Professor George Perry

BSc(Hons)/MSc (Canterbury), PhD (Melbourne), PGCAP (London)

Profile Image


I completed undergraduate and Masters studies in the Departments of Geography and Plant and Microbial Sciences at the University of Canterbury, before doing a PhD at the University of Melbourne. I worked in the Department of Geography at King's College London for four years before moving to the School of Environment.

Research | Current

I am interested in the dynamics of forest ecosystems at spatial scales from the population to the landscape and at temporal scales from decades to milennia. All of my research involves a strong field-based component supported by simulation and/or statistical modelling.

My current research is primarily focused on understanding the effects of humans on forest ecosystems.  I am particularly interested in how anthropic changes to disturbance regimes, especially fire, have restructured ecosystems and the legacies and challenges this has left for modern ecosystems. I am also interested in how forest loss modifies and disrupts plant-animal mutualisms.  I have developed high-resolution chronologies for prehistoric extinction events, including NZ's iconic moa, and, I have worked with graduate students on a variety of topics concerned with understanding how altered landscape structure influences habitat connectivity, seed dispersal and animal movement. I am a collaborator on two projects focused on developing socio-ecological simulation models to support decision-making for ecosystem services and conservation in multi-functional landscapes.  In the past I have conducted research in ecosystems in SW Australia, Spain, and New Caledonia.



I have designed an Excel add-in for spatial point pattern analysis (including nearest-neighbour methods, refined nearest neighbour, Ripley's K, the neighbourhood density function, etc.) called SpPack. This software is currently being used by a number of researchers around the world and is described in a paper in Environmental Modelling & Software. This software is freely available on email request.


Teaching | Current

My teaching is focused in the broad areas of terrestrial ecology, environmental change and associated quantitative methods.  My main contributions are in ENVSCI 101 (Environment, Science & Management), GEOG 261 (Climate, Hydrology & Biogeography), GEOG 334 (Environmental Change), ENVSCI 705 (Environmental data analysis) and ENVSCI 737 (Applied Terrestrial Ecology).  I also contribute to two courses in the School of Biological Sciences: BIOSCI 396 (Terrestrial Ecology) and BIOSCI 734 (Terrestrial Plant Ecology).

Postgraduate supervision

Current doctoral students

  • Sandra Anderson 'The consequences of unravelling plant-bird mutualisms in NZ ecosystems' Co-supervised with Assoc Prof Janet Wilmshurst (Landcare Research & School of Environment).

  • Alex Boast  'Paleoecology and ancient DNA of the kakapo Strigops habroptilus' Co-supervised with Assoc Prof Janet Wilmshurst (Landcare Research & School of Environment).

  • Bree Powers 'Ecosystem services and land-use and cover change modelling in multi-functional landscapes'.

  • Ben Reed 'Coupled species distributuion and demographic models of moa extinction' Co-supervised with Assoc Prof Janet Wilmshurst (Landcare Research & School of Environment).

  • Finn Lee 'How are metacommunity structure and connectivity influenced by network structure in dendritic systems?' Co-supervised with Assoc Prof Kevin Simon (School of Environment).

  • Tristan Webb 'Agent-based models of interactions between humans, vegetation and fire in New Zealand's initial burning period' Co-supervised with Assoc Prof Janet Wilmshurst (Landcare Research & School of Environment).

  • Quinn Asena 'Evaluating the robustness of early warning signals of tipping points in palaeoecological data' Co-supervised with Assoc Prof Janet Wilmshurst (Landcare Research & School of Environment).

Recently completed doctoral students

  • James Brock (SBS, University of Auckland, 2018) 'Ecosystem engineers? The role of tree-ferns (Cyathea) in New Zealand's forest ecosystems'. Co-supervised with Dr Bruce Burns (SBS).
  • Erin Kennedy (SBS, University of Auckland, 2017) ‘A spatially-explicit approach to assessing and resolving human-wildlife conflict’ Co-supervised with Dr Todd Dennis (SBS)

  • Alice Baranyovits (SBS, University of Auckland, 2017) ‘Seasonal movements of kereru (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) through fragmented landscapes and the implications for seed dispersal’ Co-supervised with Prof Jacqueline Beggs and Prof Mick Clout (both SBS)

  • Craig Simpkins (SBS, University of Auckland, 2017) ‘Interactions between environmental variability and interspecific interactions in determining dispersal success’. Co-supervised with Dr Todd Dennis (SBS). 

  • Jingjing Zhang (SBS, University of Auckland, 2016) ‘Modelling animal movement in heterogeneous environments: from statistical inferential models to individual-based models’. Co-supervised with Dr Todd Dennis (SBS)

  • Narkis Morales (SENV, University of Auckland, 2014) 'The role of post-dispersal regeneration processes in Beilschmiedia tawa forest fragments, Waikato, Northern New Zealand'


Charles Bullard Fellow, Harvard Forest, 2012

Areas of expertise

Forest ecology, fire ecology, palaeoecology, extinction, ecological modelling

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Cui, X., Alam, M. A., Perry, G. L., Paterson, A. M., Wyse, S. V., & Curran, T. J. (2019). Green firebreaks as a management tool for wildfires: Lessons from China. Journal of environmental management, 233, 329-336. 10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.12.043
  • Brock, J. M. R., Burns, B. R., Perry, G. L. W., & Lee, W. G. (2019). Gametophyte niche differences among sympatric tree ferns. BIOLOGY LETTERS, 15 (1)10.1098/rsbl.2018.0659
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Bruce Burns, James Brock, William Lee
  • Bellve, A., Burns, B., Perry, G., & Brock, J. (2018). The role of perching lilies (epiphytic Astelia spp.) as habitat-formers in northern New Zealand forests. Paper presented at New Zealand Ecological Society conference, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand. 25 November - 29 November 2018. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Bruce Burns, Andre Bellve, James Brock
  • Burns, B. R., Brock, J., Ryder, J., & Perry, G. L. M. (2018). Effects of Phytophthora agathidicida infection on the composition and structure of Agathis australis forest. Nathan Homestead, Manurewa, Auckland. 21 July - 21 July 2018. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Bruce Burns, James Brock, Jess Ryder
  • Tepley, A. J., Veblen, T. T., Perry, G. L. W., Stewart, G. H., & Naficy, C. E. (2016). Positive feedbacks to fire-driven deforestation following human colonization of the South Island of New Zealand. Ecosystems, 19 (8), 1325-1344. 10.1007/s10021-016-0008-9
  • Bowman, D. M. J. S., Perry, G. L. W., Higgins, S. I., Johnson, C. N., Fuhlendorf, S. D., & Murphy, B. P. (2016). Pyrodiversity is the coupling of biodiversity and fire regimes in food webs. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 371 (1696).10.1098/rstb.2015.0169
  • Dickson, M., & Perry, G. (2016). Identifying the controls on coastal cliff landslides using machine-learning approaches. Environmental Modelling and Software, 76, 117-127. 10.1016/j.envsoft.2015.10.029
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mark Dickson
  • Etherington, T. R., & Perry, G. L. W. (2016). Visualising continuous intra-landscape isolation with uncertainty using least-cost modelling based catchment areas: common brushtail possums in the Auckland isthmus. International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 30 (1), 36-50. 10.1080/13658816.2014.926365


Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 4, Room 457
New Zealand

Web links