Dr Marion MacKay staff profile picture

Contact details +64 (06) 356 9099  ext. 84815

Dr Marion MacKay

Senior Lecturer in Environment Management

School of Agriculture and Environment

Marion has a BHortSc (Hons) from Massey University and a PhD from Massey University.  Her main research focus is the range and diversity of exotic woody plants held in botanic gardens and plant collections in New Zealand and the management and utility of that plant diversity.  Marion now leads a research team on diversity and conservation of Rhododendron; a large genus with some 730 Red List species. Over 2016-18 Marion has published about 18 articles on Rhododendron conservation and, working with colleagues in London and around the world, is developing a global conservation strategy for the genus.  She is also undertaking contract research to develop a conservation programme for the rare Rhododendron species held in New Zealand collections.  This work follows-on from items such as participation in the Rhododendron Red-List conservation assessment panel (2008) and the award of the Peter Skellerup Plant Conservation Award (2009) and the American Rhododendron Society Research Award (2010) to the research team.  Marion has given several international addresses on the New Zealand research, including the Global Conservation workshop for Rhododendron (2018) and the Global Botanic Gardens Congress (2014). 

In a second project on utility of exotic flora in New Zealand, Marion ir part of a reserarch consortium investigating the diversity of Juniperus communis in New Zealand and the potential for development of a juniper 'berry' production system in New Zealand.

With respect to native flora Marion is involved in native forest restoration of the 350 ha Pukeiti Forest in Taranaki and in 2011 published "Plants of Pukeiti Forest" (585pp).   A susequent project on regeneration of kauri forest at Limestone Downs in Waikato is ongoing.  In 2013 she was appointed to the research team who is developing a seed bank for New Zealand flora (New Zealand Indigenous Flora Seed Bank) and Marion has contributed to the target species aspect of this programme.  In 2012 Marion presented the annual Banks Memorial Lecture to the Royal New Zealand Insititute of Horticulture, covering her work on both native and exotic flora.

Over time Marion has examined theses and reivewed papers on topics such as endangered species, restoration, urban trees, urban wetlands, and impacts on native flora.  She has also supervised or co-supervised Masters and PHD theses such as:

  • Fayaz. A. 2013.  Biodiversity of Rhododendron in New Zealand and its potential contribution to ex-situ conservation.   Unpublished PhD thesis, Massey University. 
  • Foo C.L. 2012.  Ground cover plants for weed control in amenity horticulture.  Unpublished PhD thesis, Massey University. 
  • Yu, K. 2015. The Effect of Desiccation on Seed Storage of New Zealand Indigenous species: Clianthus spp, Carmichaelia muritai, Pittosporum crassifolium, and Pittosporum eugenioides. Unpublished MAgSc thesis, Massey University.

Marion's resarch focus is on the understanding and managing of plant biodiversity, both native or exotic plants, in natural or urban landscapes, and the management approaches that are needed to manage that resource.   She has a combination of expertise in both native and exotic plants, and management processes that can be applied to a range of research topics.

Marion is a Senior Lecturer in Horticulture and Environmental Management who specialises in plant biodiversity and the conservation and management of plant-related aspects of the landscape/environment.  Her current research examines the diversity of exotic plants in cultivation in New Zealand and their utility for international conservation programmes.  The genus Rhododendron is the current focus; in 2017-18 Marion has been working with an international group to develop a global conservation strategy for this genus.  Marion also studies New Zealand indigenous flora including native forest restoration projects and the target species programme of the New Zealand Indigenous Seed Bank project. 

More about me...View less...


Contact details

  • Ph: +64 6 9517815
    Location: AH 3.02B, AgHort
    Campus: Manawatu

Prizes and Awards

  • Exotic Flora: Rhododendron Conservation Project. Awarded funding of £750 from the Sibbald Trust (UK) and £340 from the Rhododendron Species Conservation Council (UK) for travel to Edinburgh for a conservation workshop in 2013. - Sibbald Trust (UK), Rhododendron Species Council (UK) (2013)
  • Exotic Flora: Rhododendron Conservation Project. Awarded funding of $2000 in 2012 and $4000 in 2013 from the New Zealand Rhododendron Association to support the Rhododendron Conservation Project. - New Zealand Rhododendron Association (2012)
  • Exotic Flora: Rhododendron Conservation Project. Awarded the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture's Peter Skellerup Plant Conservation Award in 2009/2010. - Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture (2009)
  • Exotic Flora: Rhododendron Conservation Project. Awarded the American Rhododendron Society Research Award in 2009/2010. - American Rhododendron Society (2009)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

  1. Development of international conservation programmes for plant biodiversity in botanic gardens and plant collections, with current projects on the genus Rhododendron.
  2. Utility and management of exotic flora in New Zealand, with current projects on Rhododendron and Juniperus.
  3. Conservation and seed-banking of New Zealand flora.
  4. Management of the environment, with a focus on plant biodiversity.

Research Opportunities

  • Seed-Banking of New Zealand flora  (01/02/2014) There are research opportunities (subject to funding) to work with the seed bank research team to study various topics on the collection and storage of seeds of New Zealand flora.
  • Diversity and conservation of Rhododendron  (01/02/2014) There are opportunities (subject to funding) to work with the Rhododendron research team on aspects of biodiversity and development of conservation programmes for the genus Rhododendron.


Resource Development and Management

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Agricultural And Veterinary Sciences (070000):
Conservation and Biodiversity (050202): Environmental Management (050205): Environmental Rehabilitation (excl. Bioremediation) (050207): Environmental Science and Management (050200): Environmental Sciences (050000):
Horticultural Crop Growth and Development (070601): Horticultural Production (070600)


Plant biodiversity and conservation

Ex situ conservation

Environmental or Landscape Management

Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 0 5

Research Outputs

Teaching and Supervision

Teaching Statement

Marion contributes to 121.103 New Zealand Environments, 121.212 Environmental Science Field Work I, 188.263 Environmental Science I, 21.312 Environmental Science Field Work II and 119373 Integrative Studies.   Current supervision includes topics on urban trees, naturalised plants in New Zealand and seed banking of New Zealand plants.

Courses Coordinated

  • 119.290 National Expedition: Agriculture and Environment
  • 121.312 Environmental Science Field Work II
  • 283.322 Landscape Revegetation
  • 283.704 Urban and Farm Forestry

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Supervisor 1 1
Co-supervisor 0 1

Current Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • Ling Hu - Doctor of Philosophy
    Investigation of the diversity and taxonomy of ex situ collections of Rhododendron and their utility for conservation

Completed Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • 2013 - Ahmed Fayaz - Doctor of Philosophy
    Biodiversity of the Vireya group of Rhododendron L. (Ericaceae) collections in New Zealand and their potential contribution to international conservation

Co-supervisor of:

  • 2013 - Chin Foo - Doctor of Philosophy
    Ground Cover Plants for Weed Control in Amenity Horticulture

Massey Contact Centre Mon - Fri 8:30am to 4:30pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 contact@massey.ac.nz Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey