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  • Position: Senior Lecturer, School of Science, University of Waikato.
    Field: Marine ecology.

    Professor Chris Battershill leads Coastal Science at the University of Waikato. His main interests are coastal marine ecology, aquaculture, biodiscovery, taxonomy of marine invertebrates, conservation science and environmental toxicology.

    Rights: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato

    Coastal Science leader Chris Battershill

    Professor Chris Battershill leads Coastal Science at the University of Waikato. His role is to grow research and education in all fields associated with coastal science research.

    Professor of Coastal Science

    As Professor of Coastal Science, he is charged with growing research and education in all fields associated with coastal science research. This includes conservation and environmental research and also research into innovations that may enhance New Zealand’s economy in sustainable ways. Aquaculture and biodiscovery are two themes that go hand in hand with sustainable development of coastal resources. Chris values the preservation of our nation’s biodiversity so that future generations can have opportunities to learn about and appreciate our marine life and to harvest it for food and explore human health uses (biodiscovery) in an ecologically sustainable manner.

    Discovery is addictive. Finding solutions to important problems while at the same time feeding a thirst to understand how our planet works and additionally enjoying the whole process is what a job should be. Science offers that.

    Professor Chris Battershill

    Career pathway

    Chris began his career by completing a BSc and then an MSc Hons in oil pollution ecotoxicity. He then worked for the Taranaki Catchment Commission as a toxicologist in petrochemical development. Chris went back to university to further his studies. He received a scholarship for his PhD research on sponges and chemical ecology (from a drug company). He then got a postdoctoral position with chemists looking for New Zealand anti-cancer chemicals within marine organisms. Chris had similar jobs in Australia and also spent some time with the Department of Conservation. He ended up leading Australia’s largest tropical research team focused on marine biodiversity. He then came back to New Zealand to his current position. He wanted to bring home some of what he learned about biodiscovery, life at the bottom of the sea and aquaculture.

    Chris had started out with an interest in medicine, but couldn’t get away from his first choice as a marine biologist. He ended up doing both in a fantastic combination.

    In 2011 he helped establish the Coastal Marine Research Station in Tauranga and continues to shape its ongoing evolution as its current director. It has become a major centre of marine research excellence in the Bay of Plenty region.

    Rights: Environmental Research Institute

    Coastal Marine Field Station

    The Coastal Marine Field Station was set up in 2011. It is a dedicated laboratory where coastal research for the Bay of Plenty can be carried out.

    Rena disaster

    In 2011 Chris became the public face of the Maritime Response Team responding to the Rena oil spill disaster off the coast of Tauranga. He led investigations into environmental toxicity.

    Chris coordinated the response and environmental recovery monitoring, notably preventing the large-scale use of dispersants which he knew would be disastrous for marine ecosystems, especially along shorelines. He said of the experience:

    “A positive result was the close relationship that developed with Moana a Toi hapu and iwi. It has opened up so many opportunities, including stepping stones for rangatahi into higher education and, importantly, marine science.”

    Personally, the growth experience from being nurtured by mana whenua in mātauranga Māori has added depth to my understanding of marine systems and how they work; I can only be profoundly grateful.

    Professor Chris Battershill
    Rights: George Novak

    Oil spill – Mt Maunganui

    Bluebottle jellyfish covered with oil from the Rena oil spill, Mount Maunganui.

    Other roles

    Chris is co-lead of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment-funded programme Toka Ākau Toitū Kaitiakitanga – Building a sustainable future for coastal reef ecosystems – Building a sustainable future for coastal reef ecosystems. The programme has a mātauranga science focus on coastal impacts and sustainable management.

    He also has positions on the MPI Governance, Biosecurity Committees and the Oil Pollution Advisory Committee for Maritime NZ.

    In 2023 Chris received a prestigious lifetime achievement award from the New Zealand Marine Society.

    Personal interests

    Chris also enjoys fishing, surfing, diving, squash, mountain biking, house renovation, working in the garden, music and going to a decent concert – anything from The Stranglers and Tom Waits to Gin Wigmore and Stella.

    This article is based on information current in 2012 and in 2023.

    Related content

    Discover more about the work Chris undertakes leading research to explore environmental toxicology, kaimoana recovery and marine biodiversity in the Bay of Plenty.

    Useful links

    See Chris Battershill's profile on the University of Waikato's website.

    Read about his lifetime achievement award in this NZ Herald news article.

      Published 11 January 2012, Updated 24 November 2023 Referencing Hub articles
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