Researcher biography

Originally from Ireland, Rebecca Dunlop completed her BSc (Honours) degree in Environmental Biology followed by her PhD in fish neuroethology, both from The Queen's University of Belfast. She migrated Australia in 2004 to undertake a post-doc in humpback whale social communication at UQ where the research resulted in a number of highly cited papers, solidifying her international reputation as a leader and expert in large whale communication and social behaviour. She then began lecturing in the School of Veterinary Science in 2010, mainly in animal physiology and moved to the School of Biological Sciences in 2021 to take up a lecturing position in animal behaviour and physiology.


Rebecca'a research interests are in animal physiology, behaviour, and communication. She mainly works on humpback whales, though has worked on bottlenose dolphins, beaked whales, pilot whales, and false killer whales. Her lab focuses on four main research areas: cetacean acoustic communication, hearing, and behaviour; the effects of noise on humpback communication, behaviour, and physiology; humpback whale social behaviour; and endocrine physiology in cetaceans. Her past and current PhD students and honours students all work within these core research areas.

She is, or has been, a P.I in several large collaborative projects aimed at determining the effects of noise on large whale behaviour and hearing in large whales. Understanding underwater noise impacts on marine mammals is a scientific area that is growing due to interest from the Navy, Oil and Gas companies, the vessel industry and from other ocean stakeholders such as whale watching companies.

Her work on social behaviour and reproductive behaviour uses a combination of behavioural and physiological indicators of reproductive status as well as stress and she currently has an endocrinology lab based at Moreton Bay Research Station. She also collaborates with researchers within the school of veterinary science to develop projects on large whale health and disease.