Vulnerabilities of cultural keystone species to climate change in Te Arawa lake ecosystems

Opportunity with funding
Closing date No closing date


DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

SupervisorAprof Deniz Özkundakci

About this opportunity

The Te Arawa Lakes were formed up to 140,000 years ago by a series of volcanic eruptions that led to formation of craters and damming of river valleys. The geological area in and around the lakes is still geothermally active, and some of the lakes are influenced by geothermally heated surface inflows, which can be naturally high in concentrations of phosphorus and a range of metals. Some of the lakes have been increasingly affected by human activities such as urbanisation and farming, resulting in eutrophication, whereas others have been unaffected resulting in trophic states ranging from oligotrophic to highly eutrophic and mixing regimes from monomictic to polymictic. The lakes provide an ideal opportunity to conduct comparative studies across various gradients of lake and catchment sizes and environmental stressors. It is anticipated that climate change will result in increased stratification events with potentially altering ecosystem functioning (e.g., metal speciation and mobilisation, bottom water oxygen demand) that affects the habitat quality and quantity for biota.

Predictive modelling tools are needed by Te Arawa iwi/hapū to help unravel the impacts of climate change on key ecological parameters to guide their decision making in the Te Arawa Lakes. The learnings from this research will inform a freshwater-focused climate change adaptation toolbox for the benefit of Te Arawa lakes and iwi/hapū.

Our team is seeking a highly motivated and skilled PhD candidate to work on this collaborative project with the University of Waikato, Te Arawa Lakes Trust, Kusabs & Associates and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. Aquatic ecosystem modelling will play a pivotal role in this doctoral study, facilitating climate impact simulations of key variables affecting culturally significant species. There is also considerable opportunity to develop field campaigns and experiments in support of modelling endeavours.

Download the details of this PhD Opportunity (PDF, 269kb )


The general Higher Degrees admission criteria apply.

This vacancy has additional eligibility criteria:

  • A Master's degree in a related field and an excellent academic record are essential.
  • A strong background in aquatic ecosystem modelling and one or more of the following: habitat suitability modelling, aquatic geochemistry and metal speciation, habitat restoration
  • A passion for interdisciplinary work alongside iwi/hapū
  • Proficiency in programming languages such as R, MATLAB or Python, will be viewed favourably.
  • Any experience running lake ecosystem model simulations or analysing model output (like PCLake or GLM-AED) would be highly beneficial.

The application process


Review of applicants begins immediately, and will continue until the vacancy is filled.

How to apply

If you are interested in this vacancy, please email the supervisor. Please include evidence that you meet the eligibility criteria for this vacancy.


The supervisor will let you know whether they have shortlisted you for this vacancy and will advise you of next steps.


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