Dr Mike Double

Dr Mike Double
Dr Mike Double

Dr Mike Double: BSc (Hons), PhD
Leader, Australian Marine Mammal Centre

Research interests

From inter-tidal snails to great whales (with a lot of birds in between) my research has been diverse, but the uniting theme has been the use of molecular tools to address evolutionary, ecological and conservation-orientated questions.

I started my training with a degree in genetics and zoology at Leeds University that was quickly followed by doctoral research at Leicester University. There I applied single-locus DNA fingerprinting to reveal cryptic breeding behaviours in birds. From tedious southern blotting and minisatellites I graduated to microsatellite genotyping in my first post-doctoral job with the inspirational Andrew Cockburn at the Australian National University. Jumping from one postdoc to another, I stayed with Andrew's team for over 10 years, all the time combining detailed field observations with fine-scale genetic analyses to reveal the unique and fascinating behaviours of superb fairy-wrens. On the side I collaborated in studies of antechinus, fiddler crabs, spiders and many other bird species, but the principal distraction from wrens was my research on the taxonomy, genetics and conservation of albatrosses.

My work with seabirds, and especially albatross, introduced me to marine conservation issues and a familiarity with bobbing around the ocean in small boats. With these qualifications and my genetics background I joined the Australian Marine Mammal Centre in 2007 to initiate a population genetic research program on Australia's baleen whales.

My major research focus now is the Antarctic blue whale project. This flagship project of the Southern Ocean Research Partnership aims to estimate the abundance of blue whales in the Southern Ocean, 50 years after whalers killed some 350 000 individuals; as well as examine their distribution, population structure and migration routes. In preparation for this project we have been investigating the use of acoustic sonobuoys to track blue whales in Victorian waters. The technology and methodology needs to be tested in an area where we can more easily locate and track whales, in order to maximise our chances of finding and tracking blue whales over vast distances in the Southern Ocean.

As Leader of the Australian Marine Mammal Centre, based at the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart, I have a tremendous opportunity to positively influence the direction, shape and quantity of science that supports improved conservation outcomes for marine mammals, and to ensure that government policy and management decisions are fully informed with science.

Current projects

International representation/collaboration

  • International Whaling Commission (IWC)

Key outcome areas

  • IWC
  • Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)

Related links

Selected publications

Abbott, C.L., Double, M.C., 2003. Genetic structure, conservation genetics, and evidence of speciation by range expansion in shy and white-capped albatrosses. Molecular Ecology 12, 2953-2962.

Abbott, C.A., Double, M.C., Baker, G.B., Gales, R., Lashko, A., Robertson, C.J.R., Ryan, P.G., 2006. Molecular provenance analysis for shy and white-capped albatrosses killed by fisheries interactions in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Conservation Genetics 7, 531-542.

Abbott, C.L., Double, M.C., Trueman, J.W.H., Robinson, A., Cockburn, A., 2005. An unusual source of apparent mitochondrial heteroplasmy: duplicate mitochondrial control regions in Thalassarche albatrosses. Molecular Ecology 14, 3605-3613.

Baker, G.B., Double, M.C., Gales, R., Tuck, G.N., Abbott, C.L., Ryan, P.G., Petersen, S.L., Robertson, C.J.R., Alderman, R., 2007. A global assessment of the impact of fisheries-related mortality on shy and white-capped albatrosses: Conservation implications. Biological Conservation 137, 319-333.

Calhim, S., Double, M.C., Margraf, N., Birkhead, T.R., Cockburn, A., 2011. Maintenance of Sperm Variation in a Highly Promiscuous Wild Bird. PLoS ONE 6, e28809.

Cockburn, A., Dalziell, A.H., Blackmore, C.J., Double, M.C., Kokko, H., Osmond, H.L., Beck, N.R., Head, M.L., Wells, K., 2009. Superb fairy-wren males aggregate into hidden leks to solicit extragroup fertilizations before dawn. Behav. Ecol. 20, 501-510.

Cockburn, A., Double, M.C., 2008. Cooperatively breeding superb fairy-wrens show no facultative manipulation of offspring sex ratio despite plausible benefits. Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology 62, 681-688.

Cooper, J., Baker, G.B., Double, M.C., Gales, R., Papworth, W., Tasker, M.L., Waugh, S.M., 2006. The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels: rationale, history, progress and the way forward. Marine Ornithology 34, 1-5.

Double, M.C., 2008. Do wanderers always return? In: Roy, T. d., Jones, M., Fitter, A. (Eds.). Albatross: their world, their ways. Christopher Helm, London.

Double, M.C., Cockburn, A., 2003. Subordinate superb fairy-wrens (Malurus cyaneus) parasitize the reproductive success of attractive dominant males. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 270, 379-384.

Double, M.C., Cockburn, A., 2000. Pre-dawn infidelity: females control extra-pair mating in superb fairy-wrens. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 267, 465-470.

Double, M.C., Peakall, R., Beck, N.R., Cockburn, A., 2005. Dispersal, philopatry, and infidelity: dissecting local genetic structure in superb fairy-wrens (Malurus cyaneus). Evolution 59, 625-635.

Double, M.C., Pon, J.P.S., Spencer Clubb, Hay, I., Baker, B., 2011. ACAP At-Sea Priorities Framework – Identification of an appropriate scoring and weighting regime and other final steps. SBWG4 Doc9. Sixth Meeting of the ACAP Advisory Committee. Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).

Fisher, D.O., Double, M.C., Blomberg, S.P., Jennions, M.D., Cockburn, A., 2006. Post-mating sexual selection increases lifetime fitness of polyandrous females in the wild. Nature 444, 89-92.

Gales, N., Double, M.C., Robinson, S., Jenner, C., Jenner, M., King, E., Gedamke, J., Childerhouse, S., Paton, D., 2010. Satellite tracking of Australian humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae) and pygmy blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda). SC/62/SH21. Paper submitted for consideration by the IWC Scientific Committee.

Jenner, C., Jenner, M., Burton, C., Sturrock, V., Salgado Kent, C., Morrice, M., Attard, C., Moller, L., Double, M.C., 2008. Mark recapture analysis of Pygmy Blue Whales from the Perth Canyon, Western Australia 2000-2005. SC/60/SH16. Paper submitted for consideration by the IWC Scientific Committee SC/60/SH16.

Kelly, N., Double, M.C., Peel, D., Bravington, M., Gales, N., 2011. Strategies to obtain a new abundance estimate for Antarctic blue whales: a feasibility study. SC/63/SH3. Paper submitted for consideration by the IWC Scientific Committee.

Murphy, S.A., Flux, I., Double, M.C., 2006. Recent evolutionary history of New Zealand's North and South Island Kokako (Callaeas cinerea) inferred from mitochondrial sequences. Emu 106, 41-48.

Smith, J.N., Grantham, H.S., Gales, N., Double, M.C., Noad, M.J., Paton, D., 2012. Identification of humpback whale breeding and calving habitat in the Great Barrier Reef. Marine Ecology-Progress Series 447, 259-272.

Steel, D., Anderson, M., Schmitt, N., Burns, D., Constantine, R., Franklin, W., Franklin, T., et al., 2011. Genotype matching of humpback whales from the 2010 Australia/New Zealand Antarctic Whale Expedition (Area V) to the South Pacific. SC/63/SH10. Paper submitted for consideration by the IWC Scientific Committee 2011 SC/63/SH10.