Kieran Lawton

Kieran Lawton

Naturalist

Kieran Lawton is a wildlife ecologist, adventurer and mountaineer and currently leads a green-tech start-up.

Kieran has always been drawn to wild places and took the opportunities as an ecologist to do so. Early in his career, he undertook research on the ecology of elephant seals and fur seals on Macquarie Island, spent a year over-wintering in the Antarctic doing research on the energetics and food requirements of Emperor penguins. This was followed by a few years on an international program to understand the year-round carbon flux of boreal forest and tundra ecosystems in Siberia, part of a team looking for the ‘missing sink’ in early global circulation models.

He then went back to the Subantarctic looking into albatross populations, noting significant declines in most species and working to understand why. This involved long periods of field work on Australia’s Heard Island in the Southern Indian Ocean, on South Georgia in the Atlantic, and on the wild Chilean islands of Ildefonso and Diego Ramirez to the west of Cape Horn. The Chilean islands were a particular highlight where the fun included swimming ashore and camping on steep, rugged islands covered in albatrosses with no recorded previous visits.

As part of the team that traced the worrying declines in albatross numbers to commercial longline fisheries, Kieran then started working with fishing companies to find a solution. Over the subsequent decade, significant R&D was undertaken on the ‘underwater bait setter’, an invention that sets baited hooks by stealth deep underwater out of the sight of albatrosses. With over $3M invested in R&D, Kieran is now leading the commercialisation of the invention through his company Skadia Technologies.

Kieran has always maintained an enthusiasm for climbing and mountaineering, and in the late 90s sailed to the Antarctic by yacht and led a team that made first ascents there. That was when he first met Aurora Expeditions’ founder Greg Mortimer and began leading trips for Aurora Expeditions the following year. Kieran is looking forward to travelling to and sharing the wonder of these wild places with others.