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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

David Johnston – Thesis Title (PhD): Photogrammetry of right whales.

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

Hannah Williams – Thesis Title (MSc): Hector's dolphins in Otago

Recent graduates

  • 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).


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

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]

Guerra, M., Sabadel, A., Rayment, W., Dawson, S., & Wing, L. (2023). Seasonal variation in the use of food resources by sperm whales in a submarine canyon. Deep Sea Research Part I, 200, 104149. doi: 10.1016/j.dsr.2023.104149

Brough, T. E., Rayment, W. J., Slooten, L., & Dawson, S. (2023). Prey and habitat characteristics contribute to hotspots of distribution for an endangered coastal dolphin. Frontiers in Marine Science, 10, 1204943. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2023.1204943

Carome, W., Rayment, W., Slooten, E., Bowman, M. H., & Dawson, S. M. (2023). Vessel traffic influences distribution of Aotearoa New Zealand's endemic dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori). Marine Mammal Science, 39, 626-647. doi: 10.1111/mms.12995

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