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Meet Dr Steve Wing


Professor in Marine Ecology, University of Otago

Job description: 

Teaching and Research in Marine Ecology, Fisheries and Ecosystem Studies. Director of the Ecology Degree Programme at Otago University.

Work background: 

21 years of experience doing fieldwork and studies of the ecology of marine systems. Projects have included oceanographic studies in California, research diving in Caribbean, Fiordland, Antarctica and the Sub Antarctic Islands.

Favourite part of job: 

Learning new things about the marine ecosystem and working with talented students and colleagues on really hard problems in ecology. I like fieldwork because it lets me bring exciting information about the marine environment to my teaching and scientific colleagues.

Least favourite part of job: 

Part of my job is to review manuscripts and proposals for journals or granting agencies, and it is disappointing when I have to review something that has not been thought through well or presented well.

What I am working on now: 

We are using environmental chemistry to work out the role of sea birds and marine mammals for nutrient cycling in the ecosystem. This is really exciting work because we are able to see how important it is to have these animals in the marine ecosystem and what would happen if we lost some species.   

A quick story about a job well done: 

I worked in Fiordland to help develop a management strategy to look after the marine ecosystem better. This was passed as a Parlimentary Act in 2005 and today the marine environment is more healthy and both biodiversity and fisheries production have improved.

A (humorous) story about a job that went badly and what you learned: 

I did a project in Florida where we had to live in an underwater habitat on the sea floor for two weeks at a time to do scientific studies on the coral reef. The habitat was like a submarine anchored to the sea floor and we would dive outside for up to eight hours a day. We got hit by a hurricane and were trapped in the habitat for about four days without power, or outside air supply. I learned that you can never really predict what the weather is going to do.


PhD from University of California plus extensive diving and boating qualifications (e.g. skipper’s ticket, rescue diving, ice diving, mixed gas diving, first aid).

Interests outside work: 

I live on a small farm with my partner Lucy. We grow most of our food and keep cattle, sheep, horses and chickens. Making the farm sustainable is really fun and a neat exercise in applied ecology. 

Meet Dr. Steve Wing, Professor in Marine Ecology at the University of Otago.