Els Vermeulen, PhD

Els Vermeulen, PhD
Mammal Research Institute Whale Unit
Department of Zoology and Entomology
University of Pretoria, South Africa

Originally from Belgium, I have been involved in marine mammal research for nearly 20 years. My main interest relates to the field of conservation biology and associated management. With the use of science, I aim to understand the causal factors affecting marine mammal conservation in order to establish or improve conservation management strategies. Over the years, my research expertise grew in the areas of population biology, ecology and ethology.

Most of my work has been focussed in the South Atlantic, both in Argentina and South Africa. After working in Patagonia, Argentina (2005-2012) mainly on southern right whales and bottlenose dolphins, I currently reside in South Africa and am Research Manager of the Mammal Research Institute Whale Unit of the University of Pretoria. My main research focus is related to the assessment and monitoring of the South African population of southern right whales (building on a 40+-year database initiated by the late prof. P.B. Best), for which I co-lead the related research Theme within the Southern Ocean Research Partnership of the IWC (iwc.int/sorp). Additionally I direct research projects on other baleen whales, such as humpback whales and Bryde’s whales, and am coordinator of the “SouSA Consortium”, a national research collaboration on the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin established to improve scientific data and therefore accurately advise conservation management.

Due to my interest in the interface between science, policy and education, I joined the International Whaling Commission in 2011 and co-founded the NFO Whalefish (www.whalefish.org), an NGO with which I aim to enhance educational outreach and improve networking possibilities.

Scientific Publications

Plön, S., Atkinds, S., Cockroft, V., Conry, D., Dines, S., Elwen, S., Gennari, E., Gopal, K., Gridey, T., Hörbst, S., James, B.S., Penry, G., Thornton, M., Vargas-Fonseca, O.A., Vermeulen, E. 2021. Science alone won’t do it! South Africa’s endangered humpback dolphin Sousa plumbea, face complex conservation challenges. Frontiers in Marine Science. Doi: 10.3389/fmars.2021.642226

Campos-Rangel, A., Bastida, R., Fruet, P., Laporta, P., Cappozzo, L.H., Valdivia, M., Vermeulen, E., Botta, S. (2021). Historic foraging ecology of the endangered Lahille’s bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus gephyreus) inferred by stable isotopes. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. Doi: 10.1016/j.ecss.2021.107393

Paarman, S., Vermeulen, E., Seyboth, E., Thornton, M.,  Findlay, K. (2021). Abundance and distribution of Antarctic blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus intermedia) off the Queen Maud Land coast of Antarctica. African Journal of Marine Science. Doi: 10.2989/1814232X.2020.1864471

van den Berg, G.L., Vermeulen, E., Valenzuela, L.O., Bérubé, M., Ganswindt, A., Gröcke, D.R., Hall, G., Hulva, P., Neveceralova, P., Palsbøll, P.J., Carroll, E.L. (2021). Decadal shift in foraging strategy of a highly migratory marine capital breeder. Global Change Biology, 27: 1052-1067. Doi: 10.1111/gcb.15465

Jackson, J.A., Kennedy, A., Moore, M., Andriolo, A., Bamford, C., Calderan, S., Cheeseman, T.,  Gittins, G., Groch, K., Kelly, N., Leaper, R., Leslie, M.S., Lurcock, S., Miller, B.S., Richardson, J., Rowntree, V., Smith, P., Stepien, E., Stowasser, G., Trathan, P., Valenzuela, L., Vermeulen, E., Vilches, F., Zerbini, A.N., Carroll, E.L. (2020).  Whales return to a historical hotspot of industrial whaling? The pattern of southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) recovery at South Georgia. Journal of Endangered Species Research, 43: 323-339. Doi: 10.3354/esr01072

Carroll, E., Ott, P.H., McMillan, L.F., Galletti Vernazzani, B., Neveceralova, P., Vermeulen, E., Gaggiotti, O.E., Andriolo, A., Baker, C.S., Bamford, C., Best, P., Cabrera, E., Calderan, S., Chirife, A., Fewster, R.M., Flores, P.A.C., Frasier, T., Freitas, T.R.O., Groch, K., Hulva, P., Kennedy, A., Leaper, R., Leslie, M.S., Moore, M., Oliveira, L., Seger, J., Stepien, E.N., Valenzuela, L.O., Zerbini, A., Jackson, J.A. 2020. Genetic diversity and connectivity of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) found in the Chile-Peru wintering grounds and South Georgia/Islas Georgias del Sur feeding grounds. Journal of Heredity 111: 263-276. DOI: 10.1093/jhered/esaa010

Vermeulen, E., Failla, M., Loizaga de Castro, R., Romero, M. A., Svendsen, G., Coscarella, M. A., Cáceres-Saez, I., Bastida, R., Dassis, M. 2019. Tursiops truncatus. Categorización 2019 de los mamíferos de Argentina según su riesgo de extinción. Lista Roja de los mamíferos de Argentina. Versión digital: http://cma.sarem.org.ar.  http://doi.org/10.31687/SaremLR.19.189

Vermeulen, E., Fruet, P., Costa, A., Coscarella, M., Laporta, P. 2019. Tursiops truncatus ssp. gephyreus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T134822416A135190824. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-3.RLTS.T134822416A135190824.en.

Corkeron, P., Hamilton, P., Bannister, J., Charlton, C., Groch, K.R., Findlay, K., Rowntree, V., Vermeulen, E., and Pace III, R.M. 2018. The recovery of North Atlantic right whales, Eubalaena glacialis, has been constrained by human-caused mortality. Royal Society Open Science 5: 180892. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.180892.

Vermeulen, E. 2018. Temporal and behavioral variation in association patterns of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Marine Mammal Science. DOI: 10.1111/mms.12481

Vermeulen E, Bouveroux T, Plön S, Atkins S, Chivell W, Cockcroft V, Conry D, Genarri E, Hörbst S, James BS, Kirkman S, Penry G, Pistorius P, Thornton M, Vargas Fonseca A, Elwen S. 2018. Indian Ocean humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea) movement patterns along the South African coast. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 28: 231-240. DOI: 10.1002/aqc.2836

Fruet, P., Secchi, E. R., Di Tullio, J. C., Simoes-Lopes, P., Daura-Jorge, F., Costa, A. P., Vermeulen, E., Flores, P., Genoves, R., Laporta, P., Beheregaray, L. and Moller, L. (2017) Genetic divergence between two phenotypically distinct bottlenose dolphin ecotypes suggests separate evolutionary trajectories. Ecology and Evolution 7:9131–9143. doi: 10.1002/ece3.3335

Vermeulen, E. 2017. Intertidal habitat use of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Bahía San Antonio, Argentina. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK 1-10 doi:10.1017/S0025315417000856

Failla, M., Seijas, V.A., Vermeulen, E. 2017. Occurrence of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) of the Río Negro Estuary, Patagonia, Argentina and their mid-distance movements along the Northeast Patagonian coast. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals 11(1-2): 170-177. http://dx.doi.org/10.5597/lajam00226

Laporta, P., Di Tullio, J.C., Vermeulen, E., Domit, C., Albuquerque, C., Lodi, L. 2017. Report of the working group on habitat use of Tursiops truncatus in the Southwestern Atlantic Ocean. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals 11(1-2): 47-61.

Ott P., Barreto, A.S., Siciliano, S., Laporta, P., Domit, C., Fruet, P.F., Dalla Rosa, L., de Oliveira Santos, M.C., Meirelles, A.C., Marchesi, M.C., Botta, S., de Oliveira, L.R., Moreno, I.B., Wickert, J., Vermeulen, E., Hoffmann, L.S., Baracho, C., Simões Lopes, P.C. 2017. Report of the Working Group on Taxonomy and Stock Identity of bottlenose dolphins in the Southwest Atlantic Ocean. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals 11(1-2): 16-28.

Lodi, L., Domit, C., Laporta, P., Di Tullio, J.C., Martins, C.C.A., Vermeulen, E. 2017. Report of the Working Group on the Distribution of Tursiops truncatus in the Southwest Atlantic Ocean. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals 11(1-2): 29-46.

Vermeulen, E., Balbiano, A., Beleguer, F., Colombil, D., Failla, M., Intrieri, E., Bräger, S. 2016. Site-fidelity and movement patterns of bottlenose dolphins in central Argentina: essential information for effective conservation. Aquatic Conservation. DOI: 10.1002/aqc.2618

Vermeulen, E., Holsbeek, L., Das, K. 2015. Diurnal and Seasonal Variation in the Behaviour of Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Bahía San Antonio, Patagonia, Argentina. Aquatic Mammals 41(3), 272-283. DOI 10.1578/AM.41.3.2015.272

Vermeulen, E and Bräger, S. 2015 Demographics of the Disappearing Bottlenose Dolphin in Argentina: A Common Species on Its Way Out? PLoS ONE 10(3): e0119182. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0119182

Weir, C., Coles, P., Ferguson, A. …. Vermeulen, E., Vines, J., Williams A. 2014. Clymene dolphins (Stenella clymene) in the eastern tropical Atlantic: distribution, group size, and pigmentation pattern. Journal of Mammalogy 95(6): 1289-1298.

Fruet, P., Secchi, E.R., Daura-Jorge, F., Vermeulen, E., Flores, P.A.C., Simões-Lopes, P.C., Genoves, R.C., Laporta, P., Ditullio, J.C., Freitas, T.R., Dalla Rosa, L., Valiati, V.H., Behereharay, L.B., Möller, L.M. 2014. Remarkably low genetic diversity and strong population structure in common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from coastal waters of the Southwestern Atlantic Ocean. Conservation Genetics Doi: 10.1007/s10592-014-0586-z

Vermeulen, E. 2012. Abundance estimates of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) in Bahía San Antonio, Patagonia, Argentina. J. Cetacean Res. Manage. 13(1): 47–51.

Vermeulen, E., Cammareri, A., Holsbeek, L. 2012. Alteration of southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) behaviour by human induced disturbance in Bahía San Antonio, Patagonia, Argentina. Aquatic Mammals 38(1): 56-64.

Vermeulen, E. and Cammareri, A. 2009. Variation in external morphology of resident bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Bahia San Antonio, Patagonia, Argentina. JMATE 2: 1-6

Vermeulen, E. and Cammareri, A. 2009. Residency, Abundance and Social Composition of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Bahía San Antonio, Patagonia, Argentina. Aquatic Mammals, 35(3), 379-386.


Els Vermeulen, Hilda Suarez, Alejandro Balbiano “Toninas de la Bahía, descubriendo a los delfines de Patagonia Norte” – Los Biologos Ediciones, Buenos Aires Argentina. 18pp.