Kirsty Smith

Kirsty Smith

Manager – Molecular and Algal Ecology

Role at Cawthron

Kirsty is a Science Group Manager (Molecular and Algal Ecology) and a marine ecologist specialising in phytoplankton community dynamics, harmful algal blooms, marine invertebrates and invasive species. She has expertise in a wide range of molecular techniques for characterising biodiversity and understanding adaptation in marine organisms, including the use of qPCR/ddPCR, metabarcoding, whole transcriptome sequencing and epigenetics. She currently co-leads both the Safe New Zealand Seafood Research Platform (SSIF MBIE-funded), and the nationally significant Cawthron Institute Culture Collection of Microalgae (SSIF MBIE-funded).  

Technical skills, experience and interests

  • Microalgal ecology & harmful algal blooms 
  • Phylogenetics & population genetics  
  • Environmental DNA & Metabarcoding 
  • Molecular adaptation & stress response  
  • Epigenetics 

Professional affiliations and achievements

  • Specialty Chief Editor, Frontiers in Protistology  
  • International Society for the Study of Harmful Algae 
  • New Zealand Marine Sciences Society


  • Post-Doctoral Fellowship, University of Tsukuba, 2013 
  • PhD, Biological Sciences, University of Waikato, 2012
  • MSc, Ecology and Evolution (Hons), Victoria University of Wellington, 2005 
Kirsty Smith