Dr Eleanor Pratt

PhD supervisors: A/Prof L Möller and Prof L Beheregaray

Despite growing up on a farm without an ocean in sight, I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a marine biologist. Driven by my interest in the Great Barrier Reef, I moved to Townsville, Queensland in 2012 to complete my Bachelor of Science (Marine Biology) at James Cook University. Living in such close proximity to the Reef provided many great opportunities for field trips and field work, and spectacular diving. After completing my undergraduate degree I decided it was time to broaden my horizons away from the Great Barrier Reef and follow my growing interest in marine mammals. In 2015 I returned to South Australia to begin my honours at Flinders University under the guidance of A/Prof Luciana Möller and Prof Luciano Beheregaray. Working within both MELFU and CEBEL I investigated the genetic population structure of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops cf. australis) in southern Australia. This project further fuelled my enthusiasm for cetaceans, and has now lead to me beginning my PhD studying genomic adaptations in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.). With limited work done in this field, it provides me with an exciting opportunity to utilise our extensive collection of bottlenose dolphin samples, and use emerging genomic sequencing techniques, to advance knowledge about the adaptations undergone by bottlenose dolphins, and cetaceans in general, to their marine habitats

By collaborating with the Cetacean Ecology, Behaviour and Evolution Laboratory (CEBEL) at Flinders University I will use next-generation genomic sequencing techniques to understand and describe the complex patterns of adaptation and genetic structure shown by bottlenose dolphin populations worldwide. To better understand the evolutionary adaptation of bottlenose dolphins to their different habitats, I will compare the genomic structure of inshore and offshore bottlenose dolphin ecotypes, which have already been found to display marked differences in physical appearance, behaviour, prey choice and social structure in a number of locations around the world.  I will also carry-out a seascape genomic study in coastal southern Australia, to investigate genetic population structure and its potential association to oceanographic/environmental features, such as sea surface temperature, salinity, primary productivity, and/or prey distribution and abundance. This will allow me to potentially identify fine-scale genomic adaptations to environmental gradients in the bottlenose dolphin metapopulation in southern Australia.

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Research Project 

Genomic basis of adaptation in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.)

 Research Experience

– 2015. BSc (Marine Biology) (Honours, First Class). Flinders University.


– 2014. BSc (Marine Biology), James Cook University.