Tom Letessier Ph.D.

Zoological Society of London


My current work focusses on the use of a diversity of platforms, such as drones, baited cameras and echosounders, to inform predator conservation and management strategies within the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).

My initial involvement in BIOT  explored the distribution of sharks in the mid-water. A baited camera survey across the Indo-Pacific allowed us to assess the conservation values for sharks of the BIOT MPA.

Whilst an ecologist at heart, I am increasingly interested in the human dimension of conservation, and the different ways in which the success and failures of marine reserves are linked to compliance and socio-economics. I am currently co-supervising a project,  with Dr. Ana Nuno, exploring the socio-economic drivers of illegal fishing in the Indian Ocean and how it represents a challenge for BIOT.

I am fascinated by the potential of new technologies in addressing the requirements of reserve management. The technology I have been trialling in BIOT includes amphibious, fixed wing-drones and vessel-detection hydrophones. The drones are increasingly being tested for use elsewhere, including Belize and New Caledonia, rendering BIOT a test-bed of marine reserve technology.


I am a marine-biologist with a keen interest in oceanic and pelagic ecosystems. My research primarily focuses on the spatial ecology of predators such as sharks, rays, and their prey. A primary question driving my work over the last 5 years is how large-scale MPAs can be utilised to further conservation of open ocean species.

Tom Letessier


2016 Present
Postdoctoral Research Associate, IOZ
2014 2016
Chagos Consortium Science Coordinator, ZSL
2011 2014
Research Assistant Professor, University of Western Australia
2007 2011
Ph.D. student, University of Western Australia
2002 2006
BSc., University of Aberdeen

My Projects

  • Improving MPA Management
    Using Drones for IUU Surveillance and Marine Megafauna Monitoring in MPAs
  • Improving MPA Management
    Social Drivers for Shark Fishing Amongst Sri Lankan and Indian Fishers

Other interests

I am involved with a project assessing fish populations in Lake Victoria. We will use our fixed-wing drones to determine the spatial distribution of fishing pressures on the Silver Cyprinid.

I believe that patrol-based monitoring will be an increasingly important aspect of marine surveillance and ecological monitoring. The degree to which patrol-based monitoring can be used to detect meaningful patterns in human activity and wildlife population remains an open question, one that I am keen to address in my research.

My Publications