We tackle fundamental questions in ecology, including...
... how populations and communities vary in space & time
... how they resist and recover from change
... and how they might look in a future world.

We apply this knowledge to real-world problems to find solutions to the global biodiversity crisis and to prepare ecosystems for an uncertain future.

We are particularly enamoured with freshwater ecosystems, but our research spans disciplinary and ecological boundaries.

Our Research

We are, broadly speaking, community ecologists. But we ask a range of questions to understand how populations and communities vary in space and time, including how landscape or river network structure and dispersal interact to affect the organisation of biodiversity; how global change will alter the structure of ecological networks; how river and riparian species respond to changes in flow regimes (cycles of floods and drought); and how best to forecast the distribution of species in changing landscapes.

Ecological forecasting

Forecasting ecological responses to global environmental change.

Ecological networks in a changing world

Species interaction networks, spatial ecological networks, and networks of networks.

Flow-ecology modelling

The relationship between river flow regimes and freshwater and riparian biodiversity.

Global change ecology

Population, community and ecosystem responses to climate change and other environmental change.

Mechanistic population modelling

Models that link population dynamics with environmental variability (e.g. matrix projections).

Metacommunity ecology

Disentangling the role of local and regional drivers of biodiversity including dispersal.

Organisation of biodiversity in river networks

Uncovering the role of the dendritic structure of river networks on their biodiversity.

River restoration and management

Understanding the drivers of restoration success to improve restoration practice in the future.

Temporal ecological variability

The role of environmental fluctuations on ecological dynamics across scales.


We are part of the FERG group and work closely with several other labs at UC (e.g. Tylianakis Lab).



Jonathan D. Tonkin

Senior Lecturer & Rutherford Discovery Fellow


Anne Mcleod

Postdoctoral Fellow


Ignacio Reyes

Incoming PhD student


Daniel Hernández

Incoming PhD student


Rory Lennox

Master’s student


Rose Foster

PhD student (lead supervised by M. LaRue)


Justin Rogers

PhD student (lead supervised by J. Brasington)


Holly Harris

PhD student (lead supervised by A. McIntosh)


Olivia Hore

Master’s student (lead supervised by A. McIntosh)


Christina McCabe

Master’s student (lead supervised by C. Matthaei)


Sarah Seeley

Master’s student (lead supervised by H. Chapman)



Arek Aspinwall

Master’s student (lead supervised by M. LaRue) (2019-2021)

Recent Publications

Also see Google Scholar and ResearchGate.

Hydropeaking intensity and dam proximity limit aquatic invertebrate diversity in the Colorado River Basin

2021 Ecosphere


Designing flow regimes to support entire river ecosystems

2021 Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

PDF Project Project Project Project DOI

Novel insights to be gained from applying metacommunity theory to long-term, spatially replicated biodiversity data

2021 Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution


Revisiting global trends in freshwater insect biodiversity

2021 WIREs Water


Funded Projects

MBIE Endeavour fund

Fish futures: preparing for novel freshwater ecosystems

Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre of Research Excellence

Achieving sustainable and resilient river ecosystems in Aotearoa under climate change

Department of Conservation / Waimakariri District Council

Modelling native fish species vulnerability to climate change in NZ and Waimakariri District

Antarctic Science Platform

Projecting Ross Sea Region ecosystem changes in a warming world

Rutherford Discovery Fellowship

Rethinking ecological networks in changing environments

Latest News

Oct. 2021 » New PhD position available! We have a PhD position currently available jointly with Jason Tylianakis. Check out our vacancies page for this position on metacommunity and evolutionary drivers of resilience.

Oct. 2021 » Congratulations Arek! Congratulations to Arek Aspinwall who recently passed his Master’s project with flying colours.

Oct. 2021 » New paper on applying metacommunity theory to river management Very happy to see this group paper led by Chris Patrick out on the application of metacommunity theory to the management of riverine ecosystems. Lots to be learned from metacommunity theory to help us manage freshwater systems better.

Jul. 2021 » New positions available! We have two positions currently available in the same project: (working with Jason Tylianakis) one Postdoc and one PhD.

Jul. 2021 » Jono on TVNZ Breakfast talking about the CBD Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework. Jono talked to John Campbell on Breakfast TV about the latest UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s draft Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework.

Jul. 2021 » Welcome Gabrielle! We’re delighted to welcome Gabrielle Koerich to the team as a PhD student. Gabrielle will be working with Jono on forecasting species responses to climate change in the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica, as part of the Antarctic Science Platform.

Jun. 2021 » Welcome Anne! We’re delighted to welcome Anne Mcleod to the team as a Postdoc. Anne will be collaborating with Jono on some exciting new community theory modelling spanning from metacommunity models to food web models to ecosystem models.

Jun. 2021 » Paper out on hydropeaking effects in the Colorado River. Thanks to Erin for leading this great work!

May 2021 » New paper in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Jono’s paper on designing flow regimes to support entire river ecosystems is now out in Frontiers. Thanks to the great coauthors: Dave Lytle, Julian Olden, Dave Merritt, Lindsay Reynolds and Jane Rogosch!

Apr. 2021 » Opening PhD call up to international students. I have a new PhD position available on forecasting fish species vulnerability to climate change. Please see the opportunities page.

Feb. 2021 » Several new publications added. Jono has been involved in several new papers that have come out (now uploaded to the website), including work highlighting the benefits of long-term spatially replicated datasets for advancing metacommunity theory and issues surrounding assigning causal drivers of long-term trends in insect abundances.

Oct. 2020 » Bio-Protection Aotearoa and Te Pūnaha Matatini funded for eight years. Last week, the next round of NZ Centres of Research Excellence were announced. Jono is delighted that two of the CoREs he is involved in have been funded for the next eight years: Bio-Protection Aotearoa and Te Pūnaha Matatini. There will be new positions advertised here in the coming months.

Sept. 2020 » Paper accepted in Global Change Biology. Jono has just had a co-authored paper on taxonomic homogenisation but functional differentiation among stream macroinvertebrate assemblages under climate change. This effort was led by Théophile Mouton. More soon.

Aug 2020 » Paper accepted in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Jono has just had a paper on designing flow regimes to support entire river ecosystems accepted for publication in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. More soon.

June 2020 » New funding to forecast fish species response to changing flow regimes. Jono recently received funding to develop new models to forecast how native NZ fish will respond to climate-induced changes to flow regimes. Stay tuned for a new PhD advertisement coming soon.

Feb 2020 » Paper coming soon on conservation of aquatic macroinvertebrate biodiversity in tropical regions. This should be available in the next few weeks in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.

Dec 2019 » News piece on our Nature paper. Karla Lant at the Environmental Monitor recently published this really nice news piece on our river management perspective piece here.

Oct 2019 » Permanent position. Jono received the news that he has a permanent position at the University of Canterbury in the fabulous School of Biological Sciences. He’s delighted to get to set down roots and build a flourishing research lab in his home country of New Zealand.

Sept 2019 » New Tonkin Lab website. Welcome to the new-look Tonkin Lab website. Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming opportunities to join the lab.

June 2019 » New paper in Nature. Our paper on preparing river ecosystems for an uncertain future came out in Nature. It was a real treat to work with such a great group of colleagues on this one: LeRoy Poff, Dave Lytle, Julian Olden, Nick Bond, Avril Horne, Albert Ruhi, Lindsay Reynolds and Dave Merritt.

April 2019 » New paper in Ecosphere. We have a new paper out in Ecosphere. This is a multi-species demographic model that links native and nonnative species with river flow regimes in the Verde River, Arizona. Projecting the model beyond the survey data predicted a shift from a native dominant to a nonnative dominant community, which was linked to increasing drought frequency. Thanks very much for leading this effort, Jane!

Dec 2018 » Paper accepted in Sci. Tot. Env. We just had a paper accepted led by Peter Haase, Francesca Pilotto and Fengqing Li. This has been a long road, so it’s nice to see it through review. The title gives the central result: Moderate warming over the past 25 years has already reorganized stream invertebrate communities.

Dec 2018 » Paper accepted in River Research and Applications. We just had a paper accepted on: The three Rs of river ecosystem resilience: Resources, Recruitment and Refugia. Thanks to Kris Van Looy for leading this. This originated at a workshop in Berlin back in 2015, so it’s nice to see it come through in the end.

Dec 2018 » Awarded the inaugural NZFSS Early Career Researcher Award. Last week, Jono received the inaugural Early Career Researcher Award by the New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society. Jono is very grateful to both the Society for giving him the award and the many colleagues that have helped him to get where he is today. It meant he got to share his past few years of research with the society by way of a keynote address.

Oct 2018 » Awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship. Jono is delighted and honoured to receive a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship from the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi. The title of his 5-year programme is “Rethinking ecological networks in changing environments”. The fellowship will allow him to build his research programme here in New Zealand after several years overseas, and provide the time to tackle major environmental challenges in a way that is not necessarily possible over shorter timescales. News releases here and here.


Special Issue in Freshwater Biology

Jono recently edited a special issue in Freshwater Biology with Florian Altermatt and Jani Heino on metacommunities in river networks. You can find the special issue here, and the editorial here.

We compiled a series of papers with the aim of highlighting the importance of the river network on structuring biodiversity, particularly through metacommunity dynamics and associated dispersal processes. The issue covers a wide range of topics (from disease spread and nutrient uptake to trophic dynamics), approaches (from field and lab experiments to modelling and population genetics), taxonomic foci (from diatoms and protists to fish), and geographic locations (from the tropics to the subarctic).