Project Team since 2018

Project co-directors

Prof. Brendan Mackey, Griffith Climate Change Response Program (GCCRP), Griffith University
Prof. Alakendra Roychoudhury, Earth Sciences, Stellenbosch University

Project Manager

Dr. Jan-Olaf Meynecke, Griffith Climate Change Response Program (GCCRP), Griffith University 

Theme leaders

Prof. Ken Findlay and Dr. Els Vermeulen (University of Pretoria)

Dr. Jan-Olaf Meynecke (Griffith Centre for Coastal Management and Griffith Climate Change Response Program, Griffith University)

Prof. Eduardo Secchi & Dr. Luciano Dala Rosa (Federal University of Rio Grande)

A/Prof. Marcello Vichi (University of Cape Town)

Dr. Serena B Lee (Griffith Centre for Coastal Management and Griffith Climate Change Response Program, Griffith University)

Prof. Eduardo Secchi & Dr. Luciano Dala Rosa (Federal University of Rio Grande)

Prof. Alakendra Roychoudhury (Earth Sciences, Stellenbosch University)

Prof. Brendan Mackey (Griffith Climate Change Response Program, Griffith University) and Prof. Alakendra Roychoudhury


Brendan Mackey

Griffith University

Project management & Climate Change

Professor Brendan Mackey is Director of the Griffith Climate Change Response Program. He has a PhD in ecology from the Australian National University.

The primary focus of Brendan’s research are: (1) ecosystem-based adaptation and mitigation, (2) science-based policy and planning for conservation, climate change and biodiversity conservation and (3) the application of information
communication and technology, including geographic information system, remote sensing and modelling, to climate change, ecosystem mapping and environmental problems.

Professor Mackey is a member of the Ecological Society of Australia and the Society for Conservation Biology.  His other professional memberships include the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Environmental Law and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas.

He  is a Coordinating Lead Author for “Chapter 11 – Australasia” of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report.

Brendan has written over 200 academic publications including journal articles, books and book chapters.


Griffith University

Project Manager & whale research

Olaf has graduated in Environmental Sciences at the University of Lueneburg, Germany and then co-ordinated scientific panel meetings for the European Food Safety Authority. He started his PhD at Griffith University on the relationship between fish harvest and environmental drivers. 

During his research he developed advanced short and long term tagging methods. After completion of his PhD he continued his research in Marine Science with the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management on the Gold Coast. 

He is now working on an international research project on the impacts of climate change on whales and also studies the health of humpback whales in south-east Queensland using drones. 

Olaf is CEO and co-founder of Humpbacks & High-Rises Inc. a not for profit research organisation dedicated to urban marine mammal research and protection. 

de Bie

Griffith University

Ecosystem Modeller

Jasper received his MScs in Marine biology and Climate physics at the Universities of Groningen and Utrecht (the Netherlands). 

With a keen interest in fish ecology, he joined the University of Southampton (UK), where he started his PhD in Environmental Engineering, studying fish behavioural response to hydrodynamics in the context of freshwater fish migration.

After completion of his PhD he worked as a Research Fellow on a research project where, through an experimental and agent-based modelling approach, European eel behaviour migratory routes through tidal areas and rivers could be predicted. 

He is currently working at the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management on the Gold Coast (Aus) as a Research Fellow studying the effects of climate change on humpback whale migration. When he’s not busy with science, he enjoys outdoors sporting activities, and he’s also trying to improve his underwater photography skills.

Hilla Kela

Griffith University

Project Assistant & Data Processing

Hilla Kela received a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from Griffith University in 2020. She started working with whale sighting data shortly after graduating, advancing her skills in data processing. Currently she is responsible for the quality control, data management, and building a comprehensive humpback whale sighting database.
Originally from northern Finland, she is passionate about the health of the polar ecosystems and the effect of climate change on them.

Dr. Karlien Paas

Griffith University

Former Staff member: Project Assistant & Data Processing

Karlien received two masters’ degrees, one in Social Psychology at the University of Groningen, and one in Forensics, Criminology and Law from Maastricht University, both in the Netherlands.

With a keen interest in doing research Karlien started a PhD at the University of Southampton (UK) in Psychology, and investigated what coping strategies narcissists use when experiencing a stressful situation. Whilst doing her PhD she also worked on several other (psychology related) research projects in roles such as data analyst, quantitative data scientist, and statistician. She gained experience building, managing, and analysing big datasets.

She is currently working at the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management, at Griffith University (Australia). Here, she is responsible for the development of a comprehensive humpback whale sighting database.


Griffith University

Former Staff member: Oceanographer 

As a physical oceanographer I monitor and model ocean, coastal, and estuarine environments. My research projects at Griffith University focus on regional ocean modelling in the South West Pacific Ocean, including the remote Pacific Island and east Australian regions, to explore the future impacts of climate change on ocean conditions. 

Prior to my role at Griffith University I conducted research at the University of Maryland’s Centre for Environmental Science (UMCES) (U.S.A), on a NOAA-funded research project investigating hurricane storm surge inundation in the Mid-Atlantic Bight, and the impact of sea level rise on estuarine circulation, within two of the largest estuaries in the U.S.A, Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. 

My PhD research used a combination of numerical modelling and field investigations to describe circulation, mixing, and the transport and fate of contaminants in the heavily urbanised Sydney Estuary, Australia.

south africa


Stellenbosch University

Marine Primary Productivity

Prof Roychoudhury graduated with a PhD in 1999 from Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta USA with specialization in the fields of biogeochemistry and geohydrology. Since graduation, he has worked at full-time academic positions at Northwestern University, USA, University of Cape Town, South Africa and currently he is a Professor (Marine and Environmental Geochemistry) at the University of Stellenbosch where he served as Head of Earth Sciences from 2012 to 2017. At Stellenbosch, he has set up the  Center for Trace and Environmental Biogeochemistry (TracEx)  and his research focus is on biogeochemical dynamics in aquatic environments. In particular he is interested in understanding reaction kinetics and other controls over elemental cycling on the global as well as local scales. His approach includes combining field- and laboratory-based studies with numerical modeling to achieve a mechanistic understanding of biogeochemical reactions that influence elemental cycling in aquatic environments. More recently, his efforts have been put into establishing the South African node of the international GEOTRACES program with his research focus on the sources, sinks and internal cycling of dissolved micronutrients. Particular focus has been on the speciation of iron nano-particles and other bioactive trace metals to understand their influence on marine primary productivity in the Southern Ocean.

Prof Roychoudhury has served on a number of national and international boards and committees. He is a Fellow of the International Congress of Chemistry and Environment, a Founder Member of AEON (Africa Earth Observatory Network), Associate Member of Institute for Microbial Biotechnology and Metagenomics; University of the Western Cape and member of the Board of Governors for Somerset House (a private primary school). He has served as an Associate Editor for Applied Geochemistry (2003 – 2012), and currently serves as an Associate editor of Frontiers in Environmental Science (Nature publishing group): Ground Water Resources and Management (2014 – present) and Review editor of Frontiers in Environmental Science (Nature publishing group): Marine observation (2015 – present).


University of Cape Town

Oceanography and Climate Modelling

Marcello Vichi is Associate Professor at the Department of Oceanography, University of Cape Town and Director of the Marine Research Institute. He has a background in oceanography, climate and numerical modelling, with a PhD in Marine Ecology and Biogeochemistry and decadal experience in coupled physical and biogeochemical modelling of the global ocean, Southern Ocean and regional seas. 

His research interests are linked to the numerical modelling of earth system processes, embracing coupled physical/biogeochemical processes in the global ocean; observations, simulation and parameterization of sea-ice dynamics and biogeochemistry in the Antarctic; climate change impacts on marine/sea ice ecosystems and process studies of physical/biogeochemical interactions in coastal and shelf seas.

Els Vermeulen

University of Pretoria

Whale Ecology

Dr Els Vermeulen is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Zoology and Entomology as well as the  Research Manager of the Mammal Research Institute Whale Unit at the University of Pretoria. With over 15 years of experience in marine mammal science, Els’s main interest and expertise lies in the field of population biology and ecology, and associated conservation management. She is a member of the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group, IUCN Red List Authority and an annually invited participant to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (with prior participation as part of the Belgian Delegation).

As manager of the MRI Whale Unit, Els is responsible for the continuous project development and execution, administration, fundraising, student supervision, as well as community and policy engagement. Due to her interest and expertise, the Unit’s research projects range across a broad national and international geographic and institutional spectrum, and align mainly with the role of large baleen whales in the Southern Hemisphere Ocean Ecosystems. Besides her work in the Whale Unit, Els is very active in national as well as international collaborative research projects, and has a leading role in the South African humpback dolphin consortium (SouSA), the global Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphin Conservation Consortium, the Southern Right Whale Consortium, and the Southern Right Whale research theme of the Southern Ocean Research Partnership (SORP-IWC).


University of Pretoria

Whale Ecology

Prof Ken Findlay is the Research Chair: Oceans Economy at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in Cape Town, South Africa and previously directed the MRI Whale Unit of the University of Pretoria.

Ken is a marine biologist with over twenty-five years of research and consulting experience in Southern Africa and broader regions with field experience across a broad geographicrange, having lead and participated in field research in the Southern Ocean, the Western Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Eastern Pacific Ocean and in the local Southern African environment, including particularly Mozambique. He has been an invited member of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee since 1997. He is a member of the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group and the Sirenian Specialist Group and is a registered South African Professional Natural Scientist. He is a Steering Committee member of both the Indian Ocean Cetacean Network (Indocet) and the Arabian Sea Whale Network (ASWN). His particular marine mammal research interests include population status of marine mammal populations and Southern Ocean marine mammal ecology.

In his position at CPUT, Ken drives the University’s Centre for Sustainable Oceans. The Centre focusses on oceans economies and governance and ecosystem-based management approaches to balancing ocean health and human benefits from the ocean space. Oceans economies are expanding across the world as countries and regions turn to their realm to foster economic growth and ensure food and energy security, and sustainability and inclusivity form important pillars in blue economy approaches to ocean governance, particularly in today’s changing oceans. Changes in ocean environments, ocean resource-use and ocean measurement require a new framework for the underpinning of informed ocean governance. Oceans accounts frameworks provide such a basis of informed decision support in policy development that maximizes ocean benefits, inclusivity and equitable access and sustainability.


Stellenbosch University

Marine Biogeochemistry

Suamik is a geochemist with a specialization in the field of low-temperature earth and environmental sciences. He graduated with Ph.D. in 2017 from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata (IISER Kolkata), India. He completed a B.Sc. (Geology) in 2009 and M.Sc. (Applied Geology) in 2011. During his PhD (2012-2017) he worked on the sources, cycling, fluxes of selected trace elements and nutrients in the Ganga (Hooghly) River estuary. Saumik is a full-time postdoctoral researcher at University of Stellenbosch. His research focuses on the understanding of basic earth processes and biogeochemical dynamics in the aquatic and atmospheric environments. In particular, he is interested in understanding the sources and cycling of trace elements (natural vs. anthropogenic, submarine groundwater discharge), exchange of trace elements between various reservoirs (e.g. solute-particulate interactions) and the fate of the trace elements in the global ocean using numerical modelling based on real data for qualitative and quantitative estimations.


University of Pretoria

Whale Ecology

Elisa Seyboth is a PhD in Biological Oceanography (2018) from the Federal University of Rio Grande (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande – FURG), having developed part of her research at IMAS (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies) in Hobart, Tasmania. Elisa is an oceanographer (2010) and since 2011 she has been dedicating to cetacean studies, when she began her Masters degree with a project related to the habitat use and reproductive success of southern right whales.

Later on, the PhD project was developed to investigating the ecology of whales in the vicinities of the Antarctic Peninsula. She is currently a researcher at the Mammal Research Institute Whale Unit, University of Pretoria, South Africa. Elisa is a member of the Brazilian High Latitudes Oceanography Group (GOAL-FURG) and the national representative of Brazil in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

Clement Demasy

Stellenbosch University

Marine Biogeochemistry


I am currently a marine biogeochemist at Stellenbosch University, specializing in the intricate interactions between metals and phytoplankton. My research is dedicated to unraveling the implications of whale feces on natural phytoplankton communities within the context of climate change. I became interested in oceanographic sciences with a degree in Marine Engineering Sciences and Technology of the marine environment at Intechmer (Cherbourg, France) during which I did an internship at the Laboratoire des sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement (Gif sur Yvette). Here, my focus was on studying biogeochemical processes at the water/sediment interface in the Venice lagoon. I pursued my B.Sc. and M.Sc. at the Université de Perpignan, specializing in the biogeochemistry of trace metals in the water column. This included an internship at the University of British Columbia (Canada) focusing on the particulate metal cycle in the Canadian Archipelago, and an internship at the National Oceanography Centre (Southampton, UK) on the dissolved metal cycle in hydrothermal plumes. My academic journey culminated with the completion of a Ph.D. in 2023 (Université Paris Cité, Institut Physique du Globe de Paris), where I investigated iron dissolution rates in Patagonian dust under both actual and future conditions in the Southern Ocean. I also explored the impact of Patagonian dust inputs and anticipated environmental changes on natural phytoplankton communities.

Prakash Dey

University of Cape Town

Former Staff Member: Ocean Modeller

I graduated with my PhD from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur in 2019 with expertise in ocean modeling. After completion of my PhD 

I joined this group as an ocean modeler to understand the oceanic processes related to climate change which impact the humpback whales.

Giles Fearon

University of Cape Town

Former Staff Member: Ocean Modeller

Giles Fearon is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Oceanography, University of Cape Town. His recently completed PhD in physical oceanography used ocean models to elucidate the influence of the land-sea breeze in driving high-frequency hydrographic variability within the Benguela Upwelling System on the west coast of South Africa. 

Prior to his PhD, Giles worked for over 10 years as a port and coastal engineer specialising in hydrodynamic modelling of coastal and ocean processes. His project experience includes coastal wave modelling, dispersion modelling of discharges into the marine environment (e.g. outfalls, dredge plumes and oil spills), tropical cyclone modelling, coastal flooding risk assessments and sediment transport modelling.
Giles’ research is now focussed on the use of ocean and coastal models to better understand the physical and biogeochemical processes of coastal systems.

Jan Lukas

Stellenbosch University

Former Staff Member: Marine Biogeochemistry

I am a marine scientist which studied a 5 year degree in Marine Sciences in Spain developing a special focus in global marine biogeochemical cycles. After that I studied a 2 year master in marine environment and resources (joint program; Universities of Bordeaux (France), Basque Country (Spain), and Southampton (UK)) where I deepen my knowledge in the global carbon cycle in a master thesis entitled “Carbonate chemistry in the North Atlantic”.

During my PhD I have worked in waters of southeast and southwest Greenland studying the influence from run off and glacial meltwater inputs on the distribution of metals in seawater. This input of metals is thought to be an important source of limiting nutrients to the sub-polar North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. During this time I was a member of the steering committee and cluster council of the Cluster of Excellence “The Future Ocean” (Kiel, Germany) as well as PhD representative of the Integrated school of Ocean Sciences in Kiel.

I was based in Stellenbosch (South Africa) and focused on studying the importance of the Antarctic marginal ice zone as a mechanism which captures and transports nutrients from the freezing to the melting season. This region has large scale implications for global climate as it buffers the temperature of the oceans by providing an irradiance reflectance mechanism and by providing with the necessary nutrients for micro-algae growth during spring and summer periods, thus being a major sink of atmospheric carbon dioxide. In addition, I was working on understanding the influence of climate change on humpback whales which is linked with the previous research as the major prey reservoir for humpback whales is zooplankton (e.g. Krill) found in Antarctic waters and directly linked to primary productivity which relies on enough supply of limiting nutrients.


University of Cape Town

Former staff member: Ocean Modeller

PhD graduated from University of Cape Town, in Applied Mathematics with expertise in Finite Element Method. I have worked in computational electromagnetics software developpment and modelling in Biomechanics.

I was working on the development of the sea-ice model and Coupling of the Biogreochemical model with an OGCM (Ocean general circulation model).

south america

Prof. Eduardo Secchi

Federal University of Rio Grande

Project team leader for South America & Whale Ecology

Eduardo Secchi graduated in Oceanography at the Federal University of Rio Grande (FURG) in 1991. He did his Masters in Biological Oceanography (FURG, 1999) and PhD in Zoology (University of Otago, New Zealand, 2006) and Postdoctoral Fellow at Flinders University (Australia – 2014). 

He is Associate Professor in the Oceanography Institute at FURG since 2006 and leads the Marine Megafaune Ecology and Conservation Laboratory at the same University. Secchi works mostly in the field of Ecology and Conservation of Marine Mammals and Turtles. Supervises undergraduate, master and doctoral students. 

Eduardo is the scientific leader of several research projects on the ecology and conservation of marine mammals in estuarine and marine environments in subtropical and Antarctic regions. He was the first Editor-in-Chief and now Emeritus Editor of Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals. Secchi has published over 120 articles in peer reviewed journals. He received the “Oliver Persons Award” (American Society for Mammalogy – 2007) for his performance in research and conservation and the formation of human resources. He was the President of the Latin American Society for Aquatic Mammals (Sociedad Latinoamericana de Especialistas en Mamiferos Acuaticos-SOLAMAC/period 2015-2016). 

Secchi is also member of the Cetacean Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 1997. He is a level 1 Research Fellow of the Brazilian Council for Scientific and Technological Development and currently Dean for Research and Graduate studies at FURG (equivalent to Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, in Australia).

Dalla Rosa

Federal University of Rio Grande

Project team leader for South America & Whale Ecology/Modelling

Graduated in Oceanography from the Federal University of Rio Grande – FURG (Brazil) in 1996, obtained a Master’s degree in Biological Oceanography from FURG in 2000, and a PhD in Zoology from The University of British Columbia (Canada) in 2010. 

Holds a faculty position at the Institute of Oceanography – FURG since 2012, is the current Coordinator of the Graduate Course in Biological Oceanography and also member of the Graduate Course in Environmetrics, both at FURG. 

Luciano’s expertise revolves around marine vertebrate ecology, focusing mainly on cetaceans. His main research and teaching interests include species-habitat relationships using a variety of statistical models, cetacean population dynamics and conservation, marine vertebrate telemetry and Southern Ocean ecology.

Researcher of the Brazilian Antarctic Program (PROANTAR) since 1995, and of two National Institutes of Science and Technology: Antarctic of Environmental Research (INCT-APA) and the Center of Integrated Oceanography (INCT-Mar/COI), he is a member of the Southern Ocean Research Partnership (IWC-SORP) and the coordinator of the Whales Project/PROANTAR. 

He is also a member of the Pool of Experts for the United Nations’ second cycle of the Regular Process for the Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment.

Jorge Acevedo Ramírez

CEQUA Foundation

Marine Science (team leader)

Graduated in Marine Biology from the Universidad Arturo Prat (Chile) in 1999 and obtained a Master’s degree in Conservation and Marine Resource Management from Universidad de Magallanes (Chile) in 2006. Currently, is PhD(c) in Marine and Coastal Sciences from the Universidad Autónoma of Baja California Sur (México). Holds a researcher position at the Scientific Institution Centro de Estudios del Cuaternario de Fuego-Patagonia y Antártica (CEQUA Foundation), at Punta Arenas, Chile since 2002 and is the current Coordinator of Marine Mammal Laboratory of CEQUA Foundation. My expertise revolves around marine mammals’ ecology, focusing mainly on baleen whales and secondarily on two true seals species of the austral region of South America. Jorge has also conducted research in the Southern Ocean, including the Antarctic fur seal and baleen whales, and collaborates as researcher in marine mammal projects of the Brazilian Antarctic Program (PROANTAR).

Fernando Felix

Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador

Whale Researcher (team leader)

More than twenty-five years studying humpback whales in Ecuador, a major breeding area for the Breeding Stock G. Main research topics include population parameters, breeding behavior, habitat modeling and satellite tracking.

Esther Jiménez

CEQUA Foundation

Whale Reseacher

Graduate in Biology from Universidad Autónoma de México, obtained her Master’s degree and Doctorate at Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur (UABCS), Mexico. She had teach Geographic Information System workshop applied to marine environment at research centers and international conference, also about Satellite Telemetry at the summer Marine Mammals school at La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mex. She is a profesor at UABCS, and her main research topics include ecology, distribution and habitat use of cetaceans to identify Priorities Areas for it’s management and conservation, as of Geographic Information System, Modeling Niche Ecology and Satellite and acoustic tracking in the Gulf of California and Pacific, Mexico. She had collaborated with researchers from SCRIPPS Research Institute and Center for Coastal Studies. Currently, she is part of an international group who are working about interpreting multiple types of geospatial scientific information to protect marine mammals, as a practical guide for decision-maker.


Federal University of Rio Grande

Biological Oceanography

My general research interest is focused on population ecology of cetaceans, their interaction with human activities and how these activities affect their viability. During my professional carrier I have participated in long-term monitoring projects aiming to investigate habitat use and social evolution of whales and dolphins, tracking population trajectories through successive estimations of demographic parameters and understanding how populations are biologically connected. In the field, I have extensive experience with distance sampling, photo-identification and biopsy of whales and dolphins.


Federal University of Rio Grande


Rodrigo C. Genoves is an Oceanographer graduated at the Federal University of Rio Grande– FURG (2008). He took his Masters (2013) and Doctoral degrees in Biological Oceanography (2019) at FURG, the latter in cotutelle with Flinders University (South Australia). His expertise is concentrated cetaceans social and population structure, habitat use and feeding ecology, especially of Lahille’s bottlenose dolphins. Rodrigo has been participating in several research projects on the ecology and conservation of marine mammals from tropical to Antarctic regions.


Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Marine Ecology

Marine Ecologist with over fifteen years of tagging experience of large whales from Mexico to Chile. Current research includes satellite telemetry coupled with oceanographic variables and threats (vessel collision, fisheries, climate change) affecting whale behavior and population changes.

Renan C.
de Lima

Federal University of Rio Grande


I am an Oceanographer (2015) with a master’s degree (2018) and a Ph.D. (2022) in Biological Oceanography, earned from the Federal University of Rio Grande (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande – FURG). My primary research interests center around marine mammal ecology, with a specific focus on utilizing whales and seals as indicator species to assess the impact of climate change on the Antarctic ecosystem.
I have actively participated in several research projects, covering topics ranging from the health and contamination status of marine mammals to investigations into their diet, distribution, and abundance. During my Ph.D. studies, I had the privilege of being a Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (CONMAP) fellow. As part of this fellowship, I conducted a portion of my research into the trophic ecology of Weddell seals at the University of New Mexico (USA).

Currently, I am a member of GOAL-FURG (High-Latitude Oceanography Group) and serve as the national representative of the Brazilian committee of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS-Brazil) within the APECS International Council.