Carolyn grew up in Lincoln, Canterbury, and after several years in Canada and USA returned to New Zealand where she is a Professor of Zoology at the University of Otago, Dunedin.
Her research interests focus on biological processes and population dynamics in lakes, plankton ecology and productivity, water quality and the conservation of aquatic ecosystems. She has participated in various capacities on boards and committees of national and international science and environmental organisations, including the International Limnological Association (President 1995-2001) and New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society (terms as President and Secretary-Treasurer).
She has been the Regional Councillor for Australasia and Oceania for IUCN (World Conservation Union), Academy President of the Royal Society of New Zealand, a Director of NIWA Ltd (2000-2006), and served on committees to review research institutions in New Zealand, Australia, Sweden and the Netherlands. She currently chairs the Department of Conservation’s national Recovery Group for rare and endangered Grand and Otago Skinks, and is a member of the Governance Board of the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, a Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE).