Senior Lecturer

Dr Sophie Bestley


Current research

I’m a Senior Lecturer in Quantitative Southern Ocean Ecology within the Ecology & Biodiversity Centre at IMAS-UTAS. I have a passion for integrative Antarctic and Southern Ocean research focused on the ecology of highly mobile marine predators and the ecosystems upon which they depend.

The influence of changing environmental and physical processes on ecological processes is profoundly important. So, my studies span ecology and oceanography, together with methods to quantify linkages between biophysical processes and the distribution and productivity of marine species and systems.

A central interest lies in where and how predators acquire foraging resources, with a focus in the Indian sector of the Southern Ocean – Australia’s main area of interest. To pursue this, I have worked a lot with animal-borne telemetry and animal movement modelling.

My areas of predator research span penguins, seals and whales and aspects of movement and migration ecology, habitat dependencies and how animals’ use areas; behavioural ecology; environmental and climate influences on marine predator ecology; prey distribution and oceanic predator-prey interactions. I also work collaboratively across trophic levels to provide a holistic perspective on a diversity of Antarctic ecosystem components, including ocean dynamics, iron supply, phytoplankton, sea-ice algae, and parasites, through salps, krill, fish, and squid. Studying mammals and seabirds of high conservation value I have a strong interest in improving predictive capacity for future scenarios and developing ecological indicators relevant for ecosystem monitoring.

Marine systems are naturally complex, and I love to build multidisciplinary linkages in my research and work in projects and teams requiring diverse capabilities. I’ve participated in three large-scale Antarctic marine science voyages – in 2016: K-Axis (RV Aurora Australis), 2018: SR3 oceanographic line (RV Investigator), 2021: TEMPO – and look forward to more on the brand-new RV nuyina.

I commence a maximum of one PhD student per year and current projects available are listed on the UTAS website.

Responsibilities and affiliations

I’m an investigator with the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership (AAPP), an affiliate with the Australian Centre for Excellence in Antarctic Science (ACEAS) a co-lead author for the birds and marine mammals contribution in the first Southern Ocean marine ecosystem assessment (MEASO), and part of the newly endorsed emerging Animal Borne Sensor Network (AniBOS).

I am unit coordinator for the postgraduate units QMS510 Introduction to Quantitative Marine Science and KSA713 Marine Biotelemetry and I guest lecture into KSM202 Marine and Antarctic Ecosystems, KSM307 Antarctic Ecology, KSM302 Birds and Mammals of the Southern Ocean.

As of 2022 I am an IMAS Graduate Research Coordinator of up to 25 HDR candidates, overseeing their smooth progression through candidature milestones (induction, research plan, confirmation of candidature, annual reviews, thesis submission and examination) to a timely graduation.

What my project involves

Fun trivia about my research

I was at Mawson station in East Antarctica during the blizzard when the Aurora Australis broke her mooring and grounded.

Research project in a haiku

Research-related interests

About me

Previous work I've done

I did my own undergraduate study at University of New South Wales and my PhD as part of the CSIRO-UTAS joint program in Quantitative Marine Science (QMS). I have a long background in hospitality before marine research, which helps with talking with folks from all walks of life.

Committees and affiliations

Favourite R function / resource / short-cut