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Dr. Vanessa Pirotta


Marine Biologist

Science Communicator

Woman in STEM


Iโ€™m Vanessa and I recently submitted my PhD!

Hereโ€™s a little about my background:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD):

My focus over the last few years has been cetaceans, which is a collective term for whales, dolphins and porpoises. I have investigated threats for cetaceans around the world and applied theoretical frameworks to change our thinking on how we manage human activities in the ocean.

My most well-known research is the use of drones to collect whale snot for an assessment of whale health. I am also a big advocate for citizen science to assist scientists for wildlife conservation.

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Master of Research (MRes):

My master of research looked at the use of whale alarms (small sound devices) to try and prevent whale entanglement in fishing gear.

This work was conducted off Sydney, where I learnt how to become a whale surveyor using a theodolite. This is a very precise machine placed on top of a tripod and connected to a computer using Pythagoras theorem (yes, high school math is important). I used it to track whale movements in the ocean. 

Bachelor of Science (BSc):

I studied Zoology and Evolution and Ecology at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.

Perks of the job:

My research has taken me to some wonderful places around the world including Tonga, Antarctica and most recently Madagascar.

Me at the bottom of the planet

Me at the bottom of the planet

Me at the top of Tonga

Me at the top of Tonga

Iโ€™m also a passionate science communicator:

We need more women scientists to put their stories out there so girls can see what they can be when they grow up, and boys can see girls in these jobs, too.
— Nicole Small, president of the Lyda Hill Foundation, Nature Article

Watch me tell you all about whale snot:

My whale snot collection research explained in 60 seconds. This was filmed for the international BBC Earth presenter search.


Follow me on social media:

My latest tweets: 

And on Instagram....

The important stuff.

Drone information: 

All drone footage collected under NSW National Parks & Wildlife Services scientific licence 101743. Animal ethics obtained via Macquarie University. Licensed Civil Aviation Safety Authority drone pilots used.  

A BIG thank you to the following:

Whale snot drone collection thanks to Heliguy Scientific. Southern right whale drone footage thanks to SkyCam Media. Underwater whale footage thanks to Emerald Films and SeaLight Pictures. Thank you to Joanne Stephan for the Macquarie University lab video. Thank you to SkyCam Media and Australian Aerial Imagery for their assistance filming the BBC Presenter Search video. 

Thank you also to Cath from the wonderful Catfish Creative for my fabulous website!