Dr Tanya O'Neill


Qualifications: BSc, MSc (first class honors) Massey PhD Waikato

About Tanya

I am an early-career environmental soil scientist whose main research focus is understanding the impacts of human activities on Antarctic terrestrial environments and quantifying rates of soil recovery following impacts.    I have also conducted research in Alaska, the Tibetan Plateau, Vanuatu, PNG, and the Chatham Islands.  I've had six trips to Antarctica: including two for my PhD on human impacts on the soil environment, one to the Antarctic Peninsula as a field assistant with the Spanish Antarctic Programme, and my first trip, to run a marathon on the continent.  I am currently involved in a multidisciplinary project characterising the environment around Scott Base, Antarctica, as a baseline against which any environmental effects of base redevelopment can be measured.

When not working, I like to travel, and spend a lot of time outside, cycling, running, scuba-diving, and fishing.

As a lecturer I contribute to a number of Soil and Environmental Science papers including: Introduction to Earth System Sciences (EARTH101), Soil Science (EARTH221), Environmental Monitoring (ENVSC201), and Land and Evaluation (EARTH502), and I am the course coordinator for Soil and Water Management (EARTH322) and a capstone course (SCIEN301) in soil quality and farming.

Google Scholar


Antarctic research

Research Interests

Tanya O'NeillSoil and environmental science, especially impacts of human activities on the Antarctic terrestrial environment, local and regional scale impacts and rates of soil recovery.  I also have interests in the impacts of a warming climate on the temperature sensitivity of soil ecosystems, particularly soil respiration.


Pedology, Antarctic soils and environmental impacts.

Recent Publications

    • O'Neill, T.A. (2017).  Protection of Antarctic soil environments: A review of the current issues and future challenges for the Environmental Protocol
      Environmental Science and Policy, 76, 153-164. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2017.06.017
    • Robinson, J.M.; O’Neill, T.A.; Ryburn, J.; Liang L.L., Arcus, V.L.; & Schipper L.A (2017). Rapid laboratory measurement of the temperature dependence of soil respiration and application to changes in three diverse soils through the year. Biogeochemistry. doi: 10.1007/s10533-017-0314-0
    • Schmid, T., López-Martínez, J., Guillaso, S., Serrano, E., D'Hondt, O., Koch, M., ...O’Neill, T & Maestro, A. (2016). Geomorphological mapping of ice-free areas using polarimetric RADARSAT-2 data on Fildes Peninsula and Ardley Island, Antarctica. Geomorphology.  doi: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2016.09.031
    • Balks, M. R., & O’Neill, T. A. (2016). Soil and permafrost in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica: stable or dynamic?. Cuadernos de Investigación Geográfica. p. 415-434.  doi: 10.18172/cig.2923
  • O'Neill, T. A., Balks, M. R., & López-Martínez, J. (2014). Ross Island recreational walking tracks: relationships between soil physiochemical properties and track usage. Polar Record. doi:10.1017/S0032247414000400
  • O'Neill, T. A., Balks, M., Stevenson, B., Lopez-Martinez, J., Aislabie, J. M., & Rhodes, P. (2013). The short-term effects of surface soil disturbance on soil bacterial community structure at an experimental site near Scott Base, Antarctica. Polar Biology, 36(7), 985-996. doi:10.1007/s00300-013-1322-8
  • O'Neill, T. A., Balks, M. R., & Lopez-Martinez, J. (2013). Visual recovery of desert pavement surfaces following impacts from vehicle and foot traffic in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 25(4), 514-530. doi:10.1017/s0954102012001125
  • O'Neill, T. A., Balks, M. R., & Lopez-Martinez, J. (2013). The effectiveness of Environmental Impact Assessments on visitor activity in the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica.. In Lundmark, L, Lemelin, R,Müller, D., D. K. Muller, L. Lundmark, & R. H. Lemelin (Eds.), New Issues in Polar Tourism: Communities, Environments, Politics (pp. 87-110). Springer. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-5884-1_6
  • O'Neill, T. A., Balks, M. R., Lopez-Martinez, J., & McWhirter, J. L. (2012). A method for assessing the physical recovery of Antarctic desert pavements following human-induced disturbances: a case study in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica.. Journal of Environmental Management, 112, 415-428. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.08.008
  • Hayward, B. W., Kawagata, S., Grenfell, H. R., Sabaa, A. T., & O'Neill, T. A. (2008). The last global extinction in the deep sea. Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies Transactions, 58, 355-361
  • O'Neill, T. A., Hayward, B. W., Kawagata, S., Sabaa, A. T., & Grenfell, H. R. (2007). Pleistocene extinctions of deep-sea benthic foraminifera: The south Atlantic record. Palaeontology, 50(5), 1073-1102. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4983.2007.00702.x
  • Hayward, B. W., Kawagata, S., Grenfell, H. R., Sabaa, A. T., & O'Neill, T. (2007). Last global extinction in the deep sea during the mid-Pleistocene climate transition. Paleoceanography, 22(3), 14 pages. doi:10.1029/2007PA001424
  • O'Neill, T. A., & Hayward, B. W. (2004). Benthic foraminiferal record of the Middle Pleistocene climate transition in the South Atlantic Ocean. Geological Society of New Zealand Miscellaneous Publication 117A. p. 78.. Geological Society of New Zealand, Miscellaneous Publication 117A.

Research Supervised

MSc (Research) (chief or committee member)

  • Robinson, Jasmine (2016). Temperature sensitivity of soil respiration (Chief supervisor Louis Schipper)
  • Petrie, Olivia (2017). Temperature and moisture sensitivity of soil microbes in adjacent irrigated and non-irrigated soils.
  • Millar, Jamie (2018) Changes in soil C and N stocks due to irrigation of pumice soils (Chief supervisor Louis Schipper)
  • Carshalton, Annette (2019).  Soil climate and active layer depth monitoring, and relationship to regional climate drivers, Ross Sea Region, Antarctica
  • House, Matthew (in progress).  Soil carbon and nitrogen stocks in Allophanic Soils under maize and pasture in the Waikato region, New Zealand.
  • McKay, Emily (in progress). Soil quality effects of different intensity maize cultivations (full, strip till, and no-till).

BSc/BScTech placements and graduate and undergraduate research projects

  • Crockett-Swanson, Liam (2019). Winter cover crops to reduce herbacide inputs and maintain maize yields.  SCIEN271_18C science work placement with AgResearch.
  • Sawyer, Renata (2019).  The effect of kiwifruit copper sprays on soil microbial respiration in two contrasting allophanic and gley soils, Waikato region, New Zealand (SCIEN303).
  • Shah, Sultana (2019). Nitrogen leaching and greenhouse gas emissions from intensively grazed pastures in the Waikato region, New Zealand (SCIEN589).

Teaching Commitments


Antarctica; Environment; Environmental Impacts; Tourism Impacts

Soil Science

Recent Publications

  • Díaz-Puente, F. J., Schmid, T., Pelayo, M., Rodríguez-Rastrero, M., Herraiz, M. J. S., O'Neill, T., & López-Martínez, J. (2020). Abiotic factors influencing soil microbial activity in the northern Antarctic Peninsula region. Science of The Total Environment. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141602

  • Schipper, L. A., Petrie, O. J., O'Neill, T. A., Mudge, P. L., Liáng, L. L., Robinson, J. M., & Arcus, V. L. (2019). Shifts in temperature response of soil respiration between adjacent irrigated and non-irrigated grazed pastures. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 285. doi:10.1016/j.agee.2019.106620

  • Brooks, S. T., Tejedo, P., & O'Neill, T. A. (2019). Insights on the environmental impacts associated with visible disturbance of ice-free ground in Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 31(6), 304-314. doi:10.1017/S0954102019000440 Open Access version:

  • O'Neill, T., Balks, M. R., Bryan, K., Carshalton, A. G., & Selbold, C. (2019). Soil climate and active layer depth: monitoring, model development, and relationship to regional climate drivers in the 21st century, Ross Sea region, Antarctica. Poster session presented at the meeting of New Zealand Antarctic Science Conference 2019: Our Future In Focus. Conference held in Christchurch Town Hall, Christchurch, New Zealand.

View All research publications by Tanya O'Neill

Contact Details

Room: F.G.06
Phone: +64 7 858 5608
Fax: +64 7 856 0115