1st October 2018 – Vanessa Pirotta, Macquarie University

Vanessa PirottaVanessa Pirotta is a conservation biologist and science communicator who has recently completed her PhD at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Her research focused on identifying conservation gaps for cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). Vanessa investigated the types of anthropogenic and natural threats faced by cetaceans and other marine megafauna (e.g. large fish such as sharks and manta rays, marine turtles, pinnipeds, sirenians and large seabirds). Her work also highlights the use of citizen science for marine mammal monitoring.

Vanessa’s most well-known research involves the use of emerging technologies such as drones for marine megafauna conservation. She collaborated with industry experts to develop custom-built, waterproof drones to collect whale snot (visible plume of spray) from large whales. This device uses a remotely operated flip-lid petri dish to minimise sample contamination from air and sea water. Lung microbiota collected from this research was used to provide a non-invasive assessment of whale health.

Vanessa completed her Master of Research (MRes) in 2014 where she investigated the effects of underwater construction and whale alarms upon migrating humpback whales off Sydney, Australia. Vanessa has a Bachelor of Science from the Australian National University where she majored in Zoology and Evolution and Ecology. Before entering into academia, Vanessa worked in marine turtle rehabilitation and as a zookeeper.

Vanessa has a wealth of experience in marine fieldwork and is a qualified coxswain (vessel operator), naturalist and marine mammal observer. She has worked in a variety of challenging remote locations around Australia and the South Pacific. Last year, Vanessa spent 51 days on a research voyage down to the Sabrina coast off East Antarctica. During this time, she saw her very first aurora.

Vanessa is extremely excited to host Biotweeps and will feature a diverse range of interesting work from biologists around the world.

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