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Postdoctoral Researcher and Wildlife Scientist, Macquarie University

Vanessa Pirotta is a wildlife scientist, science communicator and children's book author. Her zoological background has taken her around the world for wildlife research. Vanessa is also a passionate and experienced science communicator who loves making science accessible. Her keen interests cover topics of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, also known as STEAM. Vanessa has represented Australia internationally as the national winner of a world-renowned science communication competition known as FameLab, placing second in the world. Vanessa’s efforts to communicate science has also seen her become a TEDx speaker, speak at the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization and recognized as one of the top 100 Women of Influence judged by the Australian Financial Review. Vanessa has also been listed as one of 60 women in science nationally as part of Science & Technology's Superstar of STEM program.

In addition to whale research, Vanessa is also chief scientist on a program using 3D X-Ray technology to build wildlife algorithms for the detection of illegal wildlife trafficking. This is a collaborative study together with Rapiscan Systems, the Australian Federal Government's Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and the Taronga Conservation Society Australia (Taronga Zoo).

In 2022, Vanessa published her first children's book called The Voyage of Whale and Calf via CSIRO Publishing.


  • –present
    Wildlife 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)


  • 2022
    Detecting illegal wildlife trafficking via real time tomography 3D X-ray imaging and automated algorithms, Frontiers in Conservation Science
  • 2022
    Marine Mammal Chapter, Wildlife in Australia- practical and applied methods (CSIRO Publishing)
  • 2022
    Drone Observations of Marine Life and Human–Wildlife Interactions off Sydney, Australia, Drones
  • 2021
    First evidence of bubble-net feeding and the formation of ‘super-groups’ by the east Australian population of humpback whales during their southward migration, Aquatic Conserv: Mar Freshw Ecosyst.
  • 2020
    A citizen science approach to long-term monitoring of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) off Sydney, Australia, Marine Mammal Science
  • 2020
    Operational Protocols for the Use of Drones in Marine Animal Research, Drones
  • 2019
    Challenges of collecting blow from small cetaceans, Ecosphere
  • 2019
    Consequences of global shipping traffic for marine giants, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
  • 2019
    Cost‐effective mitigation strategies to reduce bycatch threats to cetaceans identified using return‐on‐investment analysis, Conservation Biology
  • 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