Woman wearing blue shirt, standing in front of green bushes

Dr Michele Thums

Research Scientist

Quantitative Ecology

Contact number
(08) 6369 4020
+61 8 6369 4020
Contact email

I study the ecology, distribution and movement behaviour of marine megafauna (e.g. marine mammals, sea turtles, sharks). I am particularly interested in understanding the context and motivations surrounding movement from one place to another and linking animal movement with environmental factors (natural and anthropogenic). This is key to understanding how populations will respond to current and future environmental change. I typically work with data from animal-borne electronic devices, remotely-sensed environmental data and also survey data. 

I started my working life as a zookeeper at Sydney's Taronga Zoo. I graduated with BSc Hons in 2000 and after working in a range of institutions (e.g. USyd, Australian Antarctic Division) for a few years I completed my PhD in 2009. My first postdoctoral research position was at the University of Western Australia Oceans Institute from 2010-2013 and I have been employed as a research scientist at AIMS since then.

PhD Marine Ecology, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
BSc Hons (Class 1) Zoology/Ecology, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia

The development & application of models describing and predicting the movement and distribution of marine megafauna in Northern Australian marine ecosystems, including 
Part of the leadership team for the Marine Megafauna Movement Analytical Program - bringing animal movement data together for global synthesis
Developing distribution & abundance models for humpback whales in the Kimberley region of WA
Understanding the distribution and movement behaviour of marine turtles, including hatchlings and the effect of light pollution on their dispersal
Understanding the distribution and important areas of pygmy blue whales on the NW Shelf


Thums M, Fernández-Gracia J, Sequeira AMM, Eguíluz VM, Duarte CM, Meekan MG (2018) How Big Data Fast Tracked Human Mobility Research and the Lessons for Animal Movement Ecology. Frontiers in Marine Science 5

Sequeira AMM, Rodríguez JP, Eguíluz VM, Harcourt R, Hindell M, Sims DW, Duarte CM, Costa DP, Fernández-Gracia J, Ferreira LC, 44 others, Thums M (2018) Convergence of marine megafauna movement patterns in coastal and open oceans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Thums M, Waayers D, Huang Z, Pattiaratchi C, Bernus J, Meekan M (2017) Environmental predictors of foraging and transit behaviour in flatback turtles Natator depressus. Endangered Species Research 32:333-349

Ferreira LC, Thums M, Heithaus MR, Barnett A, Abrantes KG, Holmes BJ, Zamora LM, Frisch AJ, Pepperell JG, Burkholder D, Vaudo J, Nowicki R, Meeuwig J, Meekan MG (2017) The trophic role of a large marine predator, the tiger shark Galeocerdo cuvier. Scientific Reports 7:7641

Irvine LG, Thums M, Hanson CE, McMahon CR, Hindell MA (2017) Evidence for a widely expanded humpback whale calving range along the Western Australian coast. Mar Mamm Sci 10.1111/mms.12456

Robson NA, Hetzel Y, Whiting S, Wijeratne S, Pattiaratchi CB, Withers P, Thums M (2017) Use of Particle Tracking to Determine Optimal Release Dates and Locations for Rehabilitated Neonate Sea Turtles. Frontiers in Marine Science 4

Hays GC, Ferreira LC, Sequeira AMM, Meekan MG, 27 others, Thums M (2016) Key Questions in Marine Megafauna Movement Ecology. Trends Ecol Evol

Thums M, Whiting SD, Reisser J, Pendoley KL, Pattiaratchi CB, Proietti M, Hetzel Y, Fisher R, Meekan MG (2016) Artificial light on water attracts turtle hatchlings during their near shore transit. Royal Society Open Science 3

van Lohuizen S, Rossendell J, Mitchell NJ, Thums M (2016) The effect of incubation temperatures on nest success of flatback sea turtles (Natator depressus). Mar Biol 163:150

Thums M, Meekan M, Stevens J, Wilson S, Polovina J (2013) Evidence for behavioural thermoregulation by the world's largest fish. Journal of The Royal Society Interface 10

Reisser J, Shaw J, Wilcox C, Hardesty BD, Proietti M, Thums M, Pattiaratchi C (2013) Marine Plastic Pollution in Waters around Australia: Characteristics, Concentrations, and Pathways. PLOS ONE 8:e80466

Thums M, Bradshaw CJ, Hindell MA (2011) In-situ measures of foraging success and prey encounter reveal marine habitat dependent search strategies. Ecology 92