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Catriona MacLeod

Senior Researcher – Ecology
Ecosystems & Conservation
Catriona MacLeod
Contact Catriona

Research interests

Encouraging and empowering people to care for nature is a focus of my research. I work at the interface of multiple disciplines, taking an applied and systems-level approach to addressing complex socio-ecological problems.

Individual choices – understanding what matters to people and responding to their interests and needs

  • Exploring mechanisms to help individuals enhance their skills, knowledge and confidence
  • Actively inviting New Zealanders from diverse backgrounds and roles to codesign resources that not only build environmental awareness, engagement and understanding, but also enable people to make a difference through informed decisions.

Social context – determining the influence of social networks, norms and institutions in changing behaviour

  • Designing and implementing effective online campaigns to reach and engage wider and more diverse audiences in citizen science
  • Mechanisms for building online communities of practice to support citizen science
  • Demonstrating how New Zealand can make wiser use of its experts to set policy and management priorities and draw on local scientific knowledge and global scientific evidence

Material context – capitalising on advances in technology to make best use of existing data

  • Distilling large volumes of noisy data into simple but powerful metrics to inform management using modern quantitative statistics
  • Telling a richer story of how our environment is changing through data visualisation tailored for different audiences
  • Removing barriers to data and resources, whilst also reducing the transaction costs of producing and sharing resources, and also securing their legacy using online data collections

Ecological expertise – understanding ecological and evolutionary processes

  • Land use and agricultural intensification
  • Environmental monitoring, reporting and management focussing primarily on production landscapes, but also encompassing conservation and urban landscapes
  • Behavioural ecology and evolution including habitat use, foraging, breeding and invasions

Learn more about my current research on 'Evidence for impact':


Research outputs

Google scholar –
Datastore –
YouTube –

Professional recognition


Recent highlights


The high-ranking international journal, People and Nature, highlights my research teams' work as:

  • a 'leading example of putting policy into practice' for demonstrating processes for giving 15,000 people a voice in citizen science governance and subsequently enhancing the number and diversity of participants:
  •  a 'must read' for anyone designing or doing biodiversity assessments, for demonstrating processes for addressing issues of environmental evidence disparity and complacency.
An international partnership between many global multi-corporate organisations, the Cool Farm Alliance, showcases my team's work on evidence-based biodiversity assessments to its membership: 

My team’s Methods in Ecology and Evolution paper (published in 2016), which introduced the simr R package for power analyses, is among the journal's five most read and 12 most cited. The simr R package has been downloaded almost 80K times since its launch in 2016, being used 125 disciplines and in 83 countries:


Research grants and leadership

Recipient and project leader, Backyard biodiversity - strong voices to empower active choices (2022-2023, Otago Participatory Science Platform)

Recipient and project leader, 'How nature-friendly is my food? Empowering critical thinking, decision-making, and action' (2022-2023, Unlocking Curious Minds Fund, with co-funding from the BioHeritage National Science Challenge) 

Research leader and internal coordinator, NZ Garden Bird Survey (2016–2019, Strategic Science Investment Fund)
Recipient and project leader, Use of NZ Garden Bird Survey data in environmental reporting (2015, Ministry for Environment)
Recipient and project leader, Building Trustworthy Biodiversity Indicators (2013–2016, Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, C09X1308)
Principal investigator, Regional Council Terrestrial Biodiversity Monitoring Framework (20112013, Envirolink)
Environmental research leader, NZ Sustainability Dashboard (2012–2019, Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, AGRB1201)
Lead writer, Biodiversity indicators assessment report (2012, Department of Conservation)
Lead writer, Design regional biodiversity monitoring and reporting system (2012, Greater Wellington Regional Council)
Bid co-writer, Te Hiringa Tangata Ki Tai Pari Ki Tai Timu | Bicultural restoration of coastal forest ecosystems (2011, Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, C09X0908)
Recipient, Conference funding for 'biodiversity in production lands' symposium (2010, AGMARDT)
Environmental research leader, Agricultural Research Group on Sustainability (2009–2012, Ministry for Science and Innovation)
Principal investigator, Agricultural Research Group on Sustainability (2008–2009, Ministry for Science and Innovation)
Project coordinator, Pilot study for a biodiversity monitoring system (2008–2009, Department of Conservation) 
Co-writer and Principal Investor, Mauriora ki nga Oi | Safe-guarding the life force of the grey-faced petrel, (2006–2010, Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, C09X0509) 
Recipient and research leader, Fast-Start Marsden Award (2005–2007, Royal Society of New Zealand)
Research leader, Farmland bird pests (2003–2006, Foundation for Arable Research | Sustainable Farming Fund)
Recipient, Hayward Postdoctoral Fellowship (2002–2005, Landcare Research)
Recipient, Postdoctoral Travelling Fellowship,  (2001–2002, Royal Society of London)
Recipient, PhD Studentship (1998–2001,  Esmée Fairbairn Foundation | Game Conservancy Trust )
Recipient, MSc Studentship  (1995–1996, European Social Fund)


Invited contributions


Speaker, Fit for Better World team, Ministry for Primary Industries, online presentation, 2022

Speaker, ECAN staff meeting, online presentation, 2022

Speaker, Predator Free 2050 Ltd, Landscape projects national workshop, 2022

Speaker, 3rd Year course, Department of Zoology, University of Otago,  2021

Speaker, Predator Free Dunedin meeting, Dunedin, 2021 

Speaker, Cool Farm Alliance Annual Meeting, Cambridge University, UK, 19–20 April 2018
New Zealand representative, Cool Farm Alliance Annual Meeting, Oxford University, UK, 16–17 March 2017
Speaker representing NZ Sustainability Dashboard, Our Land and Water, National Science Challenge, Wellington, 13 Oct 2016
Participant, Terrestrial Biodiversity/Biosecurity Sandpit, Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment  (2013)
Keynote Speaker, Barlow Symposium, New Zealand Ecological Society Conference, 18–22 November 2007
Speaker, 24th International Ornithological Congress, Hamburg, Germany, 13–19 August 2006

Associate Editor, New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2005–2010)
Editorial Board Member, New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2004–2010)


PhD Ecology

MSc Ecology

BSc (Hons) Zoology


MacLeod CJ, Brandt AJ, Collins K, Dicks LV Early Access Nov 2021. Giving stakeholders a voice in governance: Biodiversity priorities for New Zealand's agriculture. People and Nature. WOS:000723209700001

MacLeod CJ, Brandt AJ, Dicks LV Early access May 2022. Facilitating the wise use of experts and evidence to inform local environmental decisions. People and Nature. WOS:000791220000001

MacLeod CJ, Brandt AJ, Collins K, Moller H, Manhire J Early access Jan 2022. Behavioural insights for improved uptake of agricultural sustainability assessment tools. People and Nature. WOS:000740669300001

MacLeod CJ, Green P, Howard S, Gormley AM, Brandt AJ, Spurr EB 2022. Assessing the state of New Zealand's garden birds from national to local scales. Ecological Solutions and Evidence 3(1). WOS:000794141100007

MacLeod CJ, Scott K 2020. Mechanisms for enhancing public engagement with citizen science results. People and Nature 00: 1-19.

Whitehead J, MacLeod CJ, Campbell H 2020. Improving the adoption of agricultural sustainability tools: A comparative analysis. Ecological Indicators 111. WOS:000512603300072

Liberatore A, Bowkett E, MacLeod CJ, Spurr E, Longnecker N 2018. Social media as a platform for a citizen science community of practice. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice 3(1): 3.

de Olde EM, Moller H, Marchand F, McDowell RW, MacLeod CJ, Sautier M, Halloy S, Barber A, Benge J, Bockstaller C, Bokkers EAM, de Boer IJM, Legun KA, Le Quellec I, Merfield C, Oudshoorn FW, Reid J, Schader C, Szymanski E, Sorensen CAG, Whitehead J, Manhire J 2017. When experts disagree: the need to rethink indicator selection for assessing sustainability of agriculture. Environment Development and Sustainability 19(4): 1327-1342. WOS:000405613200013

MacLeod CJ, Howard S, Green P, Gormley AM, Wehi P, Brandt AJ, Spurr EB 2017. State of New Zealand garden birds 2016, Te āhua o ngā manu o te kāri i Aotearoa. Landcare Research. 38 p.

de Olde EM, Moller H, Marchand F, McDowell RW, MacLeod CJ, Sautier M, Halloy S, Barber A, Benge J, Bockstaller C, Bokkers EAM, de Boer IJM, Legun KA, Le Quellec I, Merfield C, Oudshoorn FW, Reid J, Schader C, Szymanski E, Sørensen CAG, Whitehead J, Manhire J 2016. When experts disagree: the need to rethink indicator selection for assessing sustainability of agriculture. Environment, Development and Sustainability 19(4): 1327–1342.

Wood JR, MacLeod CJ, Gormley AM, Tompkins DM, Butler SJ 2016. Ecological requirements of NZ birds. Landcare Research NZ Ltd.

Green P, MacLeod CJ 2016. SIMR: an R package for power analysis of generalised linear mixed models by simulation. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 7(4): 493–498.

MacLeod CJ, Green P, Tompkins DM, Benge J, Moller H 2016. Optimising survey effort to monitor environmental variables: a case study using New Zealand kiwifruit orchards. Journal of Environmental Management 183(1): 13–21.

MacLeod CJ, Green P, Gormley AM, Spurr EB 2015. Use of NZ Garden Bird Survey data in environmental reporting: preliminary models to account for spatial variation in sampling effort. Ministry for the Environment. 37 p.

Merfield C, Moller H, Manhire J, Rosin C, Norton S, Carey P, Hunt L, Reid J, Fairweather J, Benge J, Le Quellec I, Campbell H, Lucock D, Saunders C, MacLeod C, Barber A, McCarthy A 2015. Are organic standards sufficient to ensure sustainable agriculture? Lessons from New Zealand’s ARGOS and Sustainability Dashboard projects. Sustainable Agriculture Research 4(3): 158–172.

Jones CJ, Lyver POB, Macleod CJ, Whitehead AL, Forrester GJ 2015. Variation in productivity of Grey-faced Petrels (Pterodroma gouldi) with local burrow density and breeding island. Emu 115(1): 20–28.

Whitehead AL, Lyver PO, Jones CJ, Bellingham PJ, MacLeod CJ, Coleman M, Karl BJ, Drew K, Pairman D, Gormley AM, Duncan RP 2014. Establishing accurate baseline estimates of breeding populations of a burrowing seabird, the grey-faced petrel (Pterodroma macroptera gouldi) in New Zealand. Biological Conservation 169: 109–116.

Bellingham PJ, Richardson SJ, Gormley AM, MacLeod CJ, Forsyth DM 2013. Department of Conservation biodiversity indicators: 2013 assessment. Landcare Research Contract Report ; LC1621. Landcare Research. 101 p.

MacLeod CJ, Moller H 2013. Environmental monitoring for sustainable land management in New Zealand’s production landscapes. NZ Sustainability Dashboard Research Report 13/10. ARGOS. 97 p.

Adams J, MacLeod C, Suryan RM, Hyrenbach KD, Harvey JT 2012. Summer-time use of west coast US National Marine Sanctuaries by migrating sooty shearwaters (Puffinus griseus). Biological conservation 156: 105–116.

MacLeod CJ, Greene TC, MacKenzie DI, Allen RB 2012. Monitoring widespread and common bird species on New Zealand’s conservation lands: a pilot study. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 36(3): 300-311.

MacLeod CJ, Tinkler G, Gormley AM, Spurr EB 2012. Measuring occupancy for an iconic bird species in urban parks. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 36(3): 398-407.

MacLeod C, Blackwell G, Weller F, Moller H 2012. Designing a bird monitoring scheme for New Zealand’s agricultural sectors. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 36(3): 312-323.

MacLeod CJ, Affeld K, Allen RB, Bellingham PJ, Forsyth DM, Gormley AM, Holdaway RJ, Richardson SJ, Wiser SK 2012. Department of Conservation biodiversity indicators: 2012 assessment. Landcare Research Contract Report ; LC1102. Landcare Research. 63 p.

MacLeod CJ, Blackwell G, Benge J 2012. Reduced pesticide toxicity and increased woody vegetation cover account for enhanced native bird densities in organic orchards. Journal of applied ecology 49: 652-660.

MacLeod CJ, Drew KW, Coleman M 2011. Radio-tracking small farmland passerines: trade-offs in study design. Notornis 58(3&4): 113-123.

MacLeod CJ, Tompkins DM, Drew KW, Pyke N 2011. Does farm-scale habitat composition predict pest-bird numbers and distribution? Wildlife research 38(6): 464-474.

MacLeod CJ, Paterson AM, Tompkins DM, Duncan RP 2010. Parasites lost - do invaders miss the boat or drown on arrival ? Ecology letters 13: 516-527.

MacLeod CJ, Newson SE, Blackwell G, Duncan RP 2009. Enhanced niche opportunities: can they explain the success of New Zealand's introduced bird species? Diversity and Distributions 15(1): 41-49. WOS:000261521400004

MacLeod CJ, Adams J, Lyver PO 2008. At-sea distribution of satellite-tracked grey-faced petrels, Pterodroma macroptera gouldi, captured on the Ruamaahua (Aldermen) Islands, New Zealand. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 142(1): 73-88.

MacLeod CJ, Blackwell G, Moller H, Innes J, Powlesland R 2008. The forgotten 60%: bird ecology and management in New Zealand's agricultural landscape. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 32(2): 240-255. WOS:000262033600012

Moller H, MacLeod CJ, Haggerty J, Rosin C, Blackwell G, Perley C, Meadows S, Weller F, Gradwohl M 2008. Intensification of New Zealand agriculture: implications for biodiversity. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research 51(3): 253-263. WOS:000261136500003

MacLeod CJ, Till A 2007. Crop use by introduced bird species in winter in relation to crop structure and seed resources. Bird study 54: 80-86.

MacLeod CJ, Moller H 2006. Intensification and diversification of New Zealand agriculture since 1960: An evaluation of current indicators of land use change. Agriculture ecosystems and environment 115(1-4): 201-.

MacLeod CJ, Duncan RP, Parish DMB, Wratten SD, Hubbard SF 2005. Can increased niche opportunities and release from enemies explain the success of introduced Yellowhammer populations in New Zealand? Ibis 147: 598-607.

MacLeod CJ, Parish DMB, Duncan RP, Moreby S, Hubbard SF 2005. Importance of niche quality for yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella nestling survival, development and body condition in its native and exotic ranges: the role of diet. Ibis 147(2): 270-282.

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