Honorary Research Affiliates

Dr Alistair McInnes



   PhD  (UCT)



Activities and research interests

Alistair’s research is largely focused on threatened seabird species, their ecology, behaviour and interactions with human activities that threaten their survival. South African marine territories are home to a rich plethora of seabird species that are increasingly under threat by processes driven by global change phenomena, such as unsustainable fishing practices and climate change. Understanding these influences and, more importantly, using this knowledge to develop solutions to these threats is a huge challenge for seabird conservation.

Alistair has 20 years’ experience in conservation related work. He worked under the guidance of David Allan at the Durban Natural Science Museum where he gained experience in ornithological research and conservation. He completed his PhD on the foraging ecology of the endangered African Penguin at the FitzPatrick Institute under Dr Lorien Pichegru and Prof Peter Ryan where he investigated the influence of environmental conditions and industrial fishing on the foraging performance of penguins in Algoa Bay. This research continued and diversified into studies into other Benguela endemic seabirds including Cape Cormorants in the southern Cape where he completed his post-doctoral research with Prof Pierre Pistorius. Alistair is very keen on multi-disciplinary projects utilising modern technology to monitor the status of seabirds in real time and using this information to facilitate an ecosystem approach to fisheries management.

Alistair is currently the Seabird Conservation Programme Manager for BirdLife South Africa. A large part of his work involves engagement with various fisheries stakeholders in adopting an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this work is developing tools to mitigate resource competition for the 3 Benguela endemics, Cape Gannet, African Penguin and Cape Cormorant, all species that have recently been classified as endangered. Alistair is interested in applying ecological research into the drivers of these prey supplies and using this information to inform resource management.


McInnes, A., Thiebault, A., Cloete, T., Pichegru, L., Aubin, T., McGeorge, C. and Pistorius, P. 2019. Social context and prey composition are associated with calling behaviour in a diving seabird. Ibis 162(3): 1047-1059.

McInnes, A.M., Ryan, P.G., Lacerda, M. and Pichegru, L. 2019. Targeted prey fields determine foraging effort thresholds of a marine diver: important cues for the sustainable management of fisheries. Journal of Applied Ecology 56: 2206-2215.

McInnes, A.M. and Pistorius, P. 2019. Up for grabs – prey herding by penguins facilitates shallow foraging by volant seabirds. Royal Society Open Science 6: 190333.

Lombard, A.T., Dorrington, R.A., Reed, J.R., Ortega-Cisneros, K., Penry, G.S., Pichegru, L., Smit, K.P., Vermeulen, E.A., Witteveen, M., Sink, K.J., McInnes, A.M. and Ginsburg, T. 2019. Key challenges in advancing an Ecosystem-based Approach to marine spatial planning under economic growth imperatives. Frontiers in Marine Science 6: 146.

Sherley, R.B., Barham, B.J., Barham, P.J., Campbell, K.J., Crawford, R.J.M., Grigg, J., Horswill, C., McInnes, A., Morris, T.L., Pichegru, L., Steinfurth, A., Weller, F., Winker, H. and Votier, S.C. 2018. Bayesian inference reveals positive but subtle effects of experimental fishery closures on marine predator demographics. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 285: 20172443.

Gaglio, D.,Cook, T.R., McInnes, A.M., Sherley, R.B. and Ryan, P.R. 2018. Foraging plasticity in seabirds: a non-invasive study of the diet of greater crested terns breeding in an exploited and unpredictable environment. PloS ONE e0190444.

McInnes, A.M., McGeorge, C., Ginsberg, S., Pichegru, L. and Pistorius, P. 2017. Group foraging increases foraging efficiency in a piscivorous diver, the African penguin. Royal Society Open Science 4: 170918.

Pichegru, L., Nyengera, R., McInnes, A.M. and Pistorius, P. 2017. Avoidance of seismic survey activities by penguins. Scientific Reports 7: 16305.

McInnes, A.M., Ryan, P.G., Lacerda, M., Goschen, W., Deshayes, J. and Pichegru, L. 2017. Small pelagic fish responses to fine-scale oceanographic conditions: implications for the endangered African penguin. Marine Ecology Progress Series 569: 187-203.

McInnes, A.M., Khoosal, A., Murrell, B., Merkle, D., Lacerda, M., Nyengera, R., Coetzee, J.C, Edwards, L.C., Ryan, P.G., Rademan, J., van der Westhuizen, J. and Pichegru, L. 2015. Recreational fish-finders - an inexpensive alternative to scientific echo-sounders for unravelling the links between marine top predators and their prey. PLoS ONE 10(11) e0140936. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0140936.

McInnes, A.M., Allan, D.G. and Underhill, L.G. 2014. Moult of the Grey-headed Gull Larus cirrocephalus in South Africa. Durban Museum Novitates 37: 40-46.

McInnes, A.M., Suarez, N., Rishworth, G.M., Green, D.B., Pistorius, P.A. and Pichegru, L. 2014. Lumbering the gauntlet – Cape Gannet fledglings killed by African Penguins. Ostrich 85(2): 193-196.

McInnes A.M. and Allan, D.G. 2012. Distribution, abundance and movements of the Grey-headed Gull Larus cirrocephalus in South Africa. Durban Museum Novitates 36: 1-20.

Roberts, D., Boon, R., Diederichs, N., Douwes, E., Govender, N., McInnes, A., McLean, C., O’Donoghue, S. and Spiers, M. 2011. Exploring ecosystem-based climate change adaptation in Durban, South Africa: “learning-by-doing” at the local government coal face. Environment & Urbanization 24 (1): 1-29.

Allan, D.G., McInnes, A.M. and Wondafrash, M. 2006. Observations on White-winged Flufftail Sarothrura ayresi habitat, densities, morphometrics, nests and eggs, at two sites in Ethiopia, and details of associated large waterbird species, especially snipe, at sites in both Ethiopia and South Africa. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 13(1): 28-36.

McInnes, A.M., Allan, D.G., Bryan, M.C. and Merson-Davies, M.C. 2005. A speargun-driven net for catching gulls. AFRING News 34: 46-50.

McInnes, A.M., Allan, D.G. and Malan, G. 2005. Key sites for waterbird conservation in Durban Bay. Durban Museum Novitates 30: 1-14.

Allan, D.G., McInnes, A.M., Wicks, L. and Wood, T. 2002. Patterns of seasonal abundance of waterbirds (Aves) in Durban Bay, South Africa. Durban Museum Novitates 27: 61-71.

Allan, D.G. and McInnes, A.M. 2002. A catalogue of birds’ eggs in the Durban Natural Science Museum. Durban Museum Novitates 27: 3-27.