School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland
I am interested in applied behavioural ecology, in particular, the effects of tourism on dolphin behaviour and conservation of large whale populations. My research has been primarily concentrated on the population size, home range, habitat use and effects of swim-with and dolphin-watching tourism on bottlenose dolphin population using the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. This study was initiated in late 1993 and has resulted in a number of graduate student theses on the social associations, genetic relatedness and demographics of this dolphin population. I am now focusing the research on testing hypotheses about social group structure and its role in spatio-temporal changes in habitat use in the Bay of Islands and Hauraki Gulf. In addition I will be continuing a long-term study on the impacts of tourism on bottlenose dolphin behaviour examining the effectiveness of permit changes to the dolphins’ responses to swimmers and boats.
I have also been studying the humpback whales throughout the South Pacific (in particular Tonga and New Zealand) since 1995 in collaboration with Prof. Scott Baker and the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium. This research has concentrated on using capture-recapture methods to determine population size and ranging behaviour, molecular markers to understand the genetic relatedness of these recovering populations of whales and acoustics (in collaboration with Dr Mike Noad at the University of Queensland) to understand the dissemination of song throughout the Oceania region.
More recently my interests have expanded to include research on Bryde’s whales in the Auckland and Northland regions; part of a long-term project based at the University of Auckland since 1995. We are using GIS (ArcView) and photo-identification to determine the ranging patterns of these non-migratory whales, and collecting skin samples to determine the molecular ecology of this whale population that ranges around northern New Zealand. Most of this research relies on collaborations with a number of scientists (both in New Zealand and overseas), government agencies, tour operators and non-government organisations.