Past members


Me and the nepenthes.jpg
Chrissie Painting

Chrissie completed her PhD in the Holwell lab on weaponry, contests and alternative mating tactics in the remarkable NZ Giraffe Weevil. She then worked on a Marsden funded project on the evolution of extreme weaponry in NZ neopilionid harvestmen. Chrissie is now Senior Lecturer at the University of Waikato and you can find out more about some amazing research opportunities to work with her here:

Jaimi Gray

Jaimi spent a short postdoc here in the Holwell lab using her geometric morphometric wizardry to reconstruct 3D models of heaps of neopilionid harvestmen as part of our Marsden-funded project aiming to understand the evolution and diversity of exaggerated weaponry in this fabulous group. She is now at Oklahoma State University working on neuroanatomy of seasnakes. You can find out more about Jaimi here

Nathan Burke

Nathan_in_Goblin_Forest_Mt_Taranaki_2020Nathan’s postdoctoral research was funded by a University of Auckland FRDF grant and focused on understanding the costs and benefits of sex, parthenogenesis and sexual cannibalism in the invasive praying mantis Miomantis caffra. Nathan is now on a Humboldt Fellowship at the University of Hamburg. Find out more about Nathan here

PhD students

Cassandra Mark ButterflyBee

Cass did her PhD on camouflage and masquerade in the New Zealand lichen moth Declana postvittana, whose larvae look like bird droppings and adults look like lichen. Cass is now an assistant curator at Auckland Museum

Tom Saunders

Tom-SaundersTom studied the suitability of releasing the samurai wasp, Trissolcus japonicus, against the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), Halyomorpha halys. This pre-emptive approach discovered a great deal about the interactions between  BMSB and New Zealand stinkbugs

Rebecca Le Gricep1030883

Bex studied the behavioural and community ecology of Aotearoa|New Zealand’s wrack-dwelling flies. Prior to this her MSc research, also in the Holwell lab, looked at sexual selection int eh NZ Giraffe Weevil. She is now Curator of Terrestrial Invertebrates at Canterbury Museum.

12512265_10153604874174331_4361018593314035145_nLeilani Walker

Leilani’s PhD examined sexual selection and weapon evolution in sheet-web spiders (Cambridgea) and her prior Honours project  looked at sexual cannibalism in the facultatively parthenogenic mantis, Miomantis caffra.

Leilani is now a Lecturer at Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

camera setting croppedMurray Fea

Murray completed his PhD on the reproductive ecology of the cave wētā I am currently studying the ecology of New Zealand cave weta Pachyrhamma waitomoensis . Prior to this his MSc research in the Holwell lab focused on interactions between an invasive and native praying mantis.  Murray is now Technical Adviser (Threats) for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation.

daveDave Seldon

Dave’s PhD research focused on the taxonomy and phylogenetics of the iconic endemic New Zealand ground beetle genus Mecodema . Dave is now a Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland.

Erin Powell

Erin worked on a Marsden funded PhD project looking at the evolution of exaggerated male weaponry in harvestmen (Opiliones). She is now an entomologist based at the University of Florida.

Kathleen Collier

Kat investigated the social interactions and courtship behaviour of the New Zealand short-tailed bat, Mystacina tuberculata for her PhD.  

Gonzalo Avila

DSC00084Gonzalo conducted his MSc and PhD research in the Holwell lab focusing on the biological control program utilising Cotesia urabae against the gum leaf skeletoniser (GLS) Uraba lugens ontrol agent Cotesia urabae.

Gonzalo is now Team Leader ( Biological Control)  Plant and Food Research Limited, New Zealand.


Shelley Myers – Shelley did her PhD with Greg & Thomas Buckley where she looked at population genetics, morphology and behaviour of Clitarchus stick insects. She is now a Lecturer for University of New Hampshire/EcoQuest


Rebecca Bennik

For her PhD, Rebecca investigated genital evolution, sexual conflict and sexually antagonistic coevolution in two genera of New Zealand moths – Izatha and Glaucocharis.
She is currently working for Wellington council as a Pollution Investigator within the Resource Consent and Compliance department.

WebsiteJosephine McCambridge

Josie complete her looking at male contest behaviour and exaggerated weaponry of the endemic New Zealand sheetweb spider Cambridgea plagiata. Josie now works for AsureQuality identifying invertebrates intercepted at the border.


Stacey Lamont

Stacey investigated the diversity and ecology of spider communities in native New Zealand forest fragments.  She now works as a senior technician at the Ministry for Primary Industries

Maria Saavedra

Maria did her MSc research on the ecology of bronze bug Thaumastocoris peregrinus, which is a recently established Eucalyptus pest in New Zealand.

She now works at AsureQuality as a Forestry Assessor and also as the High Risk Site Surveillance (HRSS) programme coordinator working closely with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).


Zac Wylde

Zac did his MSc looking a the community ecology, behaviour and biology of New Zealand carrion flies. Zac then completed a PhD with Russell Bondurianksy at UNSW.


Catalina Amaya-Perilla

Catalina’s masters looked at the behaviour of redcoat damelflies. She is now a telemetry consultant at Sirtrack Ltd.