Dr Catherine Kemper

Senior Research Scientist Mammals

+61 8 8207 7458


Catherine came to Australia from Canada in 1971 and did a PhD at Macquarie University in Sydney (1972–1978).  Between then and her appointment at the South Australian Museum, she travelled overseas and worked in Malaysia and Western Australia.  She took up the position of Curator of Mammals in September 1983.  Catherine began her career in Mammalogy with the study of small mammals but in the late 1980s embarked on research on marine mammals, especially cetaceans.  She continues her love and study of both terrestrial and marine mammals.


Research Interests   

With regard to terrestrial mammals, the focus is the identification, distribution, biological survey and history of species.  For marine mammals the research focus has been on cetaceans and particularly, life history, distribution, toxic contaminants, health, taxonomy, species identification and conservation.


Current Research Projects

Sexual maturity of Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins in South Australia.  C. Kemper, I. Tomo, E. Trentin and M. Talamonti. 2008–present, unfunded.

Combining genetics and morphology to resolve a longstanding taxonomic and conservation management issue: How many bottlenose dolphin species are there in Australian waters? C. Kemper, M. and M. Jedensjo. 2010–2013, Australian Marine Mammal Centre, $48,217.

Outbreak of Morbillivirus in South Australian dolphins (March/April 2013).  C. Kemper, I. Tomo, S. Bastianello, L. Woolford, C. Dickason and D. Kelly.  Grant funding to be sought (2013–2015).


Professional Associations

  • Member, American Society of Mammalogists 
  • Member, Australian Mammal Society (President 2012–present)

  • Member, Field Naturalists Society of South Australia

  • Member, Marine Conservation Society of Australia

  • Member, Nature Conservation Society of South Australia

  • Member, Royal Society of South Australia

  • Member, Society for Marine Mammalogy



  • BSc (Agriculture), University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada (1970)

  • PhD, Macquarie University, Sydney (1978)


Current Teaching Responsibilities          

Supervision of student (graduating thesis) from Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy

Supervision of PhD student enrolled at University of Zurich, Switzerland


Community Engagement

Kemper, C. (2012).  Workshop on whales and dolphins in South Australia to the South Australian Whale Centre, Victor Harbor, 1 May 2012.

Kemper, C.  (2012).  Public talk to Butterfly Conservation Society of South Australia, Clarence Park Community Centre, 5 June 2012.

Kemper, C. (2012).  Partnerships – the key to documenting biodiversity.  Sprigg Lecture Series, South Australian Museum, 26 June 2012.

Kemper, C. (2012).  Workshop on whales and dolphins given to Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources and community, Ceduna, 25 July 2012.

Kemper, C. (2013).  Participation in the South Australian Museum’s display at Dolphin Day, Port Adelaide, 20 January 2013.

Kemper, C. (2013).  Demonstration to 25 students from Wilderness School of post-mortem at Bolivar Facility, 12 March 2013.


Media Expertise

All mammals, particularly whales and dolphins.



  1. Kemper, C. M., Middleton, J. F., and van Ruth, P. D. (2012 on line).  Association between Caperea marginata and areas of high marine productivity off Australia and New Zealand.  New Zealand Journal of Zoology

  2. Shaughnessy, P. D., Kemper, C. M., and Ling, J. K. (2012).  Records of vagrant phocid seals (family Phocidae) in South Australia. Australian Mammalogy 34: 155–169.

  3. Kemper, C. M., Cooper, S. J. B., Medlin, G. C., Adams, M., Stemmer, D., Saint, K. M., McDowell, M. C., and Austin, J. J. (2011).  Cryptic grey-bellied dunnart (Sminthopsis griseoventer) discovered in South Australia: genetic, morphological and subfossil analyses show the value of collecting voucher material. Australian Journal of Zoology 59: 127–144.

  4. Gibbs, S. E., Harcourt, R. G., and Kemper, C. M. (2011).  Niche differentiation of bottlenose dolphin species in South Australia revealed by stable isotopes and stomach contents. Wildlife Research 38: 261–270.

  5. Bilgmann, K., Moller, L. M., Harcourt, R. G., Kemper, C. M., and Beheregaray, L. B. (2011).  The use of carcasses for the analysis of cetacean population genetic structure: a comparative study in two dolphin species. PLoS ONE 6 (5): 1–10.

  6. Byard, R. W., Tomo, I., Kemper, C. M., Gibbs, S. E., Bossley, M., Machado, A., and Hill, M. (2010).  Unusual causes of fatal upper aerodigestive tract obstruction in wild bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus). Forensic Science Medical Pathology DOI 10.1007/s12024-010-9143-3.

  7. Tomo, I., Kemper, C. M., and Lavery, P. J. (2010).  18-year study of south Australian dolphins shows variation in lung nematodes by season, year, age class and location.  Journal of Wildlife Diseases 46 (2): 488–498.

  8. Kemper, C., Medlin, G., and Bachmann, M. (2010).  The discovery and history of the heath mouse Pseudomys shortridgei (Thomas, 1907) in South Australia. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 134: 125–138.

  9. Lavery, P. J., Kemper, C. M., Sanderson, K., Schultz, C. G., Coyle, P., Mitchell, J. G., and Seuront, L.  (2009).  Heavy metal toxicity of kidney and bone tissues in South Australian adult bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus).  Marine Environmental Research 67: 1–7.

  10. Kemper, C. M. (2008).  ‘Pygmy right whale’ in Perrin, W. F., Wursig, B., and Thewissen, J. G. M. (eds.) Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals (Second Edition), pp. 939–941. San Diego: Academic Press.