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 Andrew Willson

Andrew Willson

Research student

 Environment and Sustainability Institute 


Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK


I initiated my career in Western Australia 1997, establishing an NGO to undertake coral reef habitat mapping projects and identify areas worthy of additional protection within the Ningaloo Marine Park. Subsequently this lead to work in Kuwait where I spent four years in the development of a large public aquarium facility providing the opportunity to work hands on with corals and marine vertebrates learning aspects of animal husbandry, fish pathology and turtle rehabilitation. Continued work in Kuwait after 2003 lead to my introduction into consultancy world where I worked on the design and maintenance of oceanographic data-buoy networks and also participated in UN fisheries stock assessment projects.

Having first visited Oman in 2001 to assist with marine mammal research, I sailed my home and belongings there in 2007, and since been stationed there focusing on marine conservation projects working through a local environmental consultancy. Aside from projects with commercial clients, much of this work has included developing capacity and scientific methodology with government and local NGO’s in Oman to enable long-term monitoring of sensitive habitats and endangered species as a means to support development of evidence based conservation programmes.

As well as the dive time spent mapping and monitoring coral reefs, many seasons have also been spent trekking and training teams on remote beaches of Oman’s coastline monitoring olive Ridley, hawksbill, green and loggerhead nesting populations. My involvement in the marine mammal research in Oman has also continued as part of an international team of collaborating scientists. Most importantly, research conducted up until 2008 resulted in the IUCN recognizing humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) found in the region as being non-migratory and perhaps one of the most endangered populations of whales in the world. As a result of the drive to understand more about the ecology for the ‘Arabian Sea Humpback Whale’ much of my recent time has been spent managing vessel transect, passive acoustic and remote telemetry studies to ensure sufficient information is generated to guide effective management for this isolated and endangered sub-population.

Broad research specialisms:

  • Oceanographic monitoring and data collection
  • Marine habitat mapping and survey techniques
  • Marine turtle ecology and conservation
  • Marine mammal ecology and conservation


BSc (Hons) Marine Geography (1996)
At Present – Masters by Research (2013 – 2015)


Research projects

Project Title: Spatial ecology and threat assessment of the Arabian Sea Humpback Whale.

Supervisors: Dr Matt Witt and Professor Brendan Godley

Funding Body: Self Funded

Project Description:

The project focuses on describing the spatial ecology of humpback whales found in Oman and the wider Northern Indian Ocean as a means to addressing where habitat utilization by this isolated and endangered sub-population will be at odds with emerging threats.

Historical whaling and recent vessel based sightings data will be used to describe ecology and generate habitat models, and these will be further refined and informed by data acquired from a new satellite telemetry study conducted in Oman. Once this initial stage is completed, vulnerability mapping will be conducted through overlaying elements of the habitat use data against human activities of potentially conflicting interest, including; ports and shipping, fishing, and oil and gas exploration. Products of the study are expected to feed into resource management plans and help direct the operations of coastal and offshore industrial activities.


Baldwin, R. M. Collins, T., Minton, G., Willson, A. and  Corkeron, P. (2011). Arabian Sea humpback whales 2011 update: Resights bubble feeding and hotspots. SC/63/SH27. Presented to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission.

Corkeron, P.J., Minton, G., Collins, T., Findlay, K., Willson, A., and Baldwin R. (2011). Spatial models of sparse data to inform cetacean conservation planning: an example from Oman. Endangered Species Research Vol. 15:39-52.

Tucker, A., Baldwin, R., Willson, A., Possardt, E. and Witherington, B. (2012). Preliminary estimates of loggerhead clutch frequency for Masirah, Oman derived from satellite tracking. Poster presented to International Sea Turtle Symposium 2012.

Willson, A., Baldwin, R., Minton, G. and Collins, T. (2012). Arabian Sea humpback whale research update for 2011/2012. Paper SC/64/SH30. Presented to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. (Available from IWC Office).

Willson, A., Baldwin, R., Minton, G., Gray, H., Findlay, K. and Collins, T. (2013). Arabian Sea humpback whale research update for 2012/2013. Paper SC/65a/SH06. Presented to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. (Available from IWC Office).

Willson, A., Collins, T., Baldwin, R., Cerchio, S., Geyer, Y., Godley, B., Gray, H., Al-Harthi, S., Minton, G., Al Zehlawi, N., Witt, M., Rosenbaum, H.C. and Zerbini, A. (2014). Preliminary results and first insights from satellite tracking studies of male Arabian Sea humpback whales. Paper SC/65a/SHX19. Presented to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. (Available from IWC Office).


Supervision / Group

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