Dr Vanessa Pirotta

Dr Vanessa Pirotta is a wildlife scientist, science communicator and woman in STEM. Vanessa’s research uses innovative technologies for wildlife conservation. Vanessa’s zoological background has taken her around the world for whale research including Tonga, Madagascar and Antarctica. Vanessa and her team pioneered the development of custom-built drones to collect whale snot from whales and dolphins to learn more about their health. In 2017, Vanessa travelled down to Antarctica on a 52 day research voyage on the CSIRO’s RV Investigator as the ship’s marine mammal observer.

Vanessa is a passionate and experienced science communicator who loves making science accessible. Her keen interests cover topics of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, also known as STEAM. Vanessa has represented Australia internationally as the national winner of a world-renowned science communication competition known as FameLab, where she placed second in the world. Dr Pirotta has spoken as an invited marine mammal expert at the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation in Rome, Italy and has presented her research via the TEDx platform. Vanessa’s dedication to outreach within schools and with science professionals has seen her recognized as one of the top 100 Women of Influence judged by the Australian Financial Review. Vanessa has also been listed as one of 60 women from around Australia to join Science & Technology Australia 2021-2022 Superstars of STEM cohort.

In addition to whale research, Vanessa is also the chief investigator on a major wildlife trafficking detection program with Rapiscan Systems, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and the Taronga Conservation Society Australia. This work is teaching computers to look for illegal wildlife trafficking through the creation of automated algorithms. This research is incredibly crucial in order to protect Australia’s natural biodiversity.

Wominjeka (Welcome). We acknowledge the people of the Eastern Kulin Nations as the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet. We pay our respects to the land, their ancestors and their elders—past, present and to the future.