Prospective Students

Thank you for your interest in considering the Thomsen Lab for conducting your graduate studies at the School of Biology, University of Canterbury.

We combine experiments, surveys, analysis of long-term dataset and meta-analysis, to test how patterns in biological communities are generated and maintained and our research provides predictions on how coastal systems will respond to human stressors and recommendations for conservation strategies needed to ameliorate their impacts.

We are always on the look-out for sharp, enthusiastic and hard-working students who have a passion for marine and coastal ecology.

We can offer a vibrant international research group and the opportunity and flexibility to pursue your research interests on a broad set of research topics from diverse habitats located just around Christchurch including rocky coastlines, sedimentary estuaries, seagrass beds, saltmarshes, and sandy beaches (see the Research and Publications pages for examples of our research). These coastal systems are jam-packed with exciting endemic and poorly-studied species, allowing graduate students to make great contributions to local, national, and international ecology.

Christchurch is a fantastic place be a student. It’s not only surrounded by diverse marine systems, but also with mountains (yes – skiing and tramping) and lakes and rivers (yes – fishing, swimming and other water activities – if you are insensitive to waters <20 °C) at your doorstep, a modern international airport and as a central hub for the beautiful South Island of New Zealand. Following major earthquakes of 2011, the reconstructed Christchurch is today now a totally safe place to pursue a graduate career.

The University of Canterbury offers competitive doctoral fellowships twice a year whose deadlines generally fall in mid-May and mid-October ( If you are interested in applying for one of these scholarships (you do need good grades to have a chance), please email Mads well in advance to express your interest and discuss a potential project and the application process.


Funded available projects

PhD Scholarship in Marine Ecology: Effects of climate changes and marine heatwaves on rocky shore intertidal communities

We seek a PhD candidate to join a 3-year research program based at the University of Canterbury (UC) to investigate the effects of climate changes and marine heatwaves on rocky intertidal communities.

The Person

We seek a PhD candidate with a demonstrated high level of academic achievement at the undergraduate and postgraduate level. S/he will be required to have a B.Sc. (Hons) or equivalent to enroll as a PhD candidate at the University of Canterbury.

The candidate will require a background in marine ecology, design of experiments and surveys, statistical analysis, taxonomy of marine organisms and scientific writing. Having a background in plant physiology, familiarity with drones and having experience with image and/or spatial analysis will be considered advantageous. The PhD candidate should also have a driver’s license, be comfortable in doing independent field and laboratory work, and will be expected to publish results in scientific journals.

The stipend will be for three years at NZD 21,000 p.a. (tax free) plus payment of tuition fees and associated charges.

The project

Detailed research has documented gradual changes to biological communities attributed to increases in global average temperatures. However, localized and abrupt temperature anomalies associated with heatwaves may cause more rapid biological changes. The south Island of New Zealand experienced the hottest summer on record from November 2017 to February 2018 causing dramatic decreases in populations of iconic bull kelp.

We now urgently need more research in this field to understand how past and future heatwaves will affect the unique marine biodiversity of New Zealand. This PhD project will undertake new surveys, revisit historical locations, carry out field and laboratory heat-related stress experiments, and review marine heatwave literature, to better understand how rocky shore intertidal communities have been affected by heatwaves.

The student will do research embedded in a fun and productive group of students and faculty at Centre of Integrative Research and the Marine Ecology Research Group at University of Canterbury. For a motivated and dedicated student there will be an opportunity to visit Western Australia and work with Prof. Thomas Wernberg and his research group, in another region where marine heatwaves previously have had devastating impacts on rocky shore communities.

The proposed start date for the research is as early as possible, depending on the availability of appropriate candidates.

For more information please contact:

Dr. Mads Thomsen

Centre of Integrative Ecology and Marine Ecology Research Group, School of Biological Sciences

University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand