Dr Kathy Townsend

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Dr Kathy Townsend


Senior Lecturer, Animal Ecology

PhD (Marine Science) Qld., BSc (Marine Biology) First Class Hons Qld., BSc Qld.


+61 7 5456 5695
Office location
FCA-1-1.12, USC Fraser Coast
Dr Kathy Townsend


Dr Kathy Townsend's research focuses on issues such as marine conservation and human impacts on the marine environment. Kathy's research programs draw their strength from a multidisciplinary approach and focus on global scale issues, such as the impacts of marine debris and marine pollution.

Kathy actively contributes to a greater understanding of the conservation status of marine species identified by the IUCN Red List for threatened species. Kathy has provided expert advice and influenced policy development at all levels of Australian government and internationally. Kathy has been fortunate to live and work on marine research stations for over 20 years and brings a broad knowledge of tropical and semitropical ecosystems.

Kathy takes her role as a mentor to young scientists very seriously. She is consistently ranked highly by both students and peers for her teaching and community engagement techniques. As lead academic of the internationally renown scientific programs “Project Manta” and “Turtles in Trouble”, the research has been featured on multiple international documentaries, including BBC David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef and Nat Geo Wild's "Manta Mystery".

Professional memberships

  • ISTS – International Sea Turtle Society – since 2009
  • A.E.S. – American Elasmobranch Society – since 2008
  • AATAMS – Australian Acoustic Tagging and Monitoring System – since 2007
  • O.C.S. - Oceania Chondrichthyan Society—since 2006 Committee member 2006-present
  • O.R.S.N - Oceania Research Station Network—since 2002 President 2006-2009
  • A.S.F.B. - Australian Society for Fish Biology – since 1996
  • M.E.S.A. - Marine Education Society of Australia – since 1995
  • A.M.C.S. - Australian Marine Conservation Society – since 1995
  • A.C.R.S. - Australian Coral Reef Society – since 1995.
  • A.M.S.A. - Australian Marine Science Association – since 1994


  • Finalist for the “Minister’s Award for Leadership in Sustainability” from Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.
  • “Healthy Waterway Research Award” from Healthy Waterways for work on the impact of marine debris on sea turtles.
  • “Eureka Award for Science Journalism” from the Australian Museum for the documentary “Project Manta” produced by Kaufmann Productions
  • “Peter Doherty Award for Excellence in Science and Science Education” from the Department of Education and Training, Queensland Government
  • Nominated for “Australian Day Award” for services to the Environment by Redland City Council
  • Best academic presentation at Australian Coral Reef Society Conference “Impact of ingested marine rubbish on stranded sea turtles sourced from south-eastern Queensland, Australia”
  • The University of Queensland “Postdoctoral International Travel Scholarship” ($5k)
  • NAIDOC Award for work with the local aboriginal community on Nth Stradbroke Island
  • The University of Queensland “2005 UQ General Staff Award”
  • The University of Queensland “UQ Staff Finishing Scholarship”
  • The University of Queensland “University of Queensland post-graduate study scholarship”
  • Heron Island Research Station “Heron Island’s long term post-graduate research scholarship” 

Potential research projects for HDR and Honours students

  • Impact of marine debris on Queensland marine fauna.
  • Manta ray behaviour at cleaning stations using remote video surveillance.

Research grants

  • ARC Linkage Grant “Connectivity and movements of large pelagic species of ecotourism value” – Industry partners Austral Fisheries, TG Kalis Marine Conservation Fund, Earthwatch, CRL, Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort and Ningaloo Marine
  • Sibelco Australia North Stradbroke Island Community Development Program “UQ Moreton Bay Research Station Outreach and Scholarship Program”
  • TG Kailis and Austral Fisheries Marine Conservation Fund “A multidisciplinary study of Australia’s manta ray conservation ecology and biology.”
  • ARC Linkage Grant “Identifying the risks and assessing the impacts of marine debris on sea turtles in Australian waters” – Industry partners Earthwatch, Healthy Waterways Partnership, Samford Vet Clinic and Underwater World Mooloolaba
  • Goodman Foundation “Investigation and comparison of heavy metal levels in gill rakers and muscle tissue of manta and mobula rays and their implications for human health”
  • TG Kailis and Austral Fisheries Marine Conservation Fund “Project Manta WA: Creation of manta ray outreach network in Western Australia.”
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