Mike Thorsen

Principal Ecologist | Director

Mike is one of New Zealand’s leading experts in managing biodiversity. He has over 30 years of experience here and abroad, in ecosystem protection, management and restoration, through pest and weed control, rare species management, mapping, site evaluation and prioritisation, and long-term restoration planning. He holds a PhD in Ecology from the University of Otago (2010).  

Mike loves helping diverse groups to realise their biodiversity ambitions using his wide-ranging skills and experience, and enjoys the challenges of working at the interface of conservation and natural resource use, with the aim of producing the best outcomes which are environmentally sound and pragmatic.  

Mike is an innovator who loves pushing the envelope. 

Working with Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to integrate biodiversity, social, and iwi values in a climate resilience approach for lowland rivers, he’s restoring a forest type lost from the area, and trialling the use of a multispectral drone to measure growth over time. 

Mike designs and manages biodiversity offsetting projects in challenging environments with the target of net gains in biodiversity, in perpetuity, for OceanaGold. These projects involve trials of innovative methods such as restoring landforms for native flora and fauna, a new way to plant tussock, mowing ephemeral wetlands dominated by weeds, and reintroducing dryland threatened plants and vegetation types. 

For the Halo Project’s Source to Sea programme, Mike developed a model to rank land according to importance for riparian enhancement using weighted data sets. He used the model to prioritise sites where restoration planting and protection would increase freshwater and forest habitat quality, protect wetlands and waterways, help native wildlife, and empower local communities. 

Mike also applies his expertise via low-bono work for the Endangered Species Foundation of NZ. He also runs a small nursery specialising in growing endangered native plants, and is a keen photographer.