Dr Vanessa Pirotta

Marine scientist and science communicator, Macquarie University

Dr Vanessa Pirotta is a marine biologist and science communicator. Vanessa’s most well-known research involves the use of emerging technologies such as drones for whale conservation. Vanessa has led pioneering research in collaboration with industry experts to develop custom-built, waterproof drones to collect whale snot (visible plume of spray) from large whales for an assessment of whale health. Whale research has taken Vanessa around the world including Tonga, Antarctica and Madagascar.

Vanessa is also a passionate and experienced science communicator who loves making science accessible to everyone. Vanessa is the National and International award winner of the prestigious science communication competition FameLab, where she represented Australia on the international stage. Vanessa regularly connects with school students nationally and international via the Skype-A-Scientist platform.

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 also has a Bachelor of Science from the Australian National University where she majored in Zoology and Evolution and Ecology.


  • –present
    Marine scientist and science communicator, Macquarie University


  • 2019 
    Macquarie University , Doctor of Philosophy
  • 2015 
    Macquarie University , Masters of Research
  • 2010 
    Australian National University, Bachelor of Science (Zoology and Evolution and Ecology majors)


  • 2019
    Cost‐effective mitigation strategies to reduce bycatch threats to cetaceans identified using return‐on‐investment analysis, Conservation Biology
  • 2019
    Challenges of collecting blow from small cetaceans, Ecosphere
  • 2019
    A citizen science approach to long-term monitoring of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) off Sydney, Australia, Marine Mammal Science
  • 2019
    Consequences of global shipping traffic for marine giants, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
  • 2018
    Virological Sampling of Inaccessible Wildlife with Drones, Viruses
  • 2017
    An Economical Custom-Built Drone for Assessing Whale Health, Frontiers in Marine Science
  • 2016
    Migrating humpback whales show no detectable response to whale alarms off Sydney, Australia., Endangered Species Research
  • 2014
    A whale alarm fails to deter migrating humpback whales: an empirical test., Endangered Species Research