60 seconds with… Vanessa Pirotta


PhD candidate Vanessa Pirotta collects whale snot – no joke! With a flurry of media attention at the beginning of this year, we thought it was a great time to find out what drove her to this field.

Work stuff

I’ve been at Macquarie for…
6 years

In a nutshell, my job is to…
Research, conduct field work (I get to watch whales!), run experiments and produce scientific papers.

The question I hear most often in my work is…
How did you use a drone to collect whale snot?

The top three things on my to-do list today are…
Read, write and write.

I get my campus coffee fix from …
I don’t drink coffee, I love green tea.

Personal life

My ethnic heritage is…
Maltese and Italian. My father was born in Malta and my mother’s family is from Italy. They emigrated here post-war and I was born here in Australia.

My favourite subject at school was…
Science and technology in primary school and biology in high school. I had a really wonderful biology teacher in Years 11 and 12. I have always wanted to thank her for being so encouraging and to tell her that I am nearly finished my PhD!

What did you want to be when you grew up?
A dolphin trainer. I did achieve this goal however, I soon realised that I wanted to pursue an academic career.

The most amazing place I’ve ever visited is…
Antarctica! I was the marine mammal observer on the RV Investigator during a Macquarie lead research voyage last year. I saw the southern lights for the first time and humpback whales swimming and feeding around ice. It was amazing!

If I could have dinner with anyone (living or dead) it would be…
David Attenborough. He is a great science communicator and has done great things for wildlife conservation.

Check out some of her media action here:
Sydney Morning Herald
Australian Geographic
Business Insider Australia





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