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speaker

Vanessa
Pirotta

Science Communicator, Wildlife Presenter and Marine scientist

Profile

Vanessa is a conservation biologist largely focused on the conservation of marine wildlife.

Her pioneering whale research resulted in the development of the world’s first drones with remotely operated flip-lid petri dishes (to minimise sample contamination) for collecting biological health samples from whale blow remotely- a step forward in global technological applications for non-invasive whale research and greatly improving existing drone technology.

Collaborations with virologists also resulted in the first publication to successfully sample viruses via this method. This work highlights the potential to use whales as mobile monitors of our ocean health, collecting information from oceans around the world.

Overall, Vanessa's work in this area has demonstrated the benefits of science and industry collaborations to overcome many of the challenges associated with using technology at sea. This research has taken Vanessa around the world, having traveled to Antarctica, Tonga and most recently, Madagascar.

Vanessa is also a passionate and experienced science communicator who loves making science accessible to everyone. Vanessa is the National and International award winner of the prestigious science communication competition FameLab, where she represented Australia on the international stage talking about her whale snot drone research.

Expertise
Talking Points

Overcoming Challenges

As a marine scientist researching whales, I have faced a number of challenges, some of which have included logistics, safety, working with wild animals and worked in challenging environments. Overcoming many of these challenges has meant learning new skills (e.g. commercial boating qualifications) and being adaptable. In times where my skills have been limited, I have turned to collaboration. In this topic, I share my story about the challenges of conducting research into whale health. My collaboration with industry to develop custom built drone technology for collecting whale lung bacteria from whale blow (the visible spray from a whale also known as whale snot) highlights the benefits of colourful collaboration to transform the way we research whale health. Takeaways include messages of encouragement, optimism and the benefits of teamwork. Delegates will be taken on a journey outside of their everyday to be inspired to work with others to create something great.

The Importance of Good Communication

Keeping your message simple, applicable and accessible is key for good communication. My experience as an animal trainer, scientist and educator has provided me with fundamental basics for effective communication, which are applicable to everyday. My role as a science communicator requires me to break down hard concepts into small, relatable pieces of information using my transferable skillset to work across a variety of disciplines. I am able to apply basic communication principles to different themes, providing attendees with thought provoking takeaways.

Career Change

Chasing that perfect career takes time and often requires a certain level of experience and qualifications. However, what happens when you achieve that dream and you are left wanting more? Previous roles in the zoological and marine industries have led me to pursue a pure conservation based avenue via academia. Following this path has allowed me to become a champion of diversity, an advocate for women in science and allowed me to discover my passion and the importance of communicating science.
Key messages include going beyond the norm, asking questions and igniting a desire for learning more. Delegates will be inspired to follow their passion to allow their career path to grow in different directions.
Topics

Business

  • Sustainability

Innovation

  • Creativity
  • Drones

Politics & Advocacy

  • Environment & Climate Change
Feedback
Vanessa’s an amazing and innovative scientist, who has the rare ability to communicate her research to audiences of any level. She’s certainly someone to watch as her career keeps accelerating! Dr William Robbins
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