Katy McCoy's research interests concern the ecology, species distribution and connectivity of humpback whales in the South Pacific, aiming to enhance regional conservation efforts.
Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) found around the Pitcairn Islands in the south-central Pacific Ocean are of scientific and conservation interest as a satellite group of the International Whaling Commission breeding sub-stock F2 from neighbouring French Polynesia. Whilst most humpback whale populations have recovered well from commercial whaling, the Oceania subpopulation has declined ~70% since 1942. As a result, they are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The exact links between the humpback whales in the Pitcairn Islands and breeding sub-stock F2 are unknown due to the current lack of migratory and connectivity studies. Therefore, understanding key demographic factors is a crucial step toward conservation. Katy's proposed project will collect photo-identification and genetic data to facilitate an assessment of connectivity to other sites in the Oceania region. These data will improve understanding of the population’s status, and the potential impacts of climate change needed to enhance regional conservation efforts. With support from an international team of experts, Katy has had the excellent opportunity to get involved in several research areas, including whale identification using video/photo images and hydrophone recordings of whale songs, and genetic and stable isotope analysis using traditional skin biopsies and blow sampling via drones for assessing DNA, diet, stress and pregnancy hormones, microbiomes and potentially many other biological compounds/indicators of the animal’s health and ecology.
Katy will also be provided with advanced training by project partners at the Sea Mammal Research Unit, the University of St. Andrews and at the Slovenian Marine Mammal Society.
- 2022–Present: PhD Researcher, London NERC DTP, ZSL Institute of Zoology and King’s College London
- 2018–2019: MSc Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London
- 2015–2018: BSc Zoology, Royal Holloway University of London
McCoy, K.A., Hodgson, D.J., Clark, P.F. and Morritt, D. (2020) The effects of wet wipe pollution on the Asian clam, Corbicula fluminea (Mollusca: Bivalvia) in the River Thames, London. Environ. Pollut. 264, 114577. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2020.114577