The Marine Ecology Research Group (MERG)

The Marine Ecology Research Group (MERG) was formed in 1993 and is centred within the School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury. The focus of the group is field-based, marine ecological research in the nearshore environment. The major emphasis is on the processes responsible for the biological structure of rocky coast communities, which increasingly involve human impacts. Areas of research have included larval fish ecology, the ecology of coastal fishes, the effects of wave exposure on settlement and recruitment of habitat-forming species, the effects of humans on intertidal platforms, and life history studies on a wide range of invertebrates, algae and seagrass. Most of the research is done by students in pursuit of a post-graduate degree in marine ecology and based out of Christchurch at the University of Canterbury.

Affiliations and Collaborations

MERG is affiliated with National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) through the University of Canterbury/NIWA Centre of Excellence in Aquaculture & Marine Ecology (CEAME), which was established in 1996. In this partnership, the University of Canterbury provides a skill base of enthusiastic student researchers who, through cooperative projects, learn and grow as scientists under the guidance of knowledgeable NIWA and University scientists from various departments. Recent student projects have included flatfish and sponge aquaculture, life history studies on New Zealand lobsters, phytoplankton dynamics around mussel farms, the effects of spat source on mussel production, dynamic modeling of oysters in aquaculture, the effects of farm structure on water movement around mussel farms, and micro-evolution in isolated populations of salmon.

MERG also collaborates with NIWA scientists in a large research programme involving the coordination of estuarine and rocky coast ecological research with nearshore physical oceanography and problems relating to land use (“Effects of sedimentation on estuarine and coastal ecosystems", funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology .

The MERG group is part of the Marine Ecosystem Dynamics consortium funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation of New York. The consortium addresses nearshore coastal processes across hemispheres and provides a basis for students to work internationally on large-scale problems of global concern. Collaboration within the consortium allows for data and experimental results to be shared by researchers in three countries to gain a better understanding of rocky coast communities and the nearshore oceanic processes that link the onshore and pelagic environments. This involves collaboration with researchers at the Universidad Catolica in Santiago Chile, Oregon State University, and the University of California, Santa Barbara in the United States.