Dr Frere has been researching cetaceans and other marine mammals since 2005. Our group's ongoing work under the Shark Bay Dolphin Research Project is carried out in close collaboration with Professor Janet Mann and her research group at Georgetown University USA. Professor Mann has an extensive custom behavioural database spanning decades on this population. Dr Frere curates genetic information and samples for this dataset as part of an ongoing collaboration.
Living up to 40 years, the bottlenose dolphins of Monkey Mia show an astonishing complexity of social relationships. Both males and females have preferred associates or "friends". Males form alliances to boost mating opportunities and females spend time with associates when foraging and caring for their young.
The dolphins of Shark Bay are also well-known for their ingenious foraging techniques (see videos below).
The study site
Shark Bay is located on the most western point of the Australian coast, about 850km north of Perth, Western Australia. The bay is of international significance and has been listed as a World Heritage Site since 1991. Our primary research site located at Monkey Mia, on the east coast of the peninsula.
Professor Mann has studied the dolphins of Shark Bay since 1988, and mentored Dr Frere during her PhD on the social evolution of female dolphins in this population.
The study is now one of the largest longitudinal studies of any wild dolphin population worldwide. Research has contributed to our understanding of the species, and impacted local and international management policies pertaining to dolphin-focused tourism.
Our group focuses on female social bonds and networks, long-term social avoidance, and genetic and non-genetic mechanisms of inheritance (including social plasticity and maternal effects).
Funding from the National Science Foundation (IRES stream) supports undergraduate students to undertake fieldwork in Shark Bay and visit Dr Frere at the University of the Sunshine Coast.