07 March 2024



Diving into the mysterious world of whales
with dr vanessa pirotta

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UniSA Video

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Discover the fascinating world of whales with acclaimed wildlife scientist Dr Vanessa Pirotta, as she shares her experiences with Professor Chris Daniels, Professor of Biology at the University of South Australia.

I will never forget the moment I entered the water quietly and saw two humpback whales sleeping diagonally in the distance. It was like two school buses just hanging there in space…Dr Vanessa Pirotta.

Dr Pirotta’s expertise extends globally, with her representing Australia as the international runner-up in the prestigious science communication competition, Famelab. Australian Financial Review recognised her as one of the top '100 Women of Influence', and she has been listed as one of Science & Technology Australia’s  'Superstars of STEM'.

Dr Vanessa Pirotta's encounters with whales go beyond mere observation. From being “mugged” by whales, to being touched by a baby whale and even covered in whale snot, her research journey and unique wildlife interactions have inspired her to share these captivating narratives in her book, Humpback Highway: Diving Into The Mysterious World Of Whales.

In her book, Pirotta’s passion and deep knowledge of whales shine through as she explores a variety of timely topics. Vanessa explains the significance of whale snot and poo for both us and the ocean, unravels the life cycle of these majestic creatures, and the challenges that humans present to these marine giants. She also explores the cutting-edge new technologies, such as tagging enabling us to track their migration, listen to them talk, and even spy on them underwater.

Don’t miss the opportunity to gain fresh and exciting perspectives on the marine world and the scientific contributions to marine conservation.

Dr Pirotta will participate as a guest panellist as part of the 2024 Planet Talks Program at WOMADelaide. The session Oceans of Change, considers the state of our oceans and discusses ways to advocate for change. 

Imprints Booksellers will be selling copies of Dr Pirotta's book, Humpback Highway: Diving Into The Mysterious World Of Whales, in the Auditorium foyer on the night of the event.

A video of this event will be available approximately one week after the event.

Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre in partnership with WOMADelaide Planet Talks

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dr vanessa pirotta
wildlife scientist & science communicator

Dr Vanessa Pirotta is a wildlife scientist and science communicator. Her research uses innovative technologies for wildlife conservation. Her best-known research involves using drones to collect whale snot (lung bacteria) from humpback whales for an assessment of whale health. Whale research has taken Vanessa around the world to places such as Antarctica, Tonga and Madagascar. In addition to marine science, Vanessa also works on conserving native Australian wildlife and exotic terrestrial species through her role as the chief scientist on a major illegal wildlife trafficking detection program for the Australian Federal Government.

Vanessa is a passionate science communicator who loves making science accessible to all. Vanessa’s work as an early career researcher and advocate for STEM in schools has been recognised by the Australian Financial Review as one of the top 100 Women of Influence and has seen her listed as one of Science & Technology Australia’s Superstars of STEM. Recently, Vanessa has become a children’s book author with her publication The Voyage of Whale and Calf (CSIRO Publishing) which documents the annual whale migration in Australian waters.

X: @VanessaPirotta
Instagram: @drvanessapirotta

Vanessa Pirotta
Vanessa Pirotta, Photographer: Garry Herry


Professor Chris Daniels
University Of South Australia

Professor Chris Daniels BSc (Hons) PhD DSc FAICD is currently Presiding member/Chair of the Green Adelaide Landscape Board. He is the immediate past Director of Cleland Wildlife Park Adelaide South Australia and is adjunct Professor of Biology in Clinical and Health Sciences at UniSA and also adjunct Professor of Zoology at Adelaide University. He is focused on conserving wildlife and connecting people with nature. Chris Daniels' was Prof. of Urban Ecology at UniSA, Director of the Barbara Hardy Institute at UniSA and was the presiding member of the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges NRM Board (2011-2018).

In 2018 he was awarded a DSc from the University of Adelaide for 30 years research work into "The lives of Animals and animals in our lives". He is also involved in many other environmental leadership activities focused on conserving wildlife and connecting people with nature.

Chris has published 12 books/edited volumes and over 250 scientific and community publications. Books include Our Country (2021), Koalas (2022) (a children's book), Adelaide Nature of a City (2005) and Adelaide Water of a City (2010). Book awards include the Whitley Award in 2006 and several category awards. Other awards from his books came from the Planning Institute of Australia, Stormwater Industry and Australian Institute of Landscape Architects. Other books include The Possum-tail Tree, The Fearsome Flute players, Creating Sustainable Communities and Guide to Urban Wildlife.

Professor Chris Daniels

Presented by
The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre
 in partnership with WOMADelaide Planet Talks

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While the views presented by speakers within The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia, or The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: Strengthening our Democracy - Valuing our Diversity - Building our Future. The Hawke Centre reserves the right to change their program at any time without notice.