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Contact DetailsSteve Dawson 2020 Image


Academic Qualifications

MSc University of Auckland
PhD University of Canterbury

Research Interests

  • Conservation biology of marine mammals, especially Hector's dolphin
  • Incidental catch of marine mammals in fisheries
  • Acoustic behaviour and communication in cetaceans
  • Line-transect surveys for inshore cetaceans
  • Photogrammetry

Research Projects

  • Conservation biology and Ecology of Hector's dolphin
  • Conservation biology of Fiordland Bottlenose dolphins
  • Ecology and acoustic behaviour of sperm whales
  • UAV photogrammetry as a tool for understanding cetacean ecology

Visit here for more information on the New Zealand Whale & Dolphin Trust

Postgraduate Students

Lindsay Wickman – Thesis Title (PhD): Population modelling of Hector's dolphins at Banks Peninsula, NZ.

Steph Bennington – Thesis Title (PhD): Investigating recovery of the endangered Hector's dolphin

Recent graduates

  • David Johnston PhD (2023)
  • Hannah Williams (MSc)
  • Will Carome MSc (2022)
  • Max Harvey MSc (2022)
  • María Valdés Hernández PhD (2022)
  • Toby Dickson MSc (Distinction: 2020)
  • Dr Tom Brough PhD (2019)
  • Dr Marta Guerra PhD (2019)
  • Steph Bennington (Distinction: 2019)
  • Rob Lewis (Distinction: 2019)
  • Tamlyn Somerville MSc (Distinction: 2019)
  • Lindsay Wickman MSc (Distinction: 2017)
  • Eva Leunissen MSc  (Distinction: 2017)
  • David Johnston MSc  (Distinction: 2017)


  • Division of Sciences Outstanding Teacher award. University of Otago. December 2020.
  • John Morton Medal (New Zealand Marine Sciences Society). Awarded for outstanding contribution to the advancement of marine conservation and sustainability in New Zealand. 2016 (Awarded jointly with Prof Elisabeth Slooten).
  • University of Otago Award for Excellence in Teaching – 2012.
  • Sir Charles Fleming Award (Royal Society of NZ) for outstanding contribution to conservation science. 2004. (Awarded jointly with Dr Elisabeth Slooten).


Williams, H., Dawson, S., Bennington, S., & Rayment, W. J. (2024). Multi-disciplinary surveys reveal a small subpopulation of Hector's dolphins is frequently exposed to the risk of bycatch. Aquatic Conservation, 34(2), e4109. doi: 10.1002/aqc.4109 Journal - Research Article

Nielsen, N. A., Dawson, S. M., Torres Ortiz, S., Wahlberg, M., & Martin, M. J. (2024). Hector's dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori) produce both narrowband high-frequency and broadband acoustic signals. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 155(2), 1437-1450. doi: 10.1121/10.0024820 Journal - Research Article

Harvey, M., Dawson, S., & Rayment, W. (2024). Estimating the abundance of the Hector’s dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori hectori) that use Porpoise Bay, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research, 58(1), 46-59. doi: 10.1080/00288330.2022.2112060 Journal - Research Article

Carome, W., Rayment, W., Slooten, E., Bowman, M. H., Martinez, E., & Dawson, S. M. (2023). Snapshots in time: Quantifying dynamics of coastal vessel traffic in a dolphin hotspot. New Zealand Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/00288330.2023.2261872 Journal - Research Article

Wickman, L., Rayment, W., Dillingham, P., Dawson, S., & Slooten, L. (2023). Updated estimates of survival rate for Hector's dolphins at Banks Peninsula. Proceedings of the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society (NZMSS) Annual Meeting. (pp. 174). [Abstract] Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

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