Dr Maëlle Connan

PhD, University of Pierre & Marie Curie, Paris VI, France

Research interests

Maëlle obtained her PhD in France in 2005 before moving to Rhodes University, South Africa in 2008 to undertake post-doctoral research. She first became involved with the FitzPatrick Institute as an overwintering member on the South African sub-Antarctic possession, Marion Island in 2011-2012 for the albatross and giant petrel long-term monitoring programmes. Since then, she has led or been involved in a number of projects on marine top predators along the coast of South Africa as well as on Marion Island. More recently, having seen the damage to both species and the environment caused by marine pollution in the most remote parts of Earth, she recently also began to study plastic marine litter.

Maëlle's research combines many disciplines, including ecology and biochemistry, and ultimately uses novel techniques to inform conservation and management policies. Her interests focus mostly on the trophic ecology of marine predators (seabirds, fur seals, fish) in southern African and Southern Ocean marine environments, assessing how the interactions among species evolve in the context of climate change. To achieve these aims, she has specialised in using various methods, including traditional (stomach contents, scats), biochemical (lipids, stable isotopes of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen) and molecular methods (genetic sexing of seabirds and fur seals, assessment of seabirds’ diet using molecular tools).

Since overwintering on Marion Island, Maëlle has kept strong links with the FitzPatrick Institute, with many of these projects being conducted in collaboration with Prof. Peter Ryan. She is currently a member of (i) the Mouse-Free Marion Scientific Technical Advisory Group, (ii) the International Advisory Panel on Non-target Poisoning Impacts, (iii) the Panel for Monitoring the Outcomes of the Mouse-Free Marion Project.

Current research programmes

  • PI: Avian scavengers as indicators of recovery of an island biota (co-PI; Prof. Peter Ryan), South African National Antarctic Programme 2021-2023;
  • PI: Molecular scatology as a tool to update dietary information of southern African seabirds (collaborators: Prof. Sophie von der Heyden – University of Stellenbosch, Dr Katta Ludynia – SANCCOB, Dr Julie McInnes – University of Tasmania – Australia, Dr Jessica Kemper – Namibia, Prof Lorien Pichegru – NMU), Marine & Coastal Research Grant 2019-2021;
  • Collaborator: Conservation and restoration of degraded insular biodiversity: impacts of the removal of introduced mammals on the dynamics of infectious diseases in seabirds across islands of the Southern Ocean – European Biodiversa project (PI: Dr Thierry Boulinier, CEFE, France);
  • Collaborator: Ross seal ecology, behaviour and physiology in a changing environment – SANAP 2021 – 2023 (PI: Drs Trevor McIntyre [UNISA] & Mia Wege [University of Pretoria]);
  • Collaborator: Turning the Tide on Plastic Pollution: Ascension and St Helena – Darwin UK project 2022 - 2025 (PI: Fiona Llewellyn – Zoological Society of London, UK).

Current students


Yvonne Sanders (La Réunion University – France): Ecosystem changes in the Agulhas Current: information from a marine top predator (Co-supervisors: Dr Greg Hofmeyr [PE Museum], Prof. Sébastien Jaquemet [La Réunion University]).


Tegan Walker (NMU): Trophic ecology and breeding success of Brown Skuas (Co-upervisors: Prof. Peter Ryan, Prof. Pierre Pistorius)

Kezia Bowmaker (NMU): Using molecular scatology to better determine the diet of Cape gannets (Morus capensis) and African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) in Algoa Bay (Co-supervisors: Prof. Pierre Pistorius, Prof. Sophie von der Heyden [Stellenbosch University])

Lyle de Menezes (NMU): Blue petrels at Marion Island: updated trophic ecology and plastics loads (Co-supervisor Prof. Peter Ryan)

Recent peer-reviewed publications

Authors in italics are students she supervised or mentored.


Shabangu FW, Hofmeyr GJG, Probert R, Connan M, Burhmann C, Gridley T. (2022) In-air sounds and acoustic behaviour of wild juvenile crabeater seals in rehabilitation. Bioacoustics. In press. doi: 10.1080/09524622.2022.2108145

Bester MN & Connan M. (2022) Cephalopod diet of juvenile male southern elephant seals Mirounga leonina at Marion Island, South Indian Ocean. Polar Biology. 45: 1307-1312. doi: 10.1007/s00300-022-03070-z

Zeyl J, Snelling E, Connan M, …, Clusella-Trullas S. (2022) Comparison of middle ears among terrestrial and aquatic birds reveals structures suitable for amphibious hearing. Scientific Reports. 12: 5251. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-09090-3

Schoombie S, Connan M, Dilley B, Davies D, Makhado A, Ryan PG. (2022) Non‑breeding distribution, activity patterns and moulting areas of Sooty Albatrosses (Phoebetria fusca) inferred from geolocators, satellite trackers and biochemical markers. Polar Biology. 45: 31 – 44. doi: 10.1007/s00300-021-02969-3


Connan M, Perold V, Dilley BJ, Barbraud C, Cherel Y, Ryan PG. (2021) The Indian Ocean ‘garbage patch’: empirical evidence from floating macro-litter. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 169: 112559. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2021.112559.

Ryan PG, Weideman E, Perold V, Hofmeyr GJG, Connan M. (2021) Origin marine litter along the southern African coast: information from plastic bottles. Environmental Pollution. 288: 117729. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2021.117729

Micklem I, Connan M, Stander N, McQuaid CD. (2021) Influence of ontogeny on stable isotope ratios and trophic discrimination factors of African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) tissues. Marine Biology. 168: 96. doi: 10.1007/s00227-021-03877-0.


Carpenter-Kling T, Reisinger R, Orgeret F, Connan M, Ryan P, Makhado A, Stevens K, Pistorius P. (2020) Response of four sympatric sub-Antarctic albatross species to environmental variability. Ecology and Evolution. 10(20): 11277-11295. doi: 10.1002/ece3.6766.

Reisinger RR, Carpenter-Kling T, Connan M, Pistorius PA. (2020) Intra- and inter-specific habitat and trophic niche segregation in two sibling species of seabird: giant petrels (Macronectes spp.) at subantarctic Marion Island. Royal Society of Open Science.7: 200649. doi: 10.1098/rsos.200649.

Carpenter-Kling T, Pistorius P, Reisinger R, Cherel Y, Connan M. (2020) Assemblage level assessment of marine predator isoscapes within the Southern Indian Ocean. Movement Ecology 8: 29. doi: 10.1186/s40462-020-00208-8

Nashima FP, Strydom NA, Connan M, Lamberth SJ. (2020) Biochemical markers reveal trophic structure among the dominant fish species utilizing the Orange River Estuary Continuum. Food Webs 24: e00145. doi: 10.1016/j.fooweb.2020.e00145