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Dr Kirsten Thompson

Dr Kirsten Thompson

Associate Research Fellow

 +44 (0)7841 695569

 

Overview

My main area of interest is in using interdisciplinary approaches to understand the evolution and contemporary population biology of wild species. I am a marine mammal scientist with a contemporary foundation in population and behavioural genomics – working with historical (bone) and degraded samples – including bioinformatics. Most of my work focuses on marine species conservation and policy, particularly in the face of rapid environmental change.

During my career I have developed cross-disciplinary expertise in marine mammal science, population genomics, behavioural genomics and ecology, field survey techniques, climate change ecology and international marine policy. I have spent extensive periods in the field ­– at sea and on land – as well as in the laboratory. I work in primary research and provide science writing and advice to governments (for example, New Zealand Department of Conservation) and inter-government institutions (for example, South Pacific Regional Environment Programme) and non-governmental organisations (for example, Greenpeace, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Centre for International Environmental Law).

Broad research specialisms:

Population genomics, conservation genomics, morphometrics, mammal ecology, cetacean ecology and behavior, marine ecology and conservation, international marine policy.

Qualifications

2017 PhD, Biological Sciences, University of Exeter
2016 Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
2013 MSc. (Hons.) 1st Class, Biological Sciences, University of Auckland
1993 BSc. (Hons.), Zoology, University of Glasgow

Career

  • 2015 – 2018 Academic lead for field day (Practical skills in Ecology BIO2096)
  • 2008 – 2014 Curator NZ Cetacean Tissue Archive & Research Scientist MMEG, University of Auckland, New Zealand.
  • 2007 – 2013 Tutor, University of Auckland, New Zealand.
  • 2009 – 2012 Ecologist, Peers Brown Miller Arboriculturists Ltd, NZ.
  • 2002 – 2007 Parental leave.
  • 2001 – 2002 Research Scientist, Bryde’s Whale Project, University of Auckland.
  • 1997 – 2001 Seal Researcher, International Fund for Animal Welfare, UK.
  • 1998 Research Assistant, Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St Andrews, Scotland.
  • 1998 Passive Acoustic Monitor, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, Scotland.
  • 1997 – 1998 Field Scientist, Proyecto Alnitak, Spain.
  • 1995 – 1997 Scientific Officer, Cetacean Research Group, IFAW ‘Song of the Whale’, University of Oxford.
  • 1994 – 1995 Research Assistant, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford.
  • 1993 – 1994 Field Assistant, Institute for Terrestrial Ecology, University of Durham, University of Glasgow, Scottish Natural Heritage.

Links

Research

Research interests

Most of my work focuses on understanding the population ecology of marine species, particularly in our current era of rapid environmental change and industrialization of human activities in the oceans. I use cross-disciplinary techniques, such as population and conservation genomics, behavioural observations, photoidentification and morphological analyses to investigate marine mammal populations. Much of my most recent research has focused on beaked whales – a poorly understood mammalian group that are rarely observed and very difficult to study.

I work in primary research and provide science writing and advice for governments (for example, New Zealand Department of Conservation), inter-government institutions (for example, South Pacific Regional Environment Programme) and non-governmental organisations (for example, Greenpeace, International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Centre for International Environmental Law).

Research projects

Genetic connectivity in Southern Hemisphere beaked whales

The oceans of the Southern Hemisphere have a high diversity of beaked whales. These waters are targets for seabed mining, oil exploration and fishing. We know from strandings that beaked whales inhabit these productive oceans, but we know almost nothing of their ecology or how they might be affected by human activities. Long-term sampling in New Zealand has helped elucidate aspects of beaked whale ecology. Australia, South America and South Africa are also beaked whale hotspots, but few comprehensive assessments have been undertaken. In this research, we are building on previous work in New Zealand and Australia to investigate connectivity in beaked whale populations around the Southern Hemisphere.

Grants/Funding:

  • Lerner Grey Fund for Marine Research
  • OMV New Zealand Ltd Scholarship.
  • George Mason Charitable Trust Scholarship

Peer reviewed publications:

2018 Thompson* KF, Miller* KA, Currie, D, Johnston P, Santillo D. Approaches to governance of the deep seabed. Invited Review, In Review Frontiers in Marine Science *Joint first authorship
2017 Miller* KA, Thompson* KF, Johnston P, Santillo D. An overview of seabed mining including the current state of development, environmental impacts and knowledge gaps. Frontiers in Marine Science 4: 418. *Joint first authorship
2017 Patel* S, Thompson* KF, Santure A, Constantine R, Millar CD. Genetic kinship analyses reveal that Gray’s beaked whale strand in unrelated groups. Journal of Heredity 108: 456-461. *Joint first authorship
2015 Thompson* KF, Patel* S, Baker CS, Constantine R, Millar CD. Bucking the trend: genetic analysis reveals high diversity, large population size and low differentiation in a deep ocean cetacean. Heredity 116: 277-85. *Joint first authorship
2014 Patel S, Thompson KF, Williams L, Tsai P, Constantine R, Millar CD. Mining microsatellites for Gray’s beaked whale from next generation sequencing data. Conservation Genetics Resources 6: 657-659.
2014 Thompson KF, Ruggiero, K, Millar CD, Constantine R, van Helden A. Large-scale multivariate analysis reveals sexual dimorphism and geographic differences in the Gray’s beaked whale. Journal of Zoology 294: 13-21. Front cover.
2014 Thompson KF, Patel S, Williams L, Tsai P, Constantine R, Millar CD. High coverage of the complete mitochondrial genome of the rare Gray’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon grayi) using Illumina next generation sequencing. Mitochondrial DNA 27:128-9.
2014 Constantine R, Steel D, Allen J, Anderson M, et al. Remote Antarctic feeding ground important for east Australian humpback whales. Marine Biology 161: 1087-1093.
2014 Dalebout ML, Baker CS, Steel D, Thompson KF, Robertson K, Chivers SJ, Perrin WF, Goonatilake M, Anderson RC, Mead JG, Potter CW, Yamada TK, Thompson TK, Jupiter D. Resurrection of Mesoplodon hotaula Deraniyagala 1963: A new species of beaked whale in the tropical Indo-Pacific. Marine Mammal Science 30: 1081-1108.
2013 Baker CS, Hutt A, Thompson K, Dalebout ML, Robins J, Brownell RL, Stone GS.  Species identity and human consumption of beaked whales in the Gilbert Islands, Republic of Kiribati. Animal Conservation 16: 641-647.
2013 Thompson KF, Millar CD, Baker CS, Dalebout M, Steel D, van Helden A, Constantine R. A novel conservation approach provides insights into the management of rare cetaceans. Biological Conservation 157: 331-340.
2012 Thompson K, Baker S, van Helden A, Patel S, Millar C, Constantine R. The world’s rarest whale. Current Biology 22: 905-906. Front cover.
2012 Constantine R, Jackson J, Steel D, Baker CS, Brooks L, Burns D, Clapham P, Hauser N, Madon B, Mattila D, Oremus M, Poole M, Robbins J, Thompson K, Garrigue C. Abundance of humpback whales in Oceania using photo-identification and microsatellite genotyping. Marine Ecology Progress Series 453: 249-261.
2002 Thompson KF, O’Callaghan TM, Dalebout M, Baker CS. Population ecology of Bryde’s whales (Balaenoptera edenii sp.) in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand: preliminary observations.  Report to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission 54: 1-8.
1998 Gordon J, Moscrop A, Carlson C, Ingram S, Leaper R, Mathews J, Young K. Distribution, movements and residency of sperm whales off the Commonwealth of Dominica, Eastern Caribbean: implications for the development and regulation of the local whalewatching industry. Report to the International Whaling Commission 48: 551-557.

Reports to Scientific Committee to the International Whaling Commission & non-refereed reports

2018 Santillo, D, Oakes, G, Labunska, I, Casado, J, Brigden, K, Thompson, K, Wang, M, Johnston, P. Physical and chemical characterisation of sea‐surface microplastics collected from coastal and inland waters of Scotland in the summer of 2017. Greenpeace Research Laboratories Technical Report 01‐2018: 63 pp.
2018 Tirado, R, Thompson, KF, Miller, KA, Johnston, P. Less is more: Reducing meat and dairy for a healthier life and planet. Greenpeace Research Laboratories Technical Report (Review)
03-2018. ISBN: 978-1-9999978-1-6. 86 pp.
2017 Thompson, KF. Will the use of neonicotinoids in greenhouses continue to present a risk to bees and other organisms? Greenpeace Research Laboratories Technical Report (Review) 09-2017: 14 pp.
2017 Thompson KF. Secrets of the deep: The molecular genetics of cryptic beaked whales. University of Exeter, Ph.D. Thesis.
2017 Thompson KF, Miller K, Santillo D, Johnston P. Storage of carbon by marine ecosystems and their contribution to climate change mitigation. Greenpeace Research Laboratories Technical Report (Review) 03-2017: 71 pp.
2016 Thompson KF. What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. Greenpeace Research Laboratories Technical Report (Review) 04-2016: 24 pp.
2016 Arellano-Aguilar O, García Mendoza E, Thompson KF, Tirado R. Zonas Muertas (Dead Zones): Los ecosistemas del mundo amenazados por la contaminación con fertilizantes (Spanish only). Publ. Greenpeace Mexico, April 2016: 59 pp.
2015 Thompson KF, Chidawanyika F, Kruszewska I, Tirado R. Building resilience in East African agriculture in response to climate change. Greenpeace Research Laboratories Technical Report
05-2015: 30 pp.
2015 Thompson KF, Kruszewska I, Tirado R. Building environmental resilience: A snapshot of farmers adapting to climate change in Kenya. Greenpeace Research Laboratories Technical Report 04-2015: 48 pp.
2015 Allsopp M, Huxdorff C, Johnston P, Santillo D, Thompson KF. Pesticides and our health: a growing concern. Greenpeace Research Laboratories Technical Report 01-2015: 56 pp.
2013 Thompson KF. Genetic diversity, population structure and morphology in New Zealand’s beaked whales. University of Auckland, M.Sc. Thesis.
2012 Baker CS, Hutt A, Thompson K, Dalebout ML, Robins J, Brownell RL, Stone GS. Species identity and local use of cetaceans in the Gilbert Islands, Republic of Kiribati. Report to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission SC/64/SM4
2012 Dalebout ML, Baker CS, Steel D, Thompson KF, Robertson K, Chivers SJ, Perrin WF, Goonatilake M, Anderson RC, Mead JG, Potter CW, Yamada TK, Thompson TK, Jupiter D. A newly recognized beaked whale (Ziphiidae) in the tropical indo-pacific: Mesoplodon hotaula or M. ginkgodens hotaula? Report to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission SC/64/SM3
2012 Thompson KF. Maui’s and Mining: A Review of Marine Mineral Activity on the West Coast of New Zealand and its Potential Impacts. Report to the Department of Conservation, NZ.
2012 Oremus M, Leqata J, Hurutarau J, Taei S, Donoghue M, Thompson K, Baker CS. Population status of Tursiops aduncus in the Solomon Islands and assessment of live-capture sustainability.  Report to the Solomon Islands Government.
2011 Constantine R, Allen J, Beeman P, Burns D, Charrassin J, Childerhouse S, Double M, Ensor P, Franklin T, Franklin W, Gales N, Garrigue C, Gates E, Gibbs N, Hutsel A, Jenner C, Jenner M, Kaufman G, Macie A, Mattila D, Oosterman A, Paton D, Robbins J, Schmitt N, Stevick P, Tagarino A, Thompson K. Comprehensive photo-identification matching of Antarctic Area V humpback whales. Report to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission SC/63/SH16.
2010 Thompson K, Donoghue M, Bell L. Ocean Voices - Lessons from the Whales for the CBD: Humpback whales in Oceania.  Report to Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme for the Convention on Biodiversity, Nagoya 2010.
2010 Thompson KF. Cetaceans in the Pacific Islands Region. Report to the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.
2010 Constantine R, Garrigue C, Steel D, Jackson J, Burns D, Clapham P, Hauser N, Matilla D, Oremus M, Poole M, Robbins J, Thompson K, Baker CS. Abundance of humpback whales in Oceania based on fluke photo-identification and DNA profiling.  Report to the International Whaling Commission, Scientific Committee SC/62/SH18.
2009 Thompson KF. Marine Mammals of Northland: 2009 Update to Educational Manual. Report to the Department of Conservation, NZ (DOCDM-504249).
1998 Young K. Seal watching in the UK and Northern Ireland.  Report published by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, 89 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7UD, UK.  ISBN 1 – 901002-03-9.
1995 Young K. Ecology of sperm whales, Physeter macrocephalus, off the coast of Dominica.  Report to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

External Engagment and Impact

Media Coverage

My research has attracted considerable public interest and has been the subject of more than 200 news articles including Science, Scientific American, BBC, Guardian, Telegraph, CNN, ABC and Fox News. My work as a science advisor to Greenpeace has involved interacting with campaigners, policymakers, leading scientists and acting as observer on intergovernmental conventions. I have produced numerous reviews that have involved distilling current peer reviewed literature on emerging global environmental issues into a format that is accessible to public stakeholders and scientists. I have also received media training through this role.

2018 Following our publication on deep seabed mining, I was asked to provid comments for CNN International on the environmental impact of marine mining off the coast of Namibia.

2014–pres. At Greenpeace Research Laboratories, I have delivered presentations to the European Commission, high-profile publications, press releases, television and radio interviews.

2014 Our papers describing and naming Deriniyagala’s whale (Mesoplodon hotaula) were covered by Australian media.

2013 Our paper entitled “A novel conservation approach provides insights into the management of rare cetaceans” was covered by the New Zealand national newspaper The Dominion Post and I was interviewed for the story.

2012 Our research article 'The World's Rarest Whale' was the cover story in the November issue of Current Biology – Altmetric 265 (top 5% of all research outputs). This article attracted a large amount of media interest and was featured news programs including Science Shot, BBC, Guardian, Telegraph UK, CNN, Fox News, NBC news, ONE news and many other international newspapers (20+ radio interviews and >1000 websites).

2002 My work on the population dynamics of Bryde’s whales in the Hauraki Gulf, Auckland was covered by the New Zealand national newspaper The New Zealand Herald.

1996 Our work studying sperm whales in the Islands of Dominica and Grenada in the Caribbean featured in the national press and we were received by Keith Mitchell, the then Prime Minister of Grenada.


Significant Impact

Outreach and making the science accessible to the public:

2018 Exeter Soapbox Science Event, ‘Secrets of the Dead: Using DNA to study beaked whales’.

Teaching

  • Undergraduate dissertation supervision on a range of topics from cetacean ecology and conservation to marine ecosystems.
  • Casual lecturing in ecology.

Supervision / Group

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