My broad research interests include cultural transmission, vocal learning, geographic variation in vocalisations, bioacoustics, behavioural ecology, and cetacean ecology and acoustics. I am also interested in vocal sequence analysis and advancement of related techniques, and using similarity in vocal displays to define population structures. After completing my Ph.D. at the University of Queensland, I undertook a three-year National Academy of Sciences (National Research Council) Postdoctoral Fellowship at the National Marine Mammal Laboratory at NOAA (Alaskan Fisheries Science Centre, Seattle, WA, USA). This worked investigated the geographic variation in the dialects of Alaskan Arctic beluga populations and has allowed previously unresolved population movements throughout the Alaskan region to be traced using fine-scale differences in spatio-temporal peaks in calling. This work also highlights the successful application of acoustical studies to improve our understanding of stock structure for management and conservation in a region undergoing rapid climate change.

Since Feb 2015 I have held a British Royal Society Newton International Fellowship at the University of St Andrews. For this fellowship I am investigating humpback whale song learning and transmission utilising incomplete song revolutions where the song transmission pattern dissolves, and extremely rare instances of song hybridisation, where two songs are spliced together. This work will contribute to our knowledge of conformity and plasticity in song learning, mechanisms of cultural transmission and cultural evolution, and the fundamental concepts underlying the selective forces driving the evolution of culture in higher organisms.

 

Male Humpbacks Change Their Tune from The University of Queensland on Vimeo.