Sarasota Dolphin Research Program

Dr. Katherine (Katie) McHugh

Dr. Katherine (Katie) McHugh

Staff Scientist

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)


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