Dr. Pierce founded MMF’s flagship research program on whale sharks, the Earth’s largest fish, in 2005. His work on the population ecology and management of this iconic species has made him a world expert on the topic. Simon is presently involved in whale shark research projects in Mozambique, Tanzania, Qatar and Honduras and acting as Science Coordinator of the ECOCEAN USA Global Whale Shark Database (www.whaleshark.org).
Simon’s work is focused on using science as a tool for implementing effective conservation strategies. Aside from his work on whale sharks, he (with Dr Andrea Marshall and Dr Juerg Brunnschweiler) has used satellite-tracking results as a basis for the successful listing of giant manta rays on the Convention on Migratory Species and conducted extensive work on other threatened marine species, particularly sharks, rays and sea turtles. Simon has lead or co-authored IUCN Red List assessments for five elasmobranch species.
Simon is using his extensive and varied knowledge to aid multiple PhD and masters students in their studies with MMF. Simon acted as coordinator for MMF’s current senior staff biologist Chris Rohner during his PhD program, and together they developed a novel technique for accurately sizing free swimming whale sharks and gained invaluable insights into the bio-physical coupling of the Tofo whale shark aggregation. Simon is presently co-supervising Clare Prebble’s PhD work on whale sharks at The University of Southampton and the National Oceanography Centre, UK and Jess William’s PhD work on sea turtle conservation through James Cook University, Australia. Dr. Pierce’s own education consists of a BSc (Ecology) from Victoria University of Wellington in his native New Zealand and a BSc (Hons) (1st Class) and PhD from The University of Queensland. His PhD work focused on the fisheries and conservation biology of inshore rays and sharks in eastern Australia.