Honorary Research Associates

Dr Ross Wanless

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

Fax: +27 86 545 4319


Ross graduated with a BSc in Zoology from UCT in 1992. Since then he has worked as a Scientific Observer for South Africa's Patagonian Toothfish longline fishery observer programme. He has 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, spending a full year on remote 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 Seabird Division manager for BirdLife South Africa, as well as the Africa Coordinator for the Global Seabird Programme (BirdLife International). His work involves establishing marine Important Bird Areas throughout Africa and associated islands, managing the Albatross Task Force activities (to reduce seabird mortality in fisheries) in South Africa and Namibia, and strengthening seabird conservation measures and implementation in multi-lateral fisheries organisations, particularly the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and ICCAT in the Atlantic Ocean. In 2009 he secured funding for an initial 3-year research and conservation intervention for the African Penguin, and is also involved in several other national seabird conservation actions.

Ross was appointed an honorary research associate in August 2009. He is currently co-supervising Dominic Rollinson's PhD thesis and Jenny Roberts' MSc thesis. Ross is also co-supervising (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 Lorien Pichegru and the Animal Demography Unit's Fitsum Gabresellasie. Ross regularly writes articles of ornithological interest for popular publications and is a contributing author for the new Robert’s Birds of Southern Africa. 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. Reducing seabird bycatch from the longline fishing industry (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: Tracking African Penguins in the non-breeding season (Co-supervisors: Peter Ryan, Lorien Pichegru, Christina Moseley)

Conservation Biology Masters

Craig Harding. 2013 Tracking post-breeding African Penguins (Co-supervisor: Peter Ryan)

Recent peer-reviewed publications


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. 


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.

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: 409-424.

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. Oryx.

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.

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.

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.


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

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.


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

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.