Associate Professor Isabel Castro staff profile picture

Contact details +64 (06) 356 9099  ext. 84830

Associate Professor Isabel Castro PhD, MSc, BMicro

Associate Professor in Ecology/Zoology

School of Agriculture and Environment

I am a wildlife biologist with broad interests including animal behavior, parasite-host interactions, anatomy, morphology, sensory biology, and conservation. My research is on island species, particularly birds, but also introduced mammals and charismatic land snails. I have a passion for solving conservation problems, making new biological findings, and working with technology.


Contact details

  • Ph: 027 449 1261
    Location: 1.23, AgHort Wing A
    Campus: Manawatu


  • Doctor of Philosophy - Massey University (1996)
  • Master of Science - Eastern Illinois University (1987)
  • Bachelor of Microbiology - University of Los Andes (1984)

Prizes and Awards

  • I received the following award: Women Award ($18,144) - Massey University (2015)
  • I was selected as Associate Investigator for Te Pūnaha Matatini in 2016. I received the following award: Women Award ($18,144). - (2016)
  • WWF Conservation Innovation Awards 2014 – New Ideas for Nature runner-up in research innovation (for Automated Birdsong Recognition); awarded $5000 for the research. - World Wildlife Fund (2014)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

I have research interests in two areas: behavioural ecology and the relationship between parasites and their hosts. The underlying link between these subjects is conservation. I am interested in how an animal's behaviours are affected by the environmental changes caused by human colonisation and how, in turn, the behavioural responses of the animals to those changes are bound by their evolutionary history. For this part of my research I have focussed on working with endemic endangered species that have behaviours that I consider of particular interest. I am also interested in the effect of parasites on the hosts' ability to survive under natural and under conservation management conditions; and the ability of native parasites to survive the management we employ on their hosts.

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Animal Behaviour (060801): Animal Structure and Function (060807): Behavioural Ecology (060201): Biological Sciences (060000): Ecology (060200): Ethology and Sociobiology (060304): Evolutionary Biology (060300): Infectious Agents (060502): Life Histories (060308): Microbiology (060500): Terrestrial Ecology (060208): Zoology (060800)


Behavioural Ecology, Conservation Biology

Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 8 21
Team Member 0 1

Research Outputs

Consultancy and Languages


  • Spanish
    Last used: today
    Spoken ability: Excellent
    Written ability: Excellent
  • English
    Last used: today
    Spoken ability: Excellent
    Written ability: Excellent

Teaching and Supervision

Teaching Statement

Maori in Conservation

Courses Coordinated

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Supervisor 6 6
Co-supervisor 1 5

Current Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • Angelia Hura - Doctor of Philosophy
    Northland Brown Kiwi Whakapapa
  • Alberto De Rosa - Doctor of Philosophy
    Birdsong as a mean to estimate population size
  • Malin Undin - Doctor of Philosophy
    The Whakapapa of North Island Brown Kiwi A. mantelli
  • Emma Feenstra - Doctor of Philosophy
    To disturb, or not disturb - A comparison of invasive and non-invasive methods for monitoring cryptic species using Rakiura tokoeka (Apteryx australis lawryi)
  • Natasha Bansal - Doctor of Philosophy
    Exploring the host-parasite relationship between Brown Kiwi (Apteryx mantelli), kiwi ticks (Ixodes anatis) and kiwi tick-borne haemoparasites

Co-supervisor of:

  • Caio Fittipaldi Kenup - Doctor of Philosophy
    Applying Structured Decision Making for Large-Scale Conservation Initiatives

Completed Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • 2020 - David Vieco Galvez - Doctor of Philosophy
    The Egg and the Nest: Obtaining information about the reproductive biology of Apteryx spp. (Family: Apterygidae), a cryptic avian taxon, through eggshells
  • 2019 - Kathryn Strang - Doctor of Philosophy
    The ecology of feral cats (Felis catus) on a New Zealand offshore island: Considerations for management
  • 2016 - Ellen Schoener - Doctor of Philosophy
    The impact of conservation translocations on vector-borne parasites
  • 2014 - Juan Carlos Garcia Ramirez - Doctor of Philosophy
    The influence of space and time on the genetic architecture of rail species (Aves:Rallidae)
  • 2013 - Gaylynne Carter - Doctor of Philosophy
    The Behavioural Response of a Small Prey Animal to the Odour Cues of Familiar Predators in a New Zealand Model System
  • 2010 - Susan Cunningham - Doctor of Philosophy
    Tactile senses and foraging in birds with emphasis on kiwi

Co-supervisor of:

  • 2017 - Nirosha Pitakande Gedara - Doctor of Philosophy
    Wavelet-Based Birdsong Recognition for Conservation
  • 2016 - Kate Richardson - Doctor of Philosophy
    Dispersal: The effects of phenotype and habitat selection in reintroduced populations
  • 2013 - Kerri Morgan - Doctor of Philosophy
    Coccidiosis in the Kiwi (Apteryx spp.): Aspects of the Pathology, Epidemiology and Parasite Biology
  • 2011 - Birgit Ziesemann - Doctor of Philosophy
    Social organisation and mating system of a high-density brown Kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) population
  • 2011 - Kevin Parker - Doctor of Philosophy
    The impacts of translocation on the cultural evolution of song in the North Island saddleback or tieke (Philesturnus rufusater)

Media and Links


  • 19 Jan 2014 - Television
    Here Comes Darwin - New Legend about Wildlife
    Documentary filmed by Japanese company - NHK Enterprises, Inc.and screened in Japan. Isabel Castro gave assistance.
  • 03 Nov 2014 - Television
    One News story on birdsong technology

Other Links

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