Our work relies on the dedication and commitment of some amazing volunteers who work tirelessly to achieve the goals of the organisation and to help Dolphin Research Australia Inc. programs a success.
Introducing our passionate crew…


Dr Elizabeth Hawkins

Founding Director, Executive Officer

liz profile photo

Dr. Liz Hawkins

Dr Hawkins has over 14 years’ experience in marine mammal research and education. Her research has focused on the ecology, biology and conservation of coastal cetaceans in Australia. She has a particular interest in the social systems, communication, population dynamics, risk assessments and health of dolphins.  Her work has been published in international peer-reviewed journals, book chapters, and internal conferences (see publications). Her work has featured in a variety of media including New Scientist, The Australian and Animal Planet. Part of her ongoing research continues to focus on the long-term trends, abundance and social systems of dolphins in the Northern New South Wales and South East Queensland region.

Dr Hawkins is a passionate educator and has helped to develop academic courses in marine mammal ecology, biology, stranding and incident response, in addition to, cetacean tour guide and operator training and education programs for school students.  She has been an advisor to the public, non-government organisations and government agencies in addition to consulting on projects as a marine mammal expert and media including the BBC for the Planet Earth series.  She often is an invited guest speaker at different events and workshops for community and specialist groups. She has been successful in obtaining over $175,000 in competitive funding including grants from the Australian Marine Mammal Centre and the Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation.

In 2012, Dr Hawkins founded Dolphin Research Australia Inc. to facilitate long-term research projects into the ecology and health of regional dolphin populations and to provide a platform for education of the community. Her current role includes the day-to-day administration and financial management of the organisation, management of research and education programs and supervision of teams.

In amongst her scientific and education roles, Dr Hawkins is also an artist and illustrator. She produces artworks in multi-media including watercolour, ink, block printing and textiles that are inspired by nature and caring for the Planet.  She has written and illustrated the ‘Scooter the dolphin & Friends Colouring & Activity Book’,  card games and greeting cards.  Her artwork is featured in our Dolphin Research Australia online store.


Isabela Keski-Franti

Director, Secretary, Education Program Manager

Isabela Keski-Franti

Isabela loves working with children. Her background in education and psychology has allowed her to develop resources for primary school students that focus on self/group/environmental awareness. She is originally from Brazil, where she taught English at primary and language schools for over ten years. She also graduated in clinical psychology. Living in Australia since 2004, Isabela has worked at Sathya Sai, a primary school based on Human Values, for over seven years. She works as a Child Support Officer – which involves students’ wellbeing and literacy support. She currently co-facilitates the Dolphin Club, a curriculum based environmental program; does holistic counselling and runs group sessions for children. Isabela’s background as a group facilitator involves psychodrama, group dynamics, sacred circle dances, cooperative games, emotional literacy and education in Human Values. Her passion for dolphins has inspired her to raise awareness about these fascinating creatures and their environment through education.


John Coulombe


John Coulombe, Director

John Coulombe is originally from California and now lives by the sea in Queensland and frequently surfs amongst the local dolphins and watches the whales go by on their yearly migration. John’s love for the ocean first began when he moved to the ocean in northern California where he was instantly captivated by whales migrating past. He subsequently began surfing and fell even more in love with the ocean and the wonder and life contained within in it. After experiencing life in many countries and many careers, including as a fireman/emergency medical technician, a computer marketing , marketing and tourism industries, John settled in Australia. John has a degree in Environmental Science and Management from Southern Cross University. As a dedicated research volunteer on the Dolphin Research Australia, Byron Bay Dolphin Research Project for many seasons, John hopes to continue working with marine mammals into the future, bringing together a keen interest in how impacts on land-based environments affect the marine environment and the dolphins and whales that call it home.


David Briggs

Director, Treasurer

David Briggs

David Briggs

David is an engineer and commercial manager. He worked for several years in mechanical and production engineering roles in Silicon Valley. After emigrating from California to northern New South Wales in 1989, he began working in the mining industry. He held senior technical and commercial roles in the international mining industry in the areas of mineral processing, alumina processing, solvent extraction, ion exchange, and water treatment over the past 25 years. His later roles focused on industrial waste remediation. David has been a surfer for nearly 50 years and has a great respect for the ocean and its many inhabitants. He has enjoyed the company of the local bottle nose dolphins on many occasions and feels great joy when they swim close enough to say Hello.



Christian Jähnichen

Technical Officer, Administration Support & Northern Rivers Dolphin Watchers Coordinator

cartoon dolphin

Grown up in Germany, Christian had nothing to do with the oceans and all the critters living in it. Instead he grew up hiking in the mountains, enjoying his winters on the snowboard or nordic skiing and paddling on lakes. After finishing his university degree in engineering, materials science (Dipl.-Ing.), he decided to go on a trip around Australia and started volunteering for Dolphin Research Australia. He fell in love with the ocean and deeply enjoys working with the dolphins. Overall he is a man of many talents and supports the organisation in numerous ways including assisting with statistical analysis, team supervision and coordination. In addition to assisting Dolphin Research Australia, Christian is also a statistical consultant and tutor.