Professor Michael Noad

Professor and Academic Director MBR

School of Veterinary Science
Faculty of Science

Director, Centre For Marine Science

Faculty of Science


Michael Noad graduated with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science from UQ in 1990. After working primarily as a small animal vet in Queensland and the UK, Mike returned to Australia to undertake a PhD in humpback whale acoustic behaviour at the University of Sydney in 1995. In 2002, after finishing his PhD, Mike became a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Integraitve Biology at UQ. In 2003 he was employed as a lecturer in the School of Veterinary Science. He is currently a professor at UQ, dividing his time between veterinary science, where he teaches anatomy, and marine science, the focus of his research. In 2019 he became the Academic Director of the Moreton Bay Research Station, and in 2022 the Director of the Centre for Marine Science while still retaining a substantive apointment in the School of Veterinary Science.


The key areas of Mike's research are the effects of anthopogenic underwater noise on whales, the evolution and function of humpback whale song, social learning and culture in animals, and marine mammal population ecology. With regards to the effects of anthropogenic underwater noise on whales, there is currently a great deal of concern about how anthropogenic noise such as military sonar, oil and gas exploration activity and commercial shipping traffic, may adversely affect marine mammals. Mike has been involved in several large collaborative projects in this area, the largest being BRAHSS where the team studied the behavioural changes of humpback whales in response to powerful seismic airguns. His work on the evolution and function of humpback whale song is focused on how the animals themselves use sound to communicate. The songs of these whales is one of the most complex acoustic displays of any animal known. The songs are not static, but constantly change, and although the songs are almost certainly used as a sexual signal, the changing nature of the song makes understanding how this works challenging. His work on social learning and culture in animals also involves humpback whale songs, but focuses on how the whales learn the songs from each other, both within and between populations. As the patterns are usually unique to a population but can be transmitted over time to other populations, humpback song is the most extreme example of a vocal cultural trait in any species as well as an excellent model for studying social learning, the process whereby the whales perceive and learn new songs. Mike's last research area is marine mammal population ecology, and the primary project is the population ecology of the east Australian humpback whales. This population was almost completely extirpated in the early 1960s through hunting, but has since undergone a rapid recovery. Its long term trajectory, however, is uncertain due to a number of factors including possibly overshooting the natural carrying capacity of the population, and climate change.

Research Interests

  • Social learning in whales
  • Population ecology of the eastern Australian humpback whales
  • Impacts of noise on marine mammals
  • Function and evolution of the songs of humpback whales

Research Impacts

Mike's research has had impact in several areas including informing the oil and gas industry on the impacts of oil and gas exploration activities on humpback whales, documenting the recovery of the east Australian humpback whale population which was used by the Australian government to help end whaling in the Antarctic, and showing that animal cultures are important and should be considered as a criterion for conservation in addition to more usual genetic-based criteria.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Sydney


View all Publications


Featured Publications


Book Chapter

  • Dunlop, Rebecca A., Noad, Michael J. and Houser, Dorian (2023). Using playback experiments to estimate the hearing range and sensitivity in humpback whales. The effects of noise on aquatic life. (pp. 1-15) edited by Arthur N. Popper, Joseph Sisneros, Anthony D. Hawkins and Frank Thomsen. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. doi: 10.1007/978-3-031-10417-6_44-1

  • Lanyon, Janet M., Noad, Michael and Meager, Justin (2019). Ecology of the marine mammals of Moreton Bay. Moreton Bay Quandamooka and catchment: past present and future. (pp. 415-430) edited by Ian R. Tibbetts, Peter C. Rothlisberg, David T. Neil, Tamara A. Homburg, David T. Brewer and Angela H. Arthington. Brisbane, QLD Australia: The Moreton Bay Foundation.

  • Cato, Douglas H., Dunlop, Rebecca A., Noad, Michael J., McCauley, Robert D., Kniest, Eric, Paton, David and Kavanagh, Ailbhe S. (2016). Addressing challenges in studies of behavioral responses of whales to noise. The effects of noise on aquatic life II. (pp. 145-152) edited by Arthur N. Popper and Anthony Hawkins. New York, United States: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-2981-8_17

  • Harcourt, Robert, Marsh, Helene, Slip, David, Chilvers, Louise, Noad, Mike and Dunlop, Rebecca (2015). Marine mammals, back from the brink? Contemporary conservation issues. Austral ark: the state of wildlife in Australia and New Zealand. (pp. 322-353) edited by Adam Stow, Norman Maclea and Gregory I. Holwell. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

  • Lawler, I.R., Parra, G. and Noad, M.J. (2007). Vulnerability of marine mammals in the Great Barrier Reef to climate change. Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef: A vulnerability assessment. (pp. 497-513) edited by Johnson, J.E. and Marshall, P.A.. Australia: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

  • Thode, Aaron, Gerstoft, Peter, Guerra, Melani, Stokes, M. Dale, Noad, Michael and Cato, Douglas C. (2006). Matched-field processing of humpback whale song off eastern Australia. Acoustic Sensing Techniques for the Shallow Water Environment: Inversion Methods and Experiments. (pp. 303-307) Springer Netherlands. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4020-4386-4-23

  • Cato, Douglas H., Noad, Michael J. and McCauley, Robert D. (2005). Passive acoustics as a key to the study of marine animals. Sounds in the sea : from ocean acoustics to acoustical oceanography. (pp. 411-429) edited by H. Medwin. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Completed Supervision