Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Lorenzo Fiori’s research intersects an important area between marine mammals and tourism. The AUT Doctor of Philosophy candidate is currently exploring how to interact with humpback whales in a way that maintains their safety and conservation, while also giving people an opportunity to appreciate these majestic creatures up close.
“My research looks at cetacean interactions with tourism activities, as well as the use of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as a tool for cetacean research.
“I’m specifically looking at the behaviour of humpback whales during vessel approach and in-water human interactions in Vava’u in the Kingdom of Tonga. This study is providing baseline data for conservation government agencies, and important guidelines for tour operators involved in whale-watching tourism.”
Improving cetacean life with AUT’s novel technology
Lorenzo has conducted several UAV operations for AUT, including the popular aerial video of Bryde’s whales feeding.
The video quickly went viral and was seen around the world – an important element in promoting ecological change.
“Our aerial video of Bryde’s whales feeding near Great Barrier Island was a big achievement in terms of showcasing to the general public how UAVs can represent a revolutionary tool for cetacean behavioural studies.
“I’ve tested this technology in New Zealand and overseas, and I’m fascinated by its potential for different spatial ecology applications.”
Reducing human impact
Lorenzo’s research focuses on how we can observe and learn about whales without disrupting their environment or wellbeing.
“For my PhD research, I’m collaborating with Tongan Ministry of Tourism and whale-watching tour operators. I have been also involved in behavioural studies on dolphin species using small UAVs in Great Barrier Island and Kaikoura.”
“It’s important to learn more about how cetaceans interact with human tourism activities. I love this research, and I’m dedicated to becoming an expert in this field.”
Over the past few years, Lorenzo has collaborated on articles that have appeared in Remote Sensing, PLoS ONE, Marine Mammal Science, Scientific Reports and Aquatic Mammals.