Position: Senior Marine Scientist Field: Marine ecology, aquaculture Organisation: Cawthron Institute

Dr Dave Taylor is a senior marine scientist at the Cawthron Institute in Nelson. He specialises in measuring and monitoring the environmental effects of aquaculture and coastal development on marine systems, particularly the effects on subtidal and intertidal rocky reef ecosystems.

Dave always wanted a job working in or near the sea. His interest in marine ecology was fuelled by relatives who have careers in marine science. They encouraged him to study mathematics, writing skills and science at university. Dave completed a science degree in zoology at the University of Otago and also a marine ecology honours project at the University of Canterbury’s Zoology department.

Dave received a PhD scholarship from the University of Canterbury to look at why seaweeds on rocky shores grow in some places and not others. Throughout his PhD research, Dave worked and lived in Kaikōura – a real hotspot for marine biodiversity. He also received a travel scholarship to do similar research in Oregon, USA.

After 6 years of postdoctoral research at the University of Canterbury, Dave moved to the Cawthron Institute where he is often at the business end of marine science. He does research for the aquaculture industry, including mussel and salmon farmers. He does regular checks of the seafloor beneath and adjacent to marine farms by scuba diving, using automatic grab samplers or underwater video cameras to check that these farms aren’t having effects beyond those allowed in their resource consents.

Real science is about continually asking questions. Never be afraid to ask a question, particularly of someone who professes to know all of the answers… And remember, even if nothing happens in an experiment, it’s still worth writing about. Zero is still a result!

Dave also takes ‘grab’ or ‘core’ samples to count and identify the animals living in the sediments around marine farms, as these animals are good indicators of what is going on in the environment.

He is often called on when there are unusual or unexplained things happening in the sea. This can be exciting because he takes samples from reefs, beaches, harbours, under boats or on marine farms, in anything from crystal clear water to murky blackness.

Dave loves the outdoors. In his spare time, he goes tramping, kayaking, mountain biking and fishing.

This article is based on information current in 2012.

    Published 4 September 2012