Natural History team

Find out about the people that make up our Natural History team and their roles at Te Papa.

Phil Edgar, MA

Head of Natural History

Phil Edgar

Phil leads the Natural History team of collection, curatorial, and research staff. Phil’s background at Te Papa is in opening up access to collections through museum collection information systems, data management, digitisation, online collections, and biodiversity informatics.    

Alan Tennyson, MSc

Curator Vertebrates

Alan on a steep gravel bank, he has a pickaxe in his hand

Alan’s research covers most vertebrate animal groups but his particular expertise is in fossil and living birds. His current research focuses on the history and origins of New Zealand’s animals and the conservation of seabirds in the South Pacific.  

Twitter   |   ResearchGate   |   ORCID

Andrew Stewart

Assistant Curator Fishes

A man in a room of shelves holding a jar with a fish in it

Andrew has had a fascination and love of fishes since he was very small. His particular areas of specialisation are the deep-water fishes and Southern Ocean (Antarctic) fishes, but he can cover the full range of species.  

ORCID

Belinda Alvarez de Glasby, PhD

Kaitiaki Taonga Collection Manager, Invertebrates (Marine)

A woman is kneeling on the ground surrounded by buckets of marine specimens.

Belinda is a marine biologist specialising in sponges (Phylum Porifera) with additional expertise in other benthic invertebrates with bioactive properties including corals, lace corals, tunicates and ascidians. Belinda started her marine biology career in her country of origin, Venezuela, and later worked in collection-based institutions in the US, Australia, Sweden and New Zealand. Over the course of her career, Belinda has developed her skills and expertise in her speciality group (sponges) and in the management and curation of natural history collections. Her role at Te Papa is to care for the marine invertebrate collections and make them available for research, exhibitions and other public programs.

Google Scholar

Bridget Hatton, BSc

Kaitiaki Taonga Collection Manager Botany

A woman standing in front of a shelf full of labeled boxes.

Bridget cares for the 375,000 dried plant specimens in Te Papa’s herbarium. She is responsible for cataloguing new specimens, digitising historic data, preparing loans of material to other herbaria and hosting visiting researchers. She supports the research botanists and is closely involved with the push to digitise the botany collection by capturing high-resolution images of the specimens.      

Carl Struthers, MSc

Research Officer, Vertebrates (Fishes)

Close up of a man on a beach looking at the camera

Carl has been Research and Technical Officer at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa since 2005. Carl is currently researching the taxonomy and phylogeny of the Seaperches, morid cod, and Flagfins in New Zealand and the South Pacific. His work also includes photography, digital imaging and radiography of fish specimens in support of ongoing research projects. As Te Papa’s Dive Officer, Carl is responsible for the underwater dive programme and its safe implementation. He is an experienced field worker, participating in many fish collecting expedition using scuba in coastal waters and blue-water expeditions to remote locations, both within and outside New Zealand waters (e.g., Kermadec, Auckland and Three Kings Islands). Carl was co-author of the award winning The Fishes of New Zealand.  

ORCID   |   ResearchGate   |   Google Scholar   

Carlos Lehnebach, PhD

Curator Botany

Carlos lies on the ground with his magnifying equipment on his head, surrounded by trees, with a big grin on his face

Carlos is a botanist who studies the diversity, evolution and conservation of New Zealand flowering plants. His main groups of interest are terrestrial and epiphytic orchids, alpine plants, and plants shared with other land masses in the Southern Hemisphere. His current projects aim at describing the New Zealand orchid flora and developing methods to assist the conservation of rare and threatened plants.  

Twitter   |   ORCID   |   ResearchGate   |   Google Scholar     

Catherine Tate

Natural History Collection Technician, Vertebrates

A head and shoulders photo of a woman looking at the camera.

Catherine is a technician who supports the vertebrate team primarily as a skeleton preparator; work that also involves caring for the museum’s dermestid beetle colony, as well as registering and data basing specimens into the collection.      

Clive Roberts, PhD

Research Fellow, Vertebrates (Fishes)

Clive Roberts

Clive is an experienced field worker who has led numerous expeditions sampling New Zealand fish faunas, with teams of scientists using scuba in coastal waters and commercial and research vessels offshore in the deep sea. In 2003 he was science leader of the NORFANZ voyage on GRV Tangaroa. He has published a large number of scientific papers and popular science articles and is particularly interested in the taxonomy, diversity and biogeography of fishes of the Pacific Ocean. Clive was co-author of New Zealand Fish: A Complete Guide, The Rockpool Fishes of New Zealand, and The Fishes of New Zealand.

ResearchGate      

Colin Miskelly, PhD

Curator Vertebrates

Dr Colin Miskelly

Colin is an ornithologist with broad interests, including conservation ecology, biogeography, and the history of science. An expert in bird identification, his research drove the creation of the website NZ Birds Online. Colin’s current research interests include Auckland Islands ornithology, Fiordland seabirds, vagrant birds, and New Zealand snipe relationships and conservation status.  

ORCID  |   ResearchGate     

Felix Marx, PhD

Curator Vertebrates

Man poses for a photo beside the skull of a whale

Felix is a palaeontologist and biologist with an interest in all things marine mammal: whales, dolphins, and seals. He specialises in the evolution of baleen whales, but has worked on a broad variety of topics, from macroevolution to feeding ecology, biogeography, and behaviour. Together with colleagues from Belgium and the USA, he published Cetacean Paleobiology, a comprehensive textbook on the evolution of whales and dolphins.  

ORCID   |   ResearchGate   |   Google Scholar  

Heidi Meudt, PhD

Curator Botany

Heidi Meudt

Heidi is a botanist whose collections-based research focuses on the evolution and classification of native New Zealand flowering plants, especially forget-me-nots (Myosotis). She uses morphology, pollen, DNA and other data to understand how many species there are, how they can be identified, and where they are found. Her research aims to update the taxonomy and conservation status of all native forget-me-nots. Heidi also studies native foxgloves (Ourisia), plantains (Plantago), and hebes (Veronica) throughout the southern hemisphere.
 
ORCID   |   ResearchGate   |   Google Scholar     

Jeremy Barker, MAppSc

Kaitiaki Taonga Collection Manager, Vertebrates (Fishes)

A closeup of a bearded man standing in front of jars of fish

Jeremy is a marine biologist working in the Fish team. His work focuses on maintenance and development of the fish collection, as well as facilitating access and providing technical support. He helped produce The Fishes of New Zealand and is working on developing the Checklist of New Zealand Fishes.

ORCID

Julia Kasper, PhD

Lead Curator Invertebrates

Julia kneeling in the grass, she has a net by her side

Julia is an entomologist specialised in flies. She studies the taxonomy and distribution of lower Diptera in New Zealand with a strong focus on biosecurity. Her background is in medical and forensic entomology and odour-host recognition of flies using chemical ecological methods. Julia has a strong interest in outreach especially on topics such as medical entomology and freshwater macro-invertebrates.  

Twitter   |   ORCID   |   ResearchGate   |   Google Scholar   |   Mosquito Census   

Julia Wilson-Davey, MSc

Natural History Collection Technician, Botany

Julia is a technician working primarily in the Botany collection. Her work includes collection management and processing new acquisitions. Julia’s background is in botany, ecology, and collection information management. She has an MSc in Environmental Science from Canterbury University.

Lara Shepherd, PhD

Researcher

Lara Shepherd

Lara is an evolutionary biologist who uses genetic and genomic techniques to study the evolution of New Zealand’s flora and fauna. She also has an interest in applying these techniques to examine cultural objects.  

Twitter   |   ORCID   |   ResearchGate   |   Google Scholar  

Leon Perrie, PhD

Curator Botany

Man in a Hawaiian shirt looking at plants and smiling

Caption

Leon Perrie looking at plants on the Atafu atoll, Tokelau, 2017. Photo by Michael O'Neill. Te Papa (106130)

Leon’s research focuses on New Zealand’s ferns: their numbers, locations and identification. He has used DNA analyses to address this work and such questions as how ferns are related to one another and to species overseas. He was a contributing author for the Ferns and Lycophytes series for the online Flora of New Zealand. He also works on Pacific ferns, and has studied other plant groups, particularly Pseudopanax (lancewoods and five fingers).  

ORCID   |   ResearchGate   |   Google Scholar   |   iNaturalist   |   NZ Ferns  

Phil Sirvid, PhD

Assistant Curator Invertebrates

A man sitting in front of wooden drawers

Phil has a broad general knowledge of New Zealand entomology but specialises in the arachnids, particularly spiders and harvestmen. He has published on the taxonomy, systematics and evolutionary history of New Zealand spiders as well as on medical entomology and arachnid conservation.  

ORCID   |   ResearchGate   |   Google Scholar

Salme Kortet, MSc

Kaitiaki Taonga Collection Manager, Vertebrates (Fishes)

Salme is responsible for ensuring that the fish collection details – comprising of voucher specimens, tissue samples, radiographs, and scientific literature– are verified, catalogued, and entered into the museum’s collection database. She helped produce The Fishes of New Zealand and is working on the Checklist of New Zealand Fishes.  

ORCID

Sarah Tassell, PhD

Manager, Natural History Collections

Head and shoulders photo of a woman looking at a camera

Sarah manages the Kaitiaki Taonga Collection Managers and Collection Technicians within the Natural History Team at Te Papa. She coordinates collection management activities related to collection care, access, and development. Sarah is a biologist with a background in terrestrial and aquatic ecology and science communication and has previously worked across several museums and research collections in Australia and New Zealand.

ORCID

Thomas Schultz, BSc

Kaitiaki Taonga Collection Manager Vertebrates

Tom received his BSc in Marine Biology from Victoria University. He works primarily in the vertebrate collections. Collection care activities include processing, accessioning and storing new acquisitions, facilitating access to the collections for researchers, and exhibition installation and maintenance.  He also manages the training and compliance for work in the large collections stored in alcohol and the facility that processes biosecurity risk material.  
 

Research Associates

Rick Webber, MSc

Research Associate, Invertebrates

Rick Webber

Rick is a marine biologist specialising in Crustacea. His research is mostly on the identity of crabs, lobsters and shrimps, and especially the larvae of crabs. Currently he is researching the crabs and shrimps of Pacific islands, and the tiny larvae of pea crabs, the little crabs that live in mussels. He is also working with colleagues on a new species of land hoppers, the crustaceans that live on land, and on the identities of other small marine crustaceans.    

Bruce Marshall, DSc

Research Associate Invertebrates (Malacology)

A head and shoulders photo of a man standing in front of trays of mollusc shells

Google Scholar

Ricardo Palma, MSc

Research Associate, Invertebrates

Ricardo Palma

Ricardo’s research on parasitic lice includes morphology, taxonomy, systematics, phylogenetic relationships and host association. This work focuses mainly on New Zealand, Australia, and oceanic islands, with special emphasis on lice from sea birds. He also collaborates with foreign researchers on studies of lice from other regions, and with ornithologists on nomenclatorial matters relating to bird taxonomy.

ORCID   |  Google Scholar

Patrick Brownsey, PhD

Research Associate, Botany

Patrick Brownsey

Pat's special interest is in New Zealand ferns and lycophytes. He is currently a Research Fellow, working with Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research to publish the online eFlora of New Zealand. He also works on Pacific and Australian ferns.  

ORCID   |   Google Scholar   

Mike Fitzgerald, PhD

Research Associate, Invertebrates

Mike has a strong interest in the ecology and diversity of spiders in New Zealand and he also works on their taxonomy and systematics. He has surveyed spiders widely in New Zealand and contributed substantially to the spider collection in Te Papa. Mike is also interested in the historical development of arachnology in 19th-century New Zealand and of the role of A.T. Urquhart.

Rodrigo Salvador, PhD

Research Associate, Invertebrates (Malacology)

Rodrigo is a biologist and palaeontologist specialising in gastropods, particularly land snails and slugs. He is interested in describing the world’s land snails and in understanding their evolutionary relationships, fossil record, and biogeographic history. Rodrigo is also interested in sci comm mixing science and geek culture; he is one of the founders of the Journal of Geek Studies.  

Twitter   |   ORCID   |   ResearchGate   |   Google Scholar   |   Rodrigo’s website

Enquiries

Email enquiries for Te Papa experts go to the Enquiry Centre initially. To help channel your enquiry, you can specify the person you think may be able to help you.
Contact a Te Papa expert via the Enquiry Centre