Dr Ross Wanless

BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD(Cape Town)

Ross graduated with a BSc in Zoology from UCT in 1992. He then worked as a Scientific Observer for South Africa's Patagonian Toothfish longline fishery observer programme. He also worked as a Scientific Officer at the Avian Demography Unit, with John Cooper and BirdLife International's Seabird Conservation Programme, which included creating and maintaining the project website. Ross completed his BSc Honours at UCT in 1998 with distinction. He was then invited to join a small team that spent three months researching and monitoring seabirds and seals on the remote sub-Antarctic island of Bouvet in 1998/1999. In April 1999 he joined the Fitz for his Masters with Prof. Phil Hockey. Ross conducted a highly successful reintroduction of the flightless Aldabra Rail in the Seychelles and graduated in June 2002, again with distinction. He did an eight-month internship with the US-based Island Conservation in 2002/2003, working on several island restoration projects in the US and northwest Mexico. He then returned to the Fitz to undertake a PhD study on the impacts of introduced house mouse on the endemic seabirds at Gough Island, under Prof. Peter Ryan. He graduated in December 2007, winning the medal for the best PhD thesis in the Science Faculty during 2007. His thesis took 3rd place in an international thesis competition run by the United Nations Environmental Programme and the Convention on Migratory Species.

Ross is now Asia Tuna Manager for Ocean Outcomes, a US-based organisation. He's leading the development of Fisheries Improvement Projects with Asian tuna longline fleets. Prior to that, from Oct-2008 to Apr-2019 he was Seabird Conservation Programme Manager for BirdLife South Africa, as well as the Africa Coordinator for the BirdLife International Marine Programme. 

Ross was appointed an Honorary Research Associate in August 2009. He co-supervised Vivian Barquete (PhD), Dominic Rollinson (PhD), Jenny Roberts (MSc) and Craig Harding (MSc CB). Ross also co-supervised (with Peter) Tim Reid's postdoctoral work on marine Important Bird Areas. Support for research on African Penguins is in the form of funding for several post-doctoral researchers. His research interests include conservation and ecology of island systems, seabird ecology, stable light isotope applications in conservation, and evolutionary biology.

Graduated students


Dominic Rollinson. 2017. Understanding and mitigating seabird bycatch in the South African pelagic longline fishery (Co-supervisor: Peter Ryan)

Viviane Barquete Costa. 2012. Using stable isotopes as a tool to understand the trophic relationships and movements of seabirds off southern Africa (Co-supervisor: Peter Ryan).


Jenny Roberts. 2016. African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) distribution during the non-breeding season: preparation for, and recovery from, a moulting fast. (Co-supervisors: Peter Ryan, Lorien Pichegru, Christina Moseley)

Conservation Biology Masters

Craig Harding. 2013. Tracking African penguins (Sphensicus demersus) outside of the breeding season: regional effects and fishing pressure during the pre-moult period (Co-supervisor: Peter Ryan)

Recent peer-reviewed publications


Holmes, N.D., Spatz, D.R., Oppel, S., Tershy, B., Croll, D.A., Keitt, B., Genovesi, P., Burfield, I.J., Will, D.J., Bond, A.L. and Wegmann, A., Aguirre-Munoz, A., Raine, A.F., Knapp, C.R., Hung, C-H., Wingate, D., Hagen, E., Mendez-Sanchez, F., Rocamora, G., Yuan, H-W., Fric, J., Millet, J., Russell, J., Liske-Clark, J., Vidal, E., Jourdan, H., Campbell, K., Springer, K., Swinnerton, K., Gibbons-Decherong, L., Langrand, O., Brooke, M de L., McMinn, M., Bunbury, N., Oliveira, N., Sposimo, P., Geraldes, P., McClelland, P., Hodum, P., Ryan, P.G., Borroto-Paez, R., Pierce, R., Griffiths, R., Fisher, R.N., Wanless, R., Pasachnik, S.A., Cranwell, S., Micol, T. and Butchart, S.H.M. 2019. Globally important islands where eradicating invasive mammals will benefit highly threatened vertebrates. PloS ONE 14(3): e0212128. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0212128 

Kappes, P.J., Bond, A.L., Russell, J.C. and Wanless, R.M. 2019. Diagnosing and responding to causes of failure to eradicate invasive rodents. Biological Invasions: 1-8.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-019-01976-0

Rodríguez, A., Arcos, J.M., Bretagnolle, V., Dias, M.P., Holmes, N.D., Louzao, M., Provencher, J., Raine, A.F., Ramírez, F., Rodríguez, B., Ronconi, R.A., Taylor, R.S., Bonnaud, E., Borrelle, S.B., Cortes, V., Descamps, S., Friesen, V.L., Genovart, M., Hedd, A., Hodum, P., Humphries, G.R.W., Le Corre, M., Lebarbenchon, C., Martin, R., Melvin, E.F., Montevecchi, W.A., Pinet, P., Pollet, I.L., Ramos, R., Russell, J.C., Ryan, P.G., Sanz-Aquilar, A., Spatz, D.R., Travers, M., Votier, S.C., Wanless, R.M., Woehler, E. and Chiaradia, A. 2019. Future directions in conservation research on Petrels and Shearwaters. Frontiers in Marine Science 6:94. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2019.00094 


Cherel, Y., Barbraud, C., Lahournat, M., Jaeger, A., Jaquemet, S., Wanless, R.M., Phillips, R.A., Thompson, D.R. and Bustamante, P. 2018. Accumulate or eliminate? Seasonal mercury dynamics in albatrosses, the most contaminated family of birds. Environmental Pollution 241: 124-135. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2018.05.048 

Krüger, L., Ramos, J.A., Xavier, J.C., Grémillet, D., González-Solís, J., Petry, M.V., Phillips, R.A., Wanless, R.M., and Paiva, V.H. 2018. Projected distributions of Southern Ocean albatrosses, petrels and fisheries as a consequence of climatic change. Ecography 41: 195-208. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ecog.02590 

Sullivan, B.J., Kibel, B., Kibel, P., Yates, O., Potts, J.M., Ingham, B., Domingo, A., Gianuca, D., Jiménez, S., Lebepe, B., Maree, B.A., Neves, T., Peppes, F., Rasehlomi, T., Silva-Costa, A., and Wanless, R.M. 2018. At-sea trialling of the Hookpad: a ‘one-stop’ mitigation solution for seabird bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries. Animal Conservation 21: 159-167. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/acv.12388


Dias, M.P., Oppel, S., Bond, A.L., Carneiro. A.P.B., Cuthbert, R.J., González-Solís, J., Wanless, R.M., Glass, T., Lascelles, B., Small, C., Phillips, R.A. and Ryan, P.G. 2017. Using globally threatened pelagic birds to identify priority sites for marine conservation in the South Atlantic Ocean. Biological Conservation 211: 76-84. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2017.05.009

Krüger, L., Ramos, J.A., Xavier, J.C., Grémillet, D., González-Solís, J., Kolbeinsson, Y., Militão, T., Navarro, J., Petry, M.V., Phillips, R.A., Ramírez, I., Reyes-González, J.M., Ryan, P.G., Siguròsson, I.A., Van Sebille, E., Wanless, R.M. and Paiva, V.H. 2017. Identification of candidate pelagic marine protected areas through a seabird seasonal-, multispecific- and extinction risk- based approach. Animal Conservation 20: 409-424http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/acv.12339

Paterson, J.R.B., Yates, O., Holtzhausen, H., Reid, T., Shimooshili, K., Yates, S., Sullivan, B.J. and Wanless, R.M. 2017. Seabird mortality in the Namibian demersal longline fishery and recommendations for best practice mitigation measures. Oryxhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0030605317000230

Rollinson, D.P., Wanless, R.M. and Ryan, P.G. 2017. Patterns and trends in seabird bycatch in the pelagic longline fishery off South Africa. African Journal of Marine Science 39: 9-25. http://dx.doi.org/10.2989/1814232X.2017.1303396

Sullivan, B.J., Kibel, B., Kibel, P., Yates, O., Potts, J.M., Ingham, B., Domingo, A., Gianuca, D., Jiménez, S., Lebepe, B., Maree, B.A., Neves, T., Peppes, F., Rasehlomi, T., Silva-Costa, A., and Wanless, R.M. 2017. At-sea trialling of the Hookpad: a ‘one-stop’ mitigation solution for seabird bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries. Animal Conservation. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/acv.12388

Sydeman, W.J., Thompson, S.A., Anker-Nilssen, T., Arimitsu, M., Bennison, A., Bertrand, S., Boersch-Supan, P., Boyd, C., Bransome, N.C., Crawford, R.J.M., Daunt, F., Furness, R.W., Gianuca, D., Gladics, A., Koehn, L., Lang, J.W., Logerwell, E., Morris, T.L., Phillips, E.M., Provencher, J., Punt, A.E., Saraux, C., Shannon, L., Sherley, R.B., Simeone, A., Wanless, R.M., Wanless, S. and Zador, S. 2017. Best practices for assessing forage fish fisheries-seabird resource competition. Fisheries Research 194: 209-221. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fishres.2017.05.018


Cuthbert, R.J., Wanless, R.M., Angel, A., Burle, M-H., Hilton, G.M., Louw, H., Visser, P., Wilson, J.W. and Ryan, P.G. 2016. Drivers of predatory behavior and extreme size in house mice Mus musculus on Gough Island. Journal of Mammalogy http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jmammal/gyv199

Valle, S., Barros, N., Ramírez, I. and Wanless, R.M. 2016. Population estimates of the breeding birds of the Tinhosas islands (Gulf of Guinea), the only major seabird colony of the eastern tropical Atlantic. Ostrich 87: 209-215. http://dx.doi.org/10.2989/00306525.2016.1207720


Silva, M.C., Matias, R., Wanless, R.M., Ryan, P.G., Stephenson, B.M., Bolton, M., Ferrand, N. & Coelho, M.M. 2015. Understanding the mechanisms of antitropical divergence in the seabird White-faced Storm-petrel (Procellariiformes: Pelagodroma marina) using a multilocus approach. Molecular Ecology 24:3122–3137 http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/mec.13212

Taylor, M.R, Peacock, F. and Wanless, R.M. (eds) The Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.

Online Public Access Catalogue & Reprints
The Niven Library's online public access catalogue is a searchable database listing all publications in the Library. Contact the librarian to obtain scanned copies.