David Towns

David Towns

Professor of Applied Conservation

For Professor David Towns, the satisfaction of seeing students take research ideas into areas he had not anticipated inspires him on a daily basis. “It’s stimulating and rewarding because young people are still ambitious and driven and their work is valuable."

Professor Towns, an ecologist and conservation biologist, has diverse research interests that have taken him around the world, while working for New Zealand Government agencies such as Wildlife Service and the Department of Conservation (DOC). After stints in Australia and the United States, Professor Towns returned to New Zealand where he discovered that pests were a major problem. This presents another challenge and opportunity to explore and continue his work with students.

He advises students considering postgraduate study to be critical and choose an area that deeply interests them.

“The technical and analytical skills acquired along the way are important but be prepared to grow as a person on your research endeavours”.

He also emphasises the ability to problem solve and contribute to society.

There have been many milestones during his 35-year career, from starting work at the Department of Conservation (DoC) in 1987 on its first day of operation to joining AUT in 2012 to build the applied conservation programme.

The multidisciplinary nature of the programme means students have had to draw together elements of conservation, biology and psychology and other disciplines to create a new research area - conservation socio-ecology.

As well as implementing the new programme Professor Towns also established a lab and mutually beneficial relationship between AUT and DoC, and between AUT and Northern Illinois University (USA).

Professor David Town's extended academic profile