms on intertidal sediment erodibility.
  • Pratt, Daniel (2014). Changes in benthic ecosystem properties and functions across sedimentary gradients in estuaries.
  • Needham, Hazel (2011). The context-specific roles of a bioturbating crab (Austrohelice crassa) on ecosystem functioning.
  • Ross, Phillip (2011). The genetic structure of New Zealand's coastal benthos: using the estuarine clam Austrovenus stutchburyi, to determine rates of gene flow and population connectivity.
  • Knox, Matthew (2012). Diversity of New Zealand deep-sea amphipoda.
  • Jones, Hannah (2011). The ecological role of the suspension feeding bivalve, Austrovenus stutchburyi, in estuarine ecosystems.
  • Dos Santos, Virginie (2011). Impacts of black swans grazing and anthropogenic contaminants on New Zealand seagrass meadows.
  • Burger , David (2006). Dynamics of internal nutrient loading in a eutrophic, polymictic lake (Lake Rotorua, New Zealand).
  • Giles, Hilke (2006). Dispersal and remineralisation of biodeposits: Ecosystem impacts of mussel aquaculture.

MSc (Research)

  • Hughes, Ryan (2016). The coupled effects of shading and nutrient loading on the morphology, growth, and association macrofauna of seagrass meadows.
  • Cooper, Jordan (2015). Does seagrass influence the behavioural and physiological response to flow in juvenile snapper (Pagrus auratus)?
  • Hines, Laura (2015). Effects of macrofauna diversity on porewater nutrient concentrations following enrichment.


  • Gladstone-Gallagher, Rebecca (2013). Production and decay of mangrove (Avicennia marina subsp. australasica) detritus and its effects on coastal benthic  communities.
  • McCartain, Lisa (2013). The effects of terrigenous sediment on the behaviour of Macomona liliana (Bivalvia) in permeable sediments: implications for porewater exchange.
  • Greenfield, Barry (2013). Spatial variation in functional group diversity in a sandflat benthic community: implications for ecosystem resilience.
  • Gibson, Aimee (2009). Seasonal variation in bivalve antioxidant enzymes: can they be used as indicators of heavy metal contamination?
  • Niemand, Clarisse (2009). The application of elemental fingerprinting techniques to identify population connectivity using Austrovenus stutchburyi recruits.
  • Simpson, Julia (2009). Effects of heavy metal contamination on burial rates of Austrovenus stutchburyi: implications for sediment transport.
  • Hailes, Sarah (2006). Contribution of seagrass (Zostera muelleri) to estuarine food webs revealed by carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis
  • Sandwell, Dean (2006). Austrovenus stutchburyi, regulators of estuarine benthic-pelagic coupling.

Teaching Commitments

Recent Publications

  • Gladstone-Gallagher, R. V., Mangan, S., Thrush, S. F., & Pilditch, C. A. (2020). Porewater nutrient enrichment alters benthic-pelagic coupling on intertidal sandflats. Journal of Sea Research, 159. doi:10.1016/j.seares.2020.101876

  • Cussioli, M. C., Seeger, D., Pratt, D. R., Bryan, K. R., Bischof, K., de Lange, W. P., . . . Pilditch, C. A. (2020). Spectral differences in the underwater light regime caused by sediment types in New Zealand estuaries: implications for seagrass photosynthesis. Geo-Marine Letters, 9 pages. doi:10.1007/s00367-020-00640-0

  • Leduc, D., Nodder, S. D., Pinkerton, M., & Pilditch, C. A. (2020). Benthic metabolism on Chatham Rise, New Zealand continental margin: Temporal and spatial variability, and relationships with macrofauna and environmental factors. Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2020.103239

  • Joensuu, M., Pilditch, C. A., & Norkko, A. (2020). Temporal Variation in Resuspension Potential and Associated Nutrient Dynamics in Shallow Coastal Environments. Estuaries and Coasts. doi:10.1007/s12237-020-00726-z

View All research publications by Conrad Pilditch

Contact Details

Room: R.2.20
Phone: +64 7 838 4466 ext 6132