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Capri-Dawn Beck

Working towards understanding the calling behaviour of the eastern Indian Ocean Pygmy Blue Whale and how their calling can be used to census the population

Supervisors: A/Prof Robert McCauley and A/Prof Alexander Gavrilov

I graduated a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and Zoology at the University of Western Australia in 2011. I completed an honours in Marine Science at the University of Western Australia in 2013. My research was carried out in conjunction with Fisheries WA with a focus on fish behaviour and ecology, and the importance of the mangrove-reef connection along the Kimberley coastline. My passion is in the study of marine mammals, with a particular interest in acoustics and calling behaviour. I started my PhD in 2014 studying the calling behaviour of pygmy blue whales and the potential for acoustic detections to be used to census a population. My research focuses on identifying individual variations in song pattern and using arrays of passive acoustic sensors to track animals in the immediate vicinity of the acoustic sensors. This information will be combined with information gathered on the calling behaviour of pygmy blue whales in the Perth canyon to derive an abundance estimate for the population. From my research I hope to define methods for measuring abundance in marine mammal populations from passive acoustic detections alone.

Jeonghun (Scott) Ha

Simulation of Ship Under-Keel Clearance in Shallow Water

Supervisor: Dr Tim Gourlay

Research interests

  • Ship hydrodynamics: under-keel clearance, wave-induced motions
  • Port engineering: wave analysis, coastal structures

Jeonghun (Scott) Ha obtained his Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) from Korea Maritime and Ocean University in 2005. From 2005 to 2013 he worked with 3 engineering consultants as a civil engineer in the field of port design and coastal structures. Jeonghun started his Masters at the Centre for Marine Science and Technology (CMST) at Curtin University in January 2015 on ship under-keel clearance in port approach channels and he upgraded to Ph.D. research in 2016. His Ph.D. will make a contribution toward a better understanding of ship motions in shallow water and bring further practical support to under-keel clearance management in ports.


Damien Killeen

Source depth estimation from acoustic intensity vector sensors

Supervisors: Dr Alec Duncan, Dr David Matthews

Montserrat Landero

Using underwater acoustic data to predict distribution of demersal fish in North West Australia

Supervisors: Dr Iain Parnum, Dr Chandra Salgado Kent, Dr Miles Parsons, Dr Ben Saunders (Department of Environment and Agriculture)

Montserrat Landero graduated with a degree in Natural Resources Management followed by a Master’s degree in Marine Science. For her Master’s, Montserrat modelled the distribution of manatees living in Mexican waters. The prediction was based on a multivariate model, which included a map of the seagrass distribution derived from satellite imagery.

Montserrat started her PhD at the Centre for Marine Science and Technology of Curtin University in October 2014. Her study is the development of active acoustic and underwater video techniques to model the distribution of demersal fish along the North West coast of Australia. This involves the investigation of parameters that can be derived from an echo-sounder survey as proxies for predicting demersal fish distribution. As well as previously identified proxies, such as depth and derivatives, Montserrat’s study will look at the benefit of using seafloor and water column backscatter in predicting demersal fish distributions. The underwater video data will be used to both develop the models, and to comparatively assess the relationship between the fish biomass detected by an echo-sounder with the one estimated based on stereo-video techniques. Echo-sounders and underwater video are not only cost-effective techniques for studying the marine environment, but are useful tools in the monitoring of Marine Parks where non-take methods are preferred.


Angela Recalde Salas

Variability of baleen whales acoustical ecology: implications for optimal monitoring and conservation planning using passive acoustics

Supervisors: Dr Chandra Salgado Kent, Dr Christine Erbe, A/Prof Rob McCauley, Dr Hugh Possingham (CEED-UQ)

Angela Recalde-Salas is a Colombian conservation biologist with a BSc. in Biology from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and an MSc. in Conservation Biology from the University of Queensland. Angela has worked with marine mammals since 2003, has participated in a variety of projects with whales, dolphins and neotropical river otters and she was part of the development of the Conservation Strategy for the South East Pacific humpback whale population. Her research interests are focused on applied quantitative ecology, conservation, and optimal monitoring and management of marine fauna. She has been a researcher of Fundación Yubarta since 2005 and in 2011 she joined the Center for Marine Science and Technology as a research assistant. Angela is looking at variability of acoustical ecology of baleen whales (blue, humpback and right whales) in different areas in Western Australia and how the information obtained using passive acoustics methods can be used for conservation. She will be specifically looking at estimation of vocalisation rates and how such rates might vary under different environmental, anthropogenic, ecological and behavioural conditions. This information will be then used to estimate the detection probability of baleen whales in different areas under different underwater noise conditions and to develop guidelines and strategies for optimal monitoring and conservation planning using passive acoustics.

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Rhianne Ward

Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) vocalisations, distribution and movement patterns in southern Australian waters.

Supervisor/s: A/Prof Robert McCauley, Dr Iain Parnum and A/Prof Alexander Gavrilov

Rhianne Ward graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and Zoology from the University of Western Australia in 2011 and Honours in Applied Physics from Curtin University in 2013. Her Honours research focussed on the whistle repertoire and detection range of Bottlenose dolphins in the Fremantle Harbour using underwater passive acoustics. Rhianne became involved in the Southern Right Whale Population Census and Photo ID study at Head of Bight, South Australia in 2013, and is now a research scientist and the acoustics lead of the Great Australian Bight Right Whale Study. Rhianne commenced her PhD with Curtin University’s Centre for Marine Science and Technology in late January 2016.

Her PhD project aims to further our understanding of the endangered and migratory southern right whale by using non-invasive, passive acoustic monitoring to determine their vocal repertoire, establish the social context associated with calls, and determine the distribution and movement patterns of southern right whales in southern Australian waters. Results from this study will contribute significantly to the limited knowledge of southern right whale vocal behaviour, distribution and movement in Australia, and address high priority actions identified in the Commonwealth Management Plan for the Southern Right Whale (2011-2021).

Research Interests

  • Underwater acoustics
  • Cetacean communication


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Rebecca Wellard

The bioacoustics of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in Australian waters and the acoustic environment in which they reside

Supervisors: A/Prof Christine Erbe, A/Prof Rob McCauley

Rebecca Wellard obtained her Bachelor of Science from the University of Melbourne and a first class Honours from Monash University, Victoria, researching acoustic communication and anthropogenic impacts on bottlenose dolphins in Victoria. She has over 10 years’ experience with marine megafauna and has been involved in numerous cetacean research projects in Australia and worldwide. Her main research interests are bioacoustics, cognitive behaviour, and applied ecology and conservation. She has worked on projects focusing on genetics, population ecology, bioacoustics and anthropogenic effects on cetaceans. She has extensive field-based experience, including both onshore and offshore, with expertise in visual and acoustic recording, and species identification. Rebecca specializes in bioacoustics and cetacean behaviour, and has broad experience working in various capacities with acoustic labs in Australia and worldwide.

Bec commenced her PhD with Curtin University’s Centre for Marine Science and Technology in February 2015. Her PhD project aims to improve our understanding of the killer whale population in the Australian region by using non-invasive techniques such as mark-recapture photo ID and passive acoustic monitoring. This is the first dedicated study of killer whale acoustics in Australia. Results from this study will provide pertinent data to address the population status of this species and deliver key scientific information, such as population dynamics and critical habitats, for guiding and assisting population management of killer whales found in Australian waters.