Jenny Allen | Postdoc

Ocean Sciences UC Santa Cruz


2009 - BSc in Biology and Marine Science, The University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

2011 - MRes in Marine Mammal Science from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews (Thesis: Cultural transmission of an innovative lobtail feeding behaviour in the Gulf of Maine humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae)

2018 – PhD in Cetacean Ecology from the Cetacean Ecology and Acoustics Laboratory at the University of Queensland

Research & Career Interests:

My research interests are culture and social learning in cetaceans. These include culture in baleen whales, such as social foraging strategies in Antarctic humpback and minke whales, and the cultural evolutionary role of song in South Pacific humpback whales. I am currently an NSF Office of Polar Programs Postgraduate Fellow within the BTBEL. My project focuses on the emergence and spread of bubble-net feeding as a novel foraging strategy within the Western Antarctic Peninsula humpback whales. My goal is to determine how these whales are responding to the environmental shifts of climate change within their feeding grounds by examining how they are altering their foraging strategies and what specifically is driving those shifts. This is crucial to understand given that humpback whales serve as sentinel species of the overall health of the Antarctic sea-ice ecosystem. My work is part of the larger NSF Long Term Ecological Research Program at Palmer Station.

As part of my position, I also serve as an adjunct researcher with the Southern Ocean Persistent Organic Pollutants Program based at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. I work under Professor Susan Bengtson-Nash, a longtime BTBEL collaborator, to contribute the behavioural ecology insights of my ongoing research to her circumpolar Humpback Whale Sentinel Program which uses humpback whales to monitor Antarctic ecosystem health.

Professional Experience:

  • 2022-present – NSF Office of Polar Programs Postdoctoral Fellow, Bio-Telemetry and Behavioural Ecology Lab, University of California Santa Cruz
  • 2020-2022 – Research Associate, Southern Ocean Persistent Organic Pollutants Program, Griffith University
  • 2018-2020 – Marine Science Lecturer, School of Environment and Science, Griffith University
  • 2013 – Data Analyst, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA
  • 2012 – Right Whale Aerial Observer, Sea to Shore Alliance
  • 2012 – Protected Species Observer, LGL Alaska Research Associates
  • 2010 – Staff Scientist, Whale Center of New England


Mayaud, R., Castrillon, J., Peel, D., Smith, J., Dalle Luche, G., Allen, J., & Bengtson Nash, S. (2022). “Traffic in the playground: Ship strike risk from commercial vessels to migrating humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Moreton Bay, Queensland”. Marine Policy. Vol. 146 DOI: 10.1016/j.marpol.2022.105332.

Allen, J.A., Garland, E.C, Garrigue, C., Dunlop, R.A., & Noad, M.J. (2022). Song complexity is maintained during inter-population cultural transmission of humpback whale songs. Scientific Reports. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-12784-3.

 Allen, J.A., Garland, E.C, Dunlop, R.A., & Noad, M.J. (2019). Network analysis reveals underlying syntactic features in a vocally learnt mammalian display, humpback whale song.  Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Vol. 286 no. 1917 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2019.2014

Allen, J.A. (2019 – invited submission). Community through Culture: From Insects to Whales. BioEssays. Vol. 41 no. 11 pp. 1900060. DOI: 10.1002/bies.201900060

Owen, C., Rendell, L. Constantine, R., Noad, M.J., Allen, J., Andrews, O., Garrigue, C., Poole, M. M., Donnelly, D., Hauser, N., Garland, E.C. (2019). Migratory convergence allows simultaneous cultural convergence and transmission of whale song. Royal Society Open Science. Vo. 6 no. 190337. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.190337

Allen, J.A., Garland, E.C, Dunlop, R.A., & Noad, M.J. (2018). Cultural revolutions reduce complexity in the songs of humpback whales.  Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Vol. 285 no. 1891 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.2088

Allen, J.A., Garland, E.C., Murray, A., Noad, M.J., & Dunlop, R.A. (2017). Using self-organizing maps to classify humpback whale song units and quantify their similarity.  Journal for the Acoustical Society of America. Vol. 142 no. 4 pp. 1943-1952 DOI: 10.1121/1.4982040

Hardy, M.C., Desselle, M.R., & the 2016 Catch a Rising Star Consortium [with Allen, J.A. as a member of the Catch a Rising Star Consortium]. (2017). Engaging rural Australian communities in National Science Week helps increase visibility for women researchers. Royal Society Open Science. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.170548

Garland, E.C., Rendell, L., Lilley, M.S., Poole, M.M., Allen, J.A., & Noad, M.J. (2017). The devil is in the detail: quantifying vocal variation in a complex, multi-levelled, and rapidly evolving display.  Journal for the Acoustical Society of America Vol. 142 no. 1 pp. 460-472 DOI: 10.1121/1.4991320

Allen, J.A., Weinrich, M., Hoppitt, W. & Rendell, L. (2013). Network-Based Diffusion Analysis Reveals Cultural Transmission of Lobtail Feeding in Humpback Whales. Science Vol. 340 no. 6131 pp. 485-488

DOI: 10.1126/science.1231976