School of Environment

Professor Mick Clout

Job title: Professor in Conservation Biology SBS / School of Environment
Phone: 64 9 373 7599 ext 85281
Office: 733.332 (Tamaki Campus)
Postal: School of Environment, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland


BSc (Hons) Edinburgh (1972), PhD Auckland (1978)


My three major research programmes are:

1. Conservation biology of threatened wildlife

This programme involves research on the conservation biology of a variety of threatened vertebrates. My personal interests have continued to focus on the ecology of New Zealand birds, commencing with my early research on the effects of plantation forestry on birds. More recently, I have published work on the critically endangered kakapo (Strigops habroptilus), and the ecology of NZ pigeons (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae), on which I conducted a series of studies and developed field techniques that are now routinely used. I was also one of the first ecologists to consider seed dispersal and avian frugivory in NZ forest ecosystems and I chaired an international symposium on this in 1990. In Australia, I was a DSIR exchange fellow with CSIRO Wildlife Research and studied the foraging ecology of glossy black cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus lathami). At the University of Auckland, I have worked with postgraduate students on the ecology of Ouvea parakeets (Eunymphicus cornutus) and of a variety of NZ species, including bats (Mysticina tuberculata), snails (Powellipanta), kiwi (Apteryx), kokako (Callaeas cinerea), and morepork owls (Ninox novaeseelandiae). I continue to have a close working relationship with the Department of Conservation, which now employs several of my previous students. Since 1995 I have chaired the DOC Kakapo Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, have written several scientific paperes on kakapo, and have assisted in the recovery of this unique species. Research on the offspring sex ratio of kakapo (Clout et al. 2002) was the subject of a review article in Nature.

My research on threatened species has led to my involvement in a number of current NZ initiatives in conservation, including the development of mainland sites for intensive management of invasive species that threaten native ecosystems. Several of my postgraduate students have researched ecosystem processes or threatened species recovery at “mainland island’ sites such as Trounson Kauri Park, Te Urewera and Wenderholm Regional Park. I was an early advocate for ecological restoration on the mainland, through intensive pest control, and was instrumental in establishing one of the first “mainland island” sites, at Wenderholm, which has been used for a series of subsequent studies. My interest in ecological restoration effectively combines my work on invasive species, ecology of introduced mammals and conservation biology.

My ornithological research led to my election as a permanent Member of the International Ornithological Committee (IOC) at the 2002 International Ornithological Congress. At the 2006 Congress I was elected to the Executive Committee of the IOC.

2. Ecology of introduced mammals

This research programme has been based around my longstanding interests in the ecology and behaviour of brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula). More recently, it has extended to work on other introduced mammals, including hedgehogs, cats, mustelids and rodents. A strong recent interest (jointly with postgraduate students) has been the invasion ecology of introduced mammals on islands. This has led to several publications, including papers in Nature (Russell et al. 2005) and PNAS (Rayner et al. 2007) that attracted international attention.

My research on brushtail possum ecology has aimed to improve the prospects for control of these invasive marsupials through study of their behaviour in the wild, including their mating system and movement patterns. This programme has supported two postdoctoral fellows (Dr S.Sarre, Dr W. Ji), 2 PhD and 5 MSc students , with several resulting publications.  We used a combination of field ecology and DNA profiling to reveal that possums have a polygynous mating system; a finding with major implications for any biological control strategy based on a sterility-causing agent transmitted by sexual contact. We have also shown that the presence of sterile females in possum populations has negative effects on the body condition of adult males. Recent research has sought to improve epidemiological models, and the planning of possum control, through increased knowledge of contact rates between wild possums. To this end we developed novel “proximity recorders” for attachment to free-living possums, and patented the concept (NZ 50643. 2002). It is now possible, for the first time, to remotely measure the timing and duration of close contacts between free-ranging wild animals (Douglas et al. 2006).


3. International Programme on the Biodiversity Impacts of Invasive Species

From 1993-2009 I chaired the IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group, a global group of scientific experts on invasive species that I founded, at the invitation of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. The purpose of the group (now consisting of over 200 scientists from more than 50 countries) is to foster work on the impacts of invasive species on global biodiversity and to provide scientific and policy advice to international conventions, governments and conservation bodies.
The IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group is co-ordinated from the School of Biological Sciences, where I employ 8 research fellows and a secretary. To support the work of this team I have been granted funds by IUCN, the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade, NZAID, Biosecurity NZ, the US Geological Survey (National Biodiversity Information Infrastructure), US State Department, Total Foundation, the US National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, and Conservation International. A twice-yearly international newsletter (Aliens) has been published from Auckland University and we run a very active list-server, which has over 650 subscribers world-wide. I regularly contribute to international scientific meetings and policies on the impacts of invasive species on biodiversity and have published extensively in this area. In 2000 we completed and published a major set of international policy guidelines (“Guidelines for the Prevention of Biodiversity Loss caused by Alien Invasive Species”) that I initiated, and for which I wrote the original text. These international guidelines have been formally adopted by IUCN and form the basis for the guiding principles on alien invasive species of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

From 1997-2000, I was a member of the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP), leading research to help prevent and predict future biological invasions through collation and analysis of data on existing invasive species. Funding was from the Global Environment Facility of the World Bank. The resulting Global Invasive Species Database ( (which we continue to populate and maintain) is Internet-based and freely available. It incorporates not only biological information on invasive species, but also information on how to manage the threats that they pose to biodiversity. This is proving to be an extremely useful tool for preventing and managing the adverse effects of invasive species world-wide and the database currently receives over 75,000 ‘hits’/day.

I continue to publish internationally on invasive species ecology and management. Recent publications in this field include a 2009 book on ‘Invasive Species Management’ that was
comissioned by Oxford University Press.

Most Recent Publications

Recent Publications

2009. CLOUT, M.N., WILLIAMS, P.R. (Eds.) Invasive Species Management: A Handbook of Principles and Techniques. Oxford University Press. 308 pp.

2008. RAYNER, M.J., HAUBER, M.E., CLOUT, M.N., SELDON, D.S., VAN DIJKEN, S., BURY, S. PHILLIPS, R.A. Foraging ecology of Cook’s petrel Pterodroma cookii during the austral breeding season: a comparison of its two populations. Marine Ecology Progress Series  370: 271-284.

2008. CLOUT, M.N., RUSSELL, J.C. The invasion ecology of mammals: a global perspective. Wildlife Research 35: 180-184.

2008. RUSSELL, J.C., BEAVEN, B.Z., MACKAY, J.W.B., TOWNS, D.R., CLOUT, M.N. Testing island biosecurity systems for invasive rats. Wildlife Research 35: 215 - 221.

2008. RUSSELL, J.C., TOWNS, D.R., CLOUT, M.N. Review of rat invasion biology: implications for island biosecurity. Science for Conservation  286. 53p.

2008. WHITE, P.C.L., CLOUT, M.N., ENGEMANN, R., ROY, S., SAUNDERS, G. Invasive vertebrates in ecosystems: patterns, process and the social dimension. Wildlife Research 35: 171-179

2008. WOTTON, D.M., CLOUT, M.N., KELLY, D. Seed retention times in the New Zealand pigeon, Hemiphaga noveaseelandiae. New Zealand Journal of Ecology  32: 1-6

2007. GILLIES, C.A., GRAHAM, P.J., CLOUT, M.N. Home ranges of introduced mammalian carnivores at Trounson Kauri Park, Northland, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 34: 317-333.

2007. RAYNER, M.J., CLOUT, M.N., STAMP, R.K., IMBER, M.J., BRUNTON, D.H., HAUBER, M.E. Predictive habitat modelling for the population census of a burrowing seabird: A study of the endangered Cook’s petrel. Biological Conservation 138: 235-247.

2007. RAYNER, M.J, HAUBER, M.E., CLOUT, M.N. Breeding habitat of the Cook’s Petrel (Pterodroma cookii) on Little Barrier Island (Hauturu): implications for the conservation of a New Zealand endemic. Emu 107: 1-10.

2007. RAYNER, M.J., HAUBER, M.E., IMBER, M.J., STAMP, R.K., CLOUT, M.N. Spatial heterogeneity of mesopredator release within an oceanic island system. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104 (52): 20862-20865.

2007. TINDALL, S. D., RALPH, C. J., CLOUT, M. N. Changes in bird abundance following Common Myna control on a New Zealand island.   Pacific Conservation Biology 13(3): 202-212.

2006. CLOUT, M.N., RUSSELL, J.C. The eradication of mammals from New Zealand islands. In: Assessment and control of Biological Invasion Risks. F. Koike, M.N. Clout, M. Kawamichi, M. De Poorter and K. Iwatsuki (eds.). IUCN, Cambridge, UK. Pp 127-141.

2006. CLOUT, M.N. Keystone aliens? The multiple impacts of brushtail possums. In: Ecological Studies 186: Biological Invasions in New Zealand. R.B. Allen and W.G. Lee (eds). Springer-Verlag, Berlin. Pp 265-280.

2006. CLOUT, M.N. A celebration of kakapo: progress in the conservation of an enigmatic parrot. Notornis 53: 1-2.

2006. DOUGLAS, M.E., JI, W., CLOUT, M.N. MateID: design and testing of a novel device for recording contacts between free-ranging animals. Wildlife Society Bulletin 34:204-208.

2006. FARRIMOND, M., CLOUT, M.N., ELLIOTT, G.P. Home range size of kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) on Codfish Island. Notornis 53: 150-152.

2006. FARRIMOND, M., ELLIOTT, G.P., CLOUT, M.N. Growth and fledging of kakapo. Notornis 53: 112-115.

2006. ROBERTSON, B.C., ELLIOTT, G.P., EASON, D.K., CLOUT, M.N., GEMMELL, N.J. Sex allocation theory aids species conservation. Biology Letters  2(2): 229-231.

2006. Ward, D.F.; Beggs, J.R.; Clout, M.N.; Harris, R.; O’Connor, S. The diversity and origin of exotic ants arriving to New Zealand via human-mediated dispersal. Diversity & Distributions 12: 601-609.

2005. CLOUT, M.N., DE POORTER, M. International initiatives against invasive species. Weed Technology 19 (3): 226-230.

2005. DE POORTER, M., BROWNE, M., LOWE, S., CLOUT, M. The ISSG Global Invasive Species Database and other aspects of an early warning system. In: Mooney, H.A., Mack, R.N., McNeeley, J.A., Neville, L.E., Schei, P.J., Waage, J.K. (eds.). Invasive Alien Species: A  New Synthesis. (SCOPE 63). Island Press, Washington. Pp. 59-83.

2005. JI, W., WHITE, P.C.L., CLOUT, M.N. Contact rates between possums revealed by proximity data loggers. Journal of Applied Ecology 42: 595-604.

2005. RUSSELL, J. C., CLOUT, M. N. Rodent Incursions on New Zealand islands. In: Parkes, J.; Statham, M.; Edwards, G. (eds) Proceedings of the 13th Australasian Vertebrate Pest Conference. Landcare Research, Lincoln, pp. 324-330.

2005. RUSSELL, J.C., TOWNS, D.R., ANDERSON, S.H., CLOUT, M.N. Intercepting the first rat ashore. Nature 437/20: 1107.

2005 JI, W., CLOUT, M. ‘Conservation – applied ecology’. Pp 84-99 In: Parsons, S (ed.) Biology Aotearoa. Pearson Education New Zealand, Auckland.

2004. JI, W., SARRE, S.D., WHITE, P.C., CLOUT, M.N. Population recovery of common brushtail possums after local depopulation. Wildlife Research 31: 543-550.

2004. RUSSELL, J.C., CLOUT, M.N. Modeling the distribution and Interactions of introduced rodents on New Zealand offshore Islands. Global Ecology and Biogeography 13: 497-507.

2004. RUSSELL, J.C., CLOUT, M.N., McARDLE, B.H. Island biogeography and the species richness of introduced mammals on New Zealand offshore islands. Journal of Biogeography 31: 653-664.

2003. CLOUT, M.N. Exploitation and conservation (a review). Trends in Ecology and Evolution 18: 168-9.

2003. AMORI, G., CLOUT, M.N. ‘Rodents on islands: a conservation challenge’. In Singleton,G.R., Hinds, C.A., Krebs, C.J., Spratt,D..M. (eds.) ‘Rats, Mice and People: rodent biology and management’. ACIAR Monograph 96:63-68.

2003. GILLIES, C., CLOUT, M.N. The prey species of domestic cats in two suburbs of Auckland City, New Zealand. Journal of Zoology, London 259: 309-315.

2003. JI, W., SARRE, S.D., CRAIG, J.L, CLOUT, M.N. Denning behaviour of brushtail possums in populations recovering from density reduction. Journal of Mammalogy  84: 1059-1067.

2003. ROBINET, O., BRETAGNOLLE, V., CLOUT, M.N. Activity patterns, habitat use, foraging and food selection of the Ouvea parakeet (Eunymphicus cornutus uvaeensis) Emu 103: 71-80.

2002. CLOUT, M.N. Biodiversity loss caused by invasive alien vertebrates. Zeitschrift fur Jagdwissenschaft 48. 51-58. 2002.

2002. CLOUT, M.N., VEITCH, C.R. ‘Turning the tide of biological invasion’  In: Veitch, C.R., Clout M.N. ‘Turning the tide: the eradication of invasive species’. Auckland, IUCN (The World Conservation Union). 1-2. 2002.

2002. CLOUT,M.N., ELLIOTT, G.P., ROBERTSON, B.C. Effects of supplementary feeding on the offspring sex ratio of kakapo: a dilemma for the conservation of a polygynous parrot. Biological Conservation 107: 13-18.

2002. JI W., CLOUT M.N. The common brushtail possum in New Zealand: an unfinished battle with an alien invasive marsupial. Biodiversity Science 10: 98-105.

2002. CLOUT, M.N. ‘Ecological and economic costs of alien vertebrates in New Zealand’. Pp. 185-193 in: Pimentel, D. (ed.) Biological Invasions. New York, CRC Press.


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