Research Scientist

Rebecca has worked on the ecology and demography of marine predators for 14 years, with a focus on Australian seals. Her areas of interest extend into marine protected species management, conservation and avian biology. Rebecca’s research experience includes field work on Macquarie Island, the Galapagos Islands and the islands of southern Australia. Currently, she is working on several projects relating to the Australian fur seal and the little penguin. An extension of her research will explore ecosystem trophodynamics and food webs in Bass Strait. Rebecca has an honorary appointment at the Zoology Department, La Trobe University, Melbourne.



       Phone: + 61 (3) 59512844

       Mail:     Phillip Island Nature Parks, PO Box 97, Cowes Vic. 3922, Australia

Professional Area

Population and foraging ecology and protected species management

Current projects

  • Diet of Australian fur seals
  • Entanglement rates in marine debris of Australian fur seals at Seal Rocks
  • Monitoring pup production and population estimates for Australian fur seals
  • Oil pollution responses for seals and seabirds
  • Satellite tracking of Little penguins

Selected recent publications (see full in Research Gate)

McIntosh, R. R., Arthur, T., Dennis, T., Berris, M., Goldsworthy, S. D., Shaughnessy, P. D. and Teixeira, C. E. P. (2013). Survival estimates for the Australian sea lion: Negative correlation of sea surface temperature with cohort survival to weaning. Marine Mammal Science 29, 84-108.

Pup cohorts experiencing anomalously warm sea surface temperatures had low survival rates. Individuals post weaning had higher survival rates compared to other species, indicating a potential benefit of their extended lactation period.

McIntosh, R. R. and Kennedy, C. W. (2013). Morphology, sex ratio and cause of death in Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea) pups. Australian Mammalogy 35, 93-100.

Aggressive interactions with conspecifics were a major cause of mortality for Australian sea lion pups. There was no sex ratio bias indicating that males were not being killed selectively.

McIntosh, R. R., Kennedy, C. W., Shaughnessy, P. D., Goldsworthy, S. D. (2012). Estimating pup production in a mammal with an extended and aseasonal breeding season, the Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea). Wildlife Research 39, 137-148.

 Three methods of estimating pup production were compared, concluding that mark-recapture estimates reflected birth counts. Trends analysis showed a continuing decline in pup production with more mark-recapture estimates needed for certainty.

Dennis, T. E., McIntosh, R. R. and Shaughnessy, P. D. (2011). Effects of human disturbance on productivity of White-bellied Sea-Eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster). Emu 111, 1-7.

The level of human disturbance was found to positively affect fledging success in white-bellied sea eagles. Site specific habitat management prescriptions are recommended to mitigate the population decline.

Shaughnessy, P. D., Goldsworthy, S. D., Hamer, D. J., Page, B. and McIntosh, R. R. (2011). Australian sea lions Neophoca cinerea at colonies in South Australia: distribution and abundance, 2004 to 2008. Endangered Species Research 13, 87-98.

Predominantly using surveys in South Australia (2004 - 2008), ~3119 Australian sea lion pups are born per breeding cycle. This results in a population of ~14,780 animals for the species.

Goldsworthy, S. D., McKenzie, J., Page, B. C., Lancaster, M. L., Shaughnessy, P. D., Wynen, L. P., Robinson, S. A., Peters, K. J., Baylis, A. M. M., and McIntosh, R. R. (2009). Post-sealing colonisation and status of three fur seal species at Macquarie Island. Polar Biology 32, 1473-1486.

Census data from 1954–2007 estimated population trends for fur seals on Macquarie Island. Antarctic and sub-Antarctic fur seal populations increased while New Zealand fur seals have not yet established a breeding colony.

McIntosh, R. R., Page, B. and Goldsworthy, S. D. (2006). Dietary analysis of regurgitates and stomach samples from free-living Australian sea lions. Wildlife Research 33(8) 661– 669.

Hard-parts are not available in Australian sea lion scats therefore stomachs and regurgitates were used to study diet. Cephalopods were the predominant prey, the remainder included fish, crustaceans, shark eggs and seabirds.

McIntosh, R. R., Shaughnessy, P. D. and Goldsworthy, S. D. (2006). Mark-Recapture estimates of pup production for the Australian Sea Lion, Neophoca cinerea, at Seal Bay Conservation Park, South Australia. In Sea Lions of the World: 353-367. Trites, A. W., Atkinson, S. K., DeMaster, D. P., Fritz, L. W., Gelatt, T. S., Rea, L. D. and Wynne, K. M. (Eds.). Fairbanks: Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska.

Historically, Australian sea lion pup production had been estimated at Seal Bay Conservation Park using direct counts. A mark-recapture estimate in 2003 was found to be 187% of the direct count, highlighting that direct pup counts underestimated pup production.

Baylis, A.M.M, Page, B., Peters, K., McIntosh, R., McKenzie, J., and Goldsworthy, S.D. (2005). The ontogeny of dive behaviour in New Zealand fur seal pups (Arctocephalus forsteri). Canadian Journal of Zoology 83, 1149-1161.

New Zealand fur seal pups started foraging at 4-5 months prior to weaning. Immediately prior to weaning, pups spent more time diving at night, and several measures of dive performance increased.

Page, B., McKenzie, J., McIntosh, R., Baylis, A., Morrissey, A., Calvert, N., Haase, T., Berris, M., Dowie, D., Shaughnessy P.D. and Goldsworthy, S. (2004). Entanglement of Australian sea lions and New Zealand fur seals in lost fishing gear and other marine debris before and after Government and industry attempts to reduce the problem. Marine Pollution Bulletin 49, 33-42.

Contrary to our expectations, we found that entanglement rates had not decreased in recent years. The entanglement rate for these species were the third and fourth highest reported for any seal species.