Phil is a marine ecologist working at the University of Waikato’s Coastal Marine Field Station in Tauranga. He is interested in understanding how communities of sea creatures respond to and recover from disturbances, particularly man-made disturbances. For the last few years Phil’s research has been focused on trying to determine the ecological effects of the MV Rena grounding on Astrolabe Reef. His team are examining the toxicity of Rena contaminants to adult and juvenile life stages of marine organisms and are trying to understand how remaining contaminants might affect the recovery of biological communities on Astrolabe Reef.
During this voyage Phil will be taking advantage of the geographical isolation of the Kermadec Islands to study the dispersal of larval fish. He will be using genetics and the chemical composition of the daily growth rings in fish ear bones (just like growth rings in a tree!) to look at the strategies larval fish use to find a reef they can call home.