Dr Joanne Ellis

Joanne Ellis

Senior Lecturer

Qualifications: BSc Auckland, BSc Hons Victoria, PhD Memorial (Canada)

Personal Website:

About Joanne

Joanne is a research scholar in Marine Sciences.  Her research focuses on understanding how human drivers of environmental change, including coastal intensification and climate change, impact the functioning and structure of marine ecosystems. Notable advances include: 1) the development of gradient design approaches, including quantile regression, to better understand optimal environmental niches of taxa and therefore resilience in the face of a changing environment; 2) prediction of the effects of climate change stressors on the health of benthic communities highlighting the synergistic effect of ocean warming and eutrophication on soft-sediment and coral reef communities; and 3) the development of integrated frameworks that link risks from ecological degradation to business, social and cultural well-being.

She obtained her PhD from Memorial University, Canada. Prior to this she received her BSc (Auckland University) and BSc Hons (Victoria University) from New Zealand universities. Before joining The University of Waikato, Joanne worked at NIWA, Cawthron Institute (Marine Science Team Leader) and KAUST University.  Joanne is currently academic team co-leader for the Marine Sciences and Aquaculture group at the University of Waikato.

Joanne is currently ranked 9th out of all researchers in the world who have listed ‘multiple stressors’ as one of their areas of research expertise on Google Scholar. Since joining the University of Waikato she has been appointed as chief program leader for two Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge programs. Her research appears in high impact journals including: Science Advances, Global Change Biology, Ecology Letters, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment and Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Papers Taught

Research Supervised


  • Shellem, Claire (in progress). Multiple stressor effects of climate change on benthic community structure in a New Zealand fjord (chief supervisor)
  • Zelli, Edoardo (in progress). Vulnerable marine ecosystems: The use of species distribution models to identify coral biodiversity hotspots in the deep sea (chief supervisor)
  • Thomson, Timothy (in progress). The effects of nutrient inputs on microbial communities and carbon emissions in mangrove soils (chief supervisor)
  • Prinz, Natalie (in progress). Can large bivalves aid the functional recovery of disturbed soft sediment habitats? (co-supervisor)
  • Vallyon, Lolita (in progress). Degradation and recovery in coastal ecosystems (co-supervisor)
  • Hamilton, Jack (in progress). Quantifying the role of unvegetated estuarine sediments in blue carbon budgets (co-supervisor)
  • Reihana, Kiri (in progress). Using Mātauranga Māori and technology to disseminate science knowledge of pipi and tuangi populations for EBM in Ohiwa harbour (co-supervisor)
  • Clark, Dana (2021). Key drivers of change in estuaries (co-supervisor)
  • Martin, Ross (2020). Determining estuarine seagrass condition measures from low altitude multi-spectral imagery flown by remotely piloted aircraft (chief supervisor)

MSc (Research)

  • Dixon, Olivia (in progress). Predicting how sea level rise will alter estuarine biodiversity and functioning (co-supervisor)
  • Lizzie Harrison (in proress).  Cumulative stressor effects on ecosystem service delivery (co-supervisor)
  • Lewis, Anita (2021). Microplastics in the marine environment: distribution and bioaccumulation rates in marine bivalves (chief supervisor)
  • Kettle, Tyla (2021). Mātauranga Māori to inform our understanding of population dynamics and health of pipi in Waihi estuary (co-supervisor)
  • Ross, Frank (2021). Small scale spatial patterns of Austrovenus stutchburyi in natural and translocated beds (co-supervisor)

Research Interests

My primary research focuses on the recovery of marine benthic communities from disturbance and potential interaction effects of multiple stressors. I have approached this research area using a combination of models and field studies to predict community resilience to disturbance and multiple stressors. This knowledge provides the required biophysical science to determine ecological responses of ecosystems to multiple stressors and identify ‘tipping points’ that transform ecosystems into non-desirable states.

My wider research interests include disturbance and recovery dynamics in coastal and estuarine ecosystems, biodiversity prioritization to inform ecosystem based management, statistical modeling including the identification of multiple stressor interaction effects, ecosystem services frameworks and climate change impacts on marine systems.

I am currently Co-Leader of the Risk and Uncertainty and Project-Leader for the Scale and EBM programme within the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge. While there are risk assessment methods available internationally, these typically focus on single stressors and do not incorporate mātauranga Māori or ecosystem-based management (EBM).

The Risk and Uncertainty project therefore addresses 2 overarching questions:

  1. What risk assessment tools are available that incorporate uncertainty into their estimates, deal with multiple stressors, and are easy for stakeholders and Māori partners to understand and/or use?
  2. How do uncertainties, and thus social and ecological risks, accumulate during decision-making?

The Scale and EBM project aims to develop decision-making practices that explicitly identify scale and scale-dependencies to increase the success of EBM decision-making processes. Currently we are analysing scale-dependencies in the legal-policy, ecological, socio-psychological, mātauranga Māori and economic realms.

See Google Scholar for a full list of my research output: Joanne Ellis Profile

Recent Publications

  • Stephenson, F., Rowden, A. A., Brough, T., Petersen, G., Bulmer, R. H., Leathwick, J. R., . . . Hewitt, J. E. (2022). Development of a seafloor community classification for the New Zealand region using a Gradient Forest approach. Frontiers in Marine Science, 8. doi:10.3389/fmars.2021.792712

  • Thomson, T., Ellis, J. I., Fusi, M., Prinz, N., Bennett-Smith, M. F., Aylagas, E., . . . Jones, B. H. (2022). The right place at the right time: Seasonal variation of bacterial communities in arid Avicennia ‎marina soils in the Red Sea is specific to its position in the intertidal. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 10. doi:10.3389/fevo.2022.845611

  • Fraser, G. S., Robertson, G. J., Stenhouse, I. J., & Ellis, J. I. (2022). Estimating the numbers of aquatic birds affected by oil spills: pre-planning, response, and post-incident considerations. Environmental Reviews, 19 pages. doi:10.1139/er-2021-0121

  • Clark, D. E., Gladstone‐Gallagher, R. V., Hewitt, J. E., Stephenson, F., & Ellis, J. I. (2022). Risk assessment for marine ecosystem‐based management (EBM ). Conservation Science and Practice. doi:10.1111/csp2.12636

Find more research publications by Joanne Ellis

Contact Details

Email: [email protected]
Room: TCB 4.02C
Cellphone: 022 526 4146