Research team

Project Lead and Shallow reefs Lead
  • Damian Thomson is a coral reef ecologist with expertise in biodiversity and ecology of corals, and in the design and implementation of large-scale and long-term monitoring programs. He has worked on research projects in the Pilbara, the Great Barrier Reef, Papua New Guinea and temperate Western Australia. Damian has worked at Ningaloo since 2007 and his current research is focused on understanding the processes that shape benthic ecosystems of north-western Australia, with a particular emphasis on Ningaloo and the Pilbara.
Deep reefs Lead
  • Brett Molony is a fishery scientist and fish ecologist with more than 30 years’ experience in marine, estuarine and freshwater ecosystems within Australia and Internationally. He has worked in projects in tropical and temperate Australia throughout the Western Pacific, including providing risk-based advice for sustainable management of resources and his research interests include cumulative risk and impact assessments, and understanding inter-relationships in multiple-use coastal and marine areas to assist decision making. Deep reefs will focus on understanding the connectivity between shallow and deep reefs in conjunction with John Keesing.
Deep reefs Lead
  • John Keesing is a marine ecologist and fisheries scientist having conducted research in Australia, New Zealand, China, India and Japan publishing more than 100 scientific papers, book chapters and articles across multiple marine and environmental science disciplines. His focus in the Ningaloo Outlook program will be on trying to determine how different types of deeper (40-80 m) off-reef habitat types are structured and maintained, how these habitats are used by different types of fish and invertebrates and to determine their overall importance to the Ningaloo Reef system.
Turtles Lead
  • Mat Vanderklift's core expertise is in studying marine food webs and the ecology of coral reef and seagrass ecosystems. He has worked on several large, collaborative and multidisciplinary projects that span over two thousand kilometres from temperate southern kelp forests to tropical coral reefs. He has worked at Ningaloo since 2006, and is currently leading research projects at Ningaloo and in the Kimberley.
Whale sharks Lead
  • Richard Pillans has over 16 years experience as a marine ecologist and has worked on fish, sharks, marine turtle and crustacean ecology with an emphasis on natural resource management and conservation. His research provides data on the movement of marine reptiles (turtles), mammals (dugongs), fish and sharks using acoustic telemetry and satellite tags. He regularly advises state and federal government on issues related to conservation and management of sharks and rays.

Logan Hellmrich

Deep reefs PhD Scholar
  • Logan is a PhD student at Curtin University having completed his honours degree in coastal and marine science in 2019. His honour’s research focused on comparing and contrasting diver operated stereo video systems as a way of sampling shallow water coral reef fish with a new technique using small remote operated vehicles (ROVs) equipped with a stereo video. Logan’s interests lie within sustainable fishing, which is his driving motivation to understand ocean processes and drives that ultimately help inform conservation management.

Daniel Axford

Turtles PhD Scholar
  • Daniel Axford is a PhD student at the Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University. He completed his honours in Computer Science in 2021 focusing on machine learning and deep learning. As big data is transforming ecology, Daniel hopes to pioneer machine learning applications in the field. His PhD research will produce the first estimates of sea turtle abundance at Ningaloo using drone aerial surveys and explore the use of deep learning for automated image classification of drone images.