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Professor Steve Dawson

Contact DetailsSteve Dawson 2020 Image

Email steve.dawson@otago.ac.nz

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)

Awards

  • 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).

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Publications

Carome, W., Slooten, E., Rayment, W., Webster, T., Wickman, L., Brough, T., & Dawson, S. M. (2022). A long-term shift in the summer distribution of Hector’s dolphins is correlated with an increase in cruise ship tourism. Aquatic Conservation, 32, 1660-1674. doi: 10.1002/aqc.3881

Hersh, T. A., Gero, S., Rendell, L., Cantor, M., Weilgart, L., Amano, M., Dawson, S. M., Slooten, E., … Guerra, M., … Whitehead, H. (2022). Evidence from sperm whale clans of symbolic marking in non-human cultures. PNAS, 119(37), e2201692119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2201692119

Harvey, M., Dawson, S., & Rayment, W. (2022). Estimating the abundance of the Hector’s dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori hectori) that use Porpoise Bay, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/00288330.2022.2112060

Bennington, S., Guerra, M., Johnston, D., Currey, R., Brough, T., Corne, C., … Slooten, E., Dawson, S., & Rayment, W. (2022). Decadal stability in the distribution of bottlenose dolphins in Dusky Sound/Tamatea, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/00288330.2022.2038214

Somerford, T. R., Dawson, S. M., Slooten, E., Guerra, M., Childerhouse, S. J., Richter, C. F., van der Linde, M. L., & Rayment, W. J. (2021). Long-term decline in abundance of male sperm whales visiting Kaikōura, New Zealand. Marine Mammal Science. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/mms.12886

Slooten, L., & Dawson, S. (2013). Dolphins down under: Understanding the New Zealand dolphin. Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago University Press, 96p.

Authored Book - Research

Dawson, S., & Slooten, E. (1996). Down-under Dolphins: The story of Hector's Dolphin. Christchurch, New Zealand: Canterbury University Press, 60p.

Authored Book - Research

Dawson, S. M. (2018). Cephalorhynchus dolphins: C. heavisidii, C. eutropia, C. hectori, and C. commersonii. In B. Würsig, J. G. M. Thewissen & K. M. Kovacs (Eds.), Encyclopedia of marine mammals. (3rd ed.) (pp. 166-172). London, UK: Academic Press. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-804327-1.00086-8

Chapter in Book - Research

Tregenza, N., Dawson, S., Rayment, W., & Verfuss, U. (2016). Listening to echolocation clicks with PODs. In W. W. L. Au & M. O. Lammers (Eds.), Listening in the ocean: New discoveries and insights on marine life from autonomous passive acoustic recorders. (pp. 163-206). New York: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-3176-7_7

Chapter in Book - Research

Dawson, S. M. (2009). Cephalorhynchus dolphins: C. heavisidii, C. eutropia, C. hectori, and C. commersonii. In W. F. Perrin, B. Würsig & J. G. M. Thewissen (Eds.), Encyclopedia of marine mammals. (2nd ed.) (pp. 191-195). Burlington, MA: Academic Press.

Chapter in Book - Research

Dawson, S. M. (2008). Marine mammals. In M. Winterbourn, G. Knox, C. Burrows & I. Marsden (Eds.), The natural history of Canterbury. (3rd ed.) (pp. 685-702). Christchurch, New Zealand: Canterbury University Press.

Chapter in Book - Research

Brett, T., Carter, L., Carter, R. M., Darby, J., Davis, L., Dawson, S., Jillett, J., Probert, K., & Spencer, H. (2003). The open sea. In J. T. Darby, R. E. Fordyce, A. F. Mark, P. K. Probert & C. R. Townsend (Eds.), The natural history of Southern New Zealand. (pp. 313-338). Dunedin: University of Otago Press.

Chapter in Book - Research

Pichler, F. B., Slooten, E., & Dawson, S. M. (2003). Hector's dolphins and fisheries in New Zealand: A species at risk. In N. J. Gales, M. A. Hindell & R. Kirkwood (Eds.), Marine mammals: Fisheries, tourism and management issues. (pp. 153-173). Collingwood, VIC: CSIRO.

Chapter in Book - Research

Dawson, S. M. (2002). Cephalorhynchus dolphins. In W. F. Perrin, B. Wurisg & J. G. M. Thewissen (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. (pp. 200-203). San Diego: Academic Press.

Chapter in Book - Research

Bennington, S., Guerra, M., Johnston, D., Currey, R., Brough, T., Corne, C., … Slooten, E., Dawson, S., & Rayment, W. (2022). Decadal stability in the distribution of bottlenose dolphins in Dusky Sound/Tamatea, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/00288330.2022.2038214

Journal - Research Article

Carome, W., Slooten, E., Rayment, W., Webster, T., Wickman, L., Brough, T., & Dawson, S. M. (2022). A long-term shift in the summer distribution of Hector’s dolphins is correlated with an increase in cruise ship tourism. Aquatic Conservation, 32, 1660-1674. doi: 10.1002/aqc.3881

Journal - Research Article

Harvey, M., Dawson, S., & Rayment, W. (2022). Estimating the abundance of the Hector’s dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori hectori) that use Porpoise Bay, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/00288330.2022.2112060

Journal - Research Article

Hersh, T. A., Gero, S., Rendell, L., Cantor, M., Weilgart, L., Amano, M., Dawson, S. M., Slooten, E., … Guerra, M., … Whitehead, H. (2022). Evidence from sperm whale clans of symbolic marking in non-human cultures. PNAS, 119(37), e2201692119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2201692119

Journal - Research Article

Bennington, S., Rayment, W., Currey, R., Oldridge, L., Henderson, S., Guerra, M., … Johnston, D., … Slooten, L., & Dawson, S. (2021). Long-term stability in core habitat of an endangered population of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus): Implications for spatial management. Aquatic Conservation, 31, 665-676. doi: 10.1002/aqc.3460

Journal - Research Article

Dickson, T., Rayment, W., Guerra, M., & Dawson, S. (2021). Multi-decadal observations of the size structure of sperm whales at Kaikōura, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/00288330.2021.1960570

Journal - Research Article

Guerra, M., Dawson, S. M., Somerford, T. R., Slooten, E., & Rayment, W. J. (2021). Fine-scale habitat use of foraging sperm whales is driven by seafloor topography and water column structure. Marine Mammal Science. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/mms.12881

Journal - Research Article

Lewis, R., Dawson, S., & Rayment, W. (2021). Size structure of broadnose sevengill sharks (Notorynchus cepedianus) in Sawdust Bay, Rakiura/Stewart Island, estimated using underwater stereo-photogrammetry. New Zealand Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/00288330.2021.1968010

Journal - Research Article

Somerford, T. R., Dawson, S. M., Slooten, E., Guerra, M., Childerhouse, S. J., Richter, C. F., van der Linde, M. L., & Rayment, W. J. (2021). Long-term decline in abundance of male sperm whales visiting Kaikōura, New Zealand. Marine Mammal Science. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/mms.12886

Journal - Research Article

Bennington, S., Rayment, W., & Dawson, S. (2020). Putting prey into the picture: Improvements to species distribution models for bottlenose dolphins in Doubtful Sound, New Zealand. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 653, 191-204. doi: 10.3354/meps13492

Journal - Research Article

Brough, T., Rayment, W., Slooten, E., & Dawson, S. (2020). Spatiotemporal distribution of foraging in a marine predator: Behavioural drivers of hotspot formation. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 635, 187-202. doi: 10.3354/meps13198

Journal - Research Article

Christiansen, F., Dawson, S. M., Durban, J. W., Fearnbach, H., Miller, C. A., Bejder, L., … Rayment, W., Leunissen, E., … Moore, M. J. (2020). Population comparison of right whale body condition reveals poor state of the North Atlantic right whale. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 640, 1-16. doi: 10.3354/meps13299

Journal - Research Article

Guerra, M., Dawson, S., Sabadel, A., Slooten, E., Somerford, T., Williams, R., Wing, L., & Rayment, W. (2020). Changes in habitat use by a deep-diving predator in response to a coastal earthquake. Deep Sea Research Part I, 158, 103226. doi: 10.1016/j.dsr.2020.103226

Journal - Research Article

Guerra, M., Wing, L., Dawson, S., & Rayment, W. (2020). Stable isotope analyses reveal seasonal and inter-individual variation in the foraging ecology of sperm whales. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 638, 207-219. doi: 10.3354/meps13255

Journal - Research Article

Lewis, R., Dawson, S., & Rayment, W. (2020). Estimating population parameters of broadnose sevengill sharks (Notorynchus cepedianus) using photo-ID capture-recapture. Journal of Fish Biology, 97, 987-995. doi: 10.1111/jfb.14453

Journal - Research Article

Brough, T., Rayment, W., & Dawson, S. (2019). Using a recreational grade echosounder to quantify the potential prey field of coastal predators. PLoS ONE, 14(5), e0217013. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0217013

Journal - Research Article

Brough, T., Rayment, W., Slooten, E., & Dawson, S. (2019). Fine scale distribution for a population of New Zealand's only endemic dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori) shows long-term stability of coastal hotspots. Marine Mammal Science, 35(1), 140-163. doi: 10.1111/mms.12528

Journal - Research Article

Leunissen, E. M., Rayment, W. J., & Dawson, S. M. (2019). Impact of pile-driving on Hector's dolphin in Lyttelton Harbour, New Zealand. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 142, 31-42. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2019.03.017

Journal - Research Article

Webster, T. A., Van Parijs, S. M., Rayment, W. J., & Dawson, S. M. (2019). Temporal variation in the vocal behaviour of southern right whales in the Auckland Islands, New Zealand. Royal Society Open Science, 6, 181487. doi: 10.1098/rsos.181487

Journal - Research Article

Davidson, A. R., Rayment, W., Dawson, S. M., Webster, T., & Slooten, E. (2018). Estimated calving interval for the New Zealand southern right whale (Eubalaena australis). New Zealand Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research, 52(3), 372-383. doi: 10.1080/00288330.2017.1397034

Journal - Research Article

Leunissen, E. M., & Dawson, S. M. (2018). Underwater noise levels of pile-driving in a New Zealand harbour, and the potential impacts on endangered Hector's dolphins. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 135, 195-204. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2018.07.024

Journal - Research Article

Rayment, W., Webster, T., Brough, T., Jowett, T., & Dawson, S. (2018). Seen or heard? A comparison of visual and acoustic autonomous monitoring methods for investigating temporal variation in occurrence of southern right whales. Marine Biology, 165, 12. doi: 10.1007/s00227-017-3264-0

Journal - Research Article

Steel, D., Anderson, M., Garrigue, C., Olavarría, C., Childerhouse, S., Clapham, P., … Dawson, S., … Slooten, L., … Baker, C. S. (2018). Migratory interchange of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) among breeding grounds of Oceania and connections to Antarctic feeding areas based on genotype matching. Polar Biology, 41(4), 653-662. doi: 10.1007/s00300-017-2226-9

Journal - Research Article

Dawson, S. M., Bowman, M. H., Leunissen, E., & Sirguey, P. (2017). Inexpensive aerial photogrammetry for studies of whales and large marine animals. Frontiers in Marine Science, 4, 366. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2017.00366

Journal - Research Article

Dawson, S. M., Fordyce, R. E., Ridgway, S. H., Brough, T. E., & Slooten, E. (2017). Observations of a New Zealand dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori) breathing via its mouth. Marine Mammal Science, 33(1), 350-355. doi: 10.1111/mms.12349

Journal - Research Article

Forney, K. A., Southall, B. L., Slooten, E., Dawson, S., Read, A. J., Baird, R. W., & Brownell, Jr, R. L. (2017). Nowhere to go: Noise impact assessments for marine mammal populations with high site fidelity. Endangered Species Research, 32, 391-413. doi: 10.3354/esr00820

Journal - Research Article

Johnston, D. R., Rayment, W., Slooten, E., & Dawson, S. M. (2017). A time-based method for defining associations using photo-identification. Behaviour, 154(9-10), 1029-1050. doi: 10.1163/1568539X-00003455

Journal - Research Article

Agnew, P., Lalas, C., Wright, J., & Dawson, S. (2016). Annual variation in recruitment and age-specific survival of Little Penguins, Eudyptula minor. Emu, 116, 62-70. doi: 10.1071/MU15072

Journal - Research Article

Brough, T. E., Henderson, S., Guerra, M., & Dawson, S. M. (2016). Factors influencing heterogeneity in female reproductive success in a critically endangered population of bottlenose dolphins. Endangered Species Research, 29(3), 255-270. doi: 10.3354/esr00715

Journal - Research Article

Dittmann, S., Dawson, S., Rayment, W., Webster, T., & Slooten, E. (2016). Hector's dolphin movement patterns in response to height and direction of ocean swell. New Zealand Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research, 50(2), 228-239. doi: 10.1080/00288330.2015.1119165

Journal - Research Article

Guerra, M., & Dawson, S. M. (2016). Boat-based tourism and bottlenose dolphins in Doubtful Sound, New Zealand: The role of management in decreasing dolphin-boat interactions. Tourism Management, 57, 3-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tourman.2016.05.010

Journal - Research Article

Webster, T. A., Dawson, S. M., Rayment, W. J., Parks, S. E., & Van Parijs, S. M. (2016). Quantitative analysis of the acoustic repertoire of southern right whales in New Zealand. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 140(1), 322-333. doi: 10.1121/1.4955066

Journal - Research Article

Agnew, P., Lalas, C., Wright, J., & Dawson, S. (2015). Variation in breeding success and survival of little penguins Eudyptula minor in response to environmental variation. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 541, 219-229. doi: 10.3354/meps11538

Journal - Research Article

Brough, T. E., Guerra, M., & Dawson, S. M. (2015). Photo-identification of bottlenose dolphins in the far south of New Zealand indicates a 'new', previously unstudied population. New Zealand Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research, 49(1), 150-158. doi: 10.1080/00288330.2014.984728

Journal - Research Article

Rayment, W., Dawson, S., & Webster, T. (2015). Breeding status affects fine-scale habitat selection of southern right whales on their wintering grounds. Journal of Biogeography, 42(3), 463-474. doi: 10.1111/jbi.12443

Journal - Research Article

Guerra, M., Dawson, S. M., Brough, T. E., & Rayment, W. J. (2014). Effects of boats on the surface and acoustic behaviour of an endangered population of bottlenose dolphin. Endangered Species Research, 24(3), 221-236. doi: 10.3354/esr00598

Journal - Research Article

Henderson, S. D., Dawson, S. M., Currey, R. J. C., Lusseau, D., & Schneider, K. (2014). Reproduction, birth seasonality, and calf survival of bottlenose dolphins in Doubtful Sound, New Zealand. Marine Mammal Science, 30(3), 1067-1080. doi: 10.1111/mms.12109

Journal - Research Article

Peel, D., Miller, B. S., Kelly, N., Dawson, S., Slooten, E., & Double, M. C. (2014). A simulation study of acoustic-assisted tracking of whales for mark-recapture surveys. PLoS ONE, 9(5), e95602. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0095602

Journal - Research Article

Agnew, P., Lalas, C., Wright, J., & Dawson, S. (2013). Effects of attached data-logging devices on little penguins (Eudyptula minor). Marine Biology, 160(9), 2375-2382. doi: 10.1007/s00227-013-2231-7

Journal - Research Article

Dawson, S. M., Northridge, S., Waples, D., & Read, A. J. (2013). To ping or not to ping: The use of active acoustic devices in mitigating interactions between small cetaceans and gillnet fisheries. Endangered Species Research, 19(3), 201-221. doi: 10.3354/esr00464

Journal - Research Article

Dawson, S., Fletcher, D., & Slooten, E. (2013). Habitat use and conservation of an endangered dolphin. Endangered Species Research, 21, 45-54. doi: 10.3354/esr00508

Journal - Research Article

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