PhD scholarship available at the University of Auckland – Waipapa Taumata Rau, Aotearoa New Zealand

Applications due 26 January 2024. 

Drivers of the foraging ground use and recovery in a Southern Ocean climate sentinel – the southern right whale 

Southern right whales – tohorā are a sentinel for climate change, with broadscale variation in foraging ground use over the past 30 years reflecting the heterogeneous nature of human-induced change on the Southern Ocean. This project will use a cutting edge isoscape approach to delve deeper into this ocean-basin level trend, to understand the tension between maternally directed foraging traditions and behavioural responses to global climate cycles. Specifically, the project will use whale skin isotope data, including compound specific data, from, 1) a published dataset of samples from around the Southern Hemisphere, and 2) the longest running genetic monitoring project for southern right whales from the Maungahuka – Auckland Islands wintering ground, comprising over 1300 individually identified whales, to track changes in the use of foraging grounds in relation to extrinsic factors like oceanographic and environmental conditions and intrinsic factors like age, reproductive status and sex. These foraging ground associations will be linked to body condition and reproduction through visual health measures for a subset of individual whales from Maungahuka – Auckland Islands to ultimately understand how foraging influences their fitness and provide deeper insight into how southern right whales respond to the changing ocean.

It will link into the broader Tohorā nō Aotearoa project led by Associate Professor Emma Carroll ( and falls under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission – Southern Ocean Research Partnership as part of theme six – the right sentinel for climate change (see

PhD supervisory committee

Primary supervisor will be A/P Emma Carroll and the supervisory committee will include Professor Seth Newsome (University of New Mexico), Dr Geraldine Busquets-Vass (University of New Mexico; Centro de Investigacion and Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education of Ensenada), Dr Solène Derville (French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development) and Dr Fredrik Christiansen (Aarhus University), Dr Alice della Penna (University of Auckland) and Professor Rochelle Constantine (University of Auckland).

Candidate Requirements

We seek an enthusiastic, motivated candidate with a background in science or statistics who has completed a significant research project such as a dissertation or thesis, at university level. The ideal candidate would have experience with coding, or otherwise being willing to learn, for example, python, R, and/or bash scripting. We especially encourage students from under-represented groups in STEM (e.g. Māori, Pasifika, other Indigenous groups, lower socio-economic status students, first generation university students, women).

Entry requirements for the University of Auckland can be found at:

Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact Emma Carroll to discuss the project. Starting date ideally first quarter of 2024.