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Dr. Katherine McHugh

Staff Scientist

Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP)

Today's Research for Tomorrow's Oceans


Katie McHugh is a Staff Scientist employed by the Chicago Zoological Society, and based at Mote Marine Laboratory as part of a partnership to engage in dolphin research, education, and conservation action. With a lifelong interest in marine wildlife conservation, Katie began studying wild dolphins with the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program as a Mote intern in 2000 while completing B.S. and M.S. degrees in Earth Systems at Stanford University. After a short detour that included assisting with small cetacean research in the Bahamas and New Zealand and a yearlong fellowship working on marine protected area and fisheries management at Environmental Defense, Katie returned to the SDRP as a graduate student researcher in 2004, completing her Ph.D. in animal behavior at the University of California Davis studying juvenile dolphin behavior and the effects of harmful algal blooms on dolphins. After completing her Ph.D., Katie has remained with the SDRP working on research aimed at understanding and mitigating adverse human-dolphin interactions, and she is also responsible for overseeing behavioral research as well as coordinating training programs for undergraduate interns and international trainees. Since 2012, Katie has also served as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at New College of Florida.


Ph.D. in Animal Behavior, University of California Davis (2010)
M.Sc. in Animal Behavior, University of California Davis (2006)
M.Sc. in Earth Systems, Stanford University (2002)
B.Sc. in Earth Systems, Stanford University (2001)

Current Publications

Longden, EG; Gillespie D; Mann, DA; McHugh, KA; Rycyk, AM; Wells, RS; Tyack, PL (2022). Comparison of the marine soundscape before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in dolphin habitat in Sarasota Bay, FL. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 152(6), 3170-3185.
Fahlman, A., Tyson Moore, R. B., Stone, R., Sweeney, J., Faulkner Trainor, R., Barleycorn, A. A., McHugh, K., Allen, J. B., Wells, R. S. (2023). Deep diving by offshore bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops spp.). Marine Mammal Science.
Fhalman, A., Allen, A., Blawas, A., Sweeny, J., Stone, Rae., Faulkner Trainor, R., Jensen, F. H., McHugh, K., Allen, J. B., Barleycorn, A. A., Wells, R. S. (2023). Surface and diving metabolic rates, and dynamic aerobic dive limits (dADL) in near- and off-shore bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops spp., indicate that deep diving is energetically cheap.. Marine Mammal Science, 1-18.
DiMaggio, K. M., Acevedo, M. A., McHugh, K. A., Wilkinson, K. A., Allen, J. B., Wells, R. S. (2023). The fitness consequences of human-wildlife interactions on foraging common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Sarasota Bay, Florida. Marine Mammal Science, 1-17. 10.1111/mms.13042

Additional Publications

Baker, I., O'Brien, J., McHugh, K., Berrow, S. (2018). Female reproductive parameters and population demographics of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Shannon Estuary, Ireland. Mar. Biol., 165(15). doi:10.1007/s00227-017-3265-z

Baker, I., O'Brien, J., McHugh, K., Ingram, S.N., Berrow, S. (2018). Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) social structure in the Shannon Estuary, Ireland, is distinguished by age- and area-related associations. Mar. Mamm. Sci., 34(2), 458-487. doi:10.1111/mms.12462

Balmer, B., McDonald, T., Hornsby, F., Adams, J., Allen, J., Barleycorn, A., Clarke, P., Cush, C., Honaker, A., McHugh, K., Speakman, T., Wells, R., Schwacke, L. (2018). Long-term trends in a northern Gulf of Mexico common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) population in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. J. Cetacean Res. Manage., 18, 1-9.

Fahlman, A., McHugh, K., Allen, J., Barleycorn, A., Allen, A., Sweeney, J., Stone, R., Trainor, R.F., Bedford, G., Moore, M.J., Jensen, F.H., Wells, R. (2018). Resting Metabolic Rate and Lung Function in Wild Offshore Common Bottlenose Dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, Near Bermuda. Front. Physiol., 9, 886. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.00886