Darren Parsons


Job title and place of work

Marine Ecologist, NIWA.

What is your role in the CARIM project? What work package are you contributing to?

My work is part of RA4: “Acclimation potential of key species to future coastal acidification”. Within this RA package I will be conducting tank experiments on snapper larvae, to see how they respond to acidified conditions. Often the responses to these types of experiments are not immediately obvious. Instead we might see differences in behaviour or energetics of the larvae we expose to acidified conditions. These seemingly subtle response can have large consequences, however.

What do you do on an average work day?

My work is quite varied, so on a typical day I could be deploying cameras to understand why juvenile fish are attracted to nursery habitats, diving in commercial ports to find invasive species, conducting a fisheries survey from a large trawler, or organising tank experiments to investigate the effects of acidification larval fish (that’s the part that’s relevant to CARIM). A large amount of my time, however, is office based where I will be keeping up to date with the latest scientific research, analysing fishery or survey data and finally putting all of this information together in a report.

Why is studying coastal acidification important?

Ocean acidification (and climate change in general) is a large scale stressor, so in some way will affect most processes occurring in the sea around us. Understanding how these impacts will play out is therefore really important so we can lessen their effect.

What study did you do at high school? And after high school?

I focused on science subjects at high school (e.g. biology, chemistry, statistics, calculus etc…). At university I continued this theme, starting out with a range of science courses (geology, chemistry, biology, statistics), and gradually focussing more specifically on marine biology. By the time I was a graduate student my studies were focussed on one particular aspect of one species.

What outcomes from CARIM do you think there will be?

Difficult to say at this early stage, but overall the CARIM project should provide a detailed description of the pH environment around New Zealand and start to identify the types of responses some species will have as this environment becomes more acidic. My work focuses on snapper, which is a highly valued coastal fish species, so understanding whether an iconic species such as this will be impacted is really important.

What excites you about working on this project?

CARIM represents a unique opportunity for a large group of researchers from a range of institutions to focus on a topic that is of high importance to New Zealand. It’s this applied focus on what’s best for NZ inc. that excites me.