Dr Kirsten Thompson
Lecturer in Ecology
+44 (0)7841 695569
Hatherly Building, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter, EX4 4PS, UK
Office hours: I work part-time but feel free to email me and I will endeavor to respond as soon as I can
I work part-time but feel free to email me and I will endeavor to respond as soon as I can
I am a population biologist, researching population structure, demography and connectivity of wild mammal species to inform conservation policy, particularly in the face of rapid environmental change. I use complementary methods such as genomics, behaviour, photo-identification, specifically population and behavioural genomics, sometimes working with historical (bone) and degraded samples.
During my career I have developed 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.
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
- 2019 – present Lecturer in Ecology, University of Exeter.
- 2014 – present Consultant Scientist
- 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.
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).
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.
- Lerner Grey Fund for Marine Research
- OMV New Zealand Ltd Scholarship.
- George Mason Charitable Trust Scholarship
Publications by category
Publications by year
External Engagement and Impact
My research has attracted considerable public interest and has been the subject of more than 200 news articles including Science, Scientific American, BBC, Guardian, Time,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.
2020 A recent article written for TIME magazine details the recovery of some humpback populations, illustrating the power of widespread global protection of species and habitats #oceanoptimism
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.
Outreach and making the science accessible to the public:
2020 I work closely with the Greenpeace Research Laboratories and have worked as lead scientist on the Protect the Oceans campaign. This role has involved working very closely with journalists and campaigner to provide robust science advice on marine species conservation.
2018 Exeter Soapbox Science Event, ‘Secrets of the Dead: Using DNA to study beaked whales’.
I am currently involved in teaching the following modules:
- BIO1336 Ecology
- BIO2076 Ecology and Environment (module convenor)
- BIO2096 Practical Skills in Field Ecology (module convenor)
- BIO3037 Ecology and Environmental Change