AI-based innovations for addressing challenges in the conservation of marine megafauna and their critical habitats


Cipriano Giulia Cipriano

Giulia Cipriano

Department of Biosciences, Biotechnologies and Environment, University of Bari, Bari, Italy

Maglietta Rosalia Maglietta

Rosalia Maglietta

Institute of Intelligent Industrial Systems and Technologies for Advanced Manufacturing, CNR, Bari, Italy

Cherubini Carla Cherubini

Carla Cherubini

University of Bari / National Research Council of Italy (CNR), Institute of Intelligent Industrial Technologies and Systems for Advanced Manufacturing (STIIMA), Bari, Italy

Akkaya Aylin Akkaya

Aylin Akkaya

DMAD-Marine Mammals Research Association, Turkey and Montenegro

Quiñones-Lebrón Shakira G. Quiñones-Lebrón

Shakira G. Quiñones-Lebrón

Morigenos - Slovenian Marine Mammal Society, Piran, Slovenia

Genov Tilen Genov

Tilen Genov

Morigenos - Slovenian Marine Mammal Society, Piran, Slovenia


Marine ecosystems and marine megafauna are affected by a multitude of anthropogenic stressors. New approaches are needed in improving our ability to study and monitor these species, and effectively evaluate any conservation action. In this Special Session we delve into the uniquely intricate web of conservation challenges faced by marine megafauna (marine mammals, sea turtles, and elasmobranchs) in the Mediterranean region and propose innovative approaches to address them. The session will explore the complex interplay of anthropogenic threats to marine megafauna, including habitat destruction, overfishing, maritime traffic, and underwater noise pollution, and their cumulative impacts on the integrity of the eco-region, and how technological developments can support marine conservation.

This Special Session is open to receiving contributions and cutting-edge research aimed to fill the gap between empirical science and conservation practice by the application of innovative methodologies and technological solutions tailored to the Mediterranean Sea. Ranging from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced telemetry to acoustic monitoring techniques and ecological modeling, we explore a diverse array of tools and approaches to inform evidence-based conservation.

Join us in this exploration of the unique conservation challenges and opportunities inherent to the Mediterranean Sea, as we endeavor to safeguard its rich marine heritage for future generations.


Main topics for this Special Session include:

  • integrated approaches and methodologies to the scientific research of marine megafauna;
  • Application of innovative approaches and solutions, including but not limited to Artificial Intelligence approaches to provide insight into marine ecology conservation;
  • Risks and threats facing by marine megafauna;
  • Tools and methodological approaches to assess human-driven pressures on marine priority habitat and species.


Giulia Cipriano, holds a PhD in Environmental Science and she is a research fellow in Ecology at the Department of Biosciences, Biotechnologies and Environment of the University of Bari. Her main scientific research interest is the application of biological, mathematical models to population dynamics focused on marine species especially cetaceans. She performs her scientific activity also in the field of fishery stock assessment and environmental remediation aimed to implement management measure of anthropogenic pressures which insist in Taranto seas and protection actions of species of particular conservation interest. She shows expertise in the implementation and analysis of biological and environmental data in GIS environment. She has (co)-authored more than 60 scientific publications in congress proceedings, national and international ISI journals and she is a reviewer for international ISI journals.

Rosalia Maglietta, holding a Ph.D. in Physics and a Master’s degree in Remote Sensing from the University of Bari, currently serves as Senior Researcher at the National Research Council (Italy). Her primary research interests lie in Generative Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and pattern recognition, with specific application areas encompassing marine biology, ecology, bioinformatics, and medicine. Additionally, she holds the position of Associate Researcher at the Foundation Centro-Euro Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici (CMCC), where she focuses on developing strategies based on AI to enhance new discoveries in the environmental field, particularly in relation to climate change. Having collaborated on numerous scientific projects, Rosalia has contributed to the observation, monitoring, modeling, and understanding of both inland and marine environments, utilizing advanced technologies and intelligent systems. Notably, she has established a collaborative partnership with the Jonian Dolphin Conservation NGO, providing insights for structured data collection and intelligent analysis of cetacean observations. With a portfolio boasting over 100 co-authored papers in international journals and conferences, Rosalia remains dedicated to advancing interdisciplinary research and sharing valuable insights with the scientific community.

Carla Cherubini, holds a Master’s Degree in Ecology and Ethology for Nature Conservation from the University of Parma. She is a PhD student in the interuniversity Industry 4.0 PhD program at the Polytechnic University of Bari and University of Bari. The core of her PhD project and related research activities is in the field of machine learning and ecological data science. Her core expertise is in marine biology, ecology and marine environmental conservation. She is mostly motivated in exploiting machine learning and statistical framework with the aim of investigating how target species and habitat respond to anthropogenic stressors and climate change, in order to inform an improvement of conservation policy.

Aylin Akkaya, holds a PhD to assess the impact of marine traffic on the behavioral budget of delphinids in the Istanbul Strait. She founded DMAD-Marine Mammals Research Association in 2015 after working in the field of animal behavior for over 10 years and currently works as a director of DMAD as well as the marine mammal consultant of WWF-Turkey. Her background mainly focused on gathering the baseline information for threatened species and measuring the impact of human endured activities on these wild animals. Her main scientific interests lie in survey designs, geographic information systems, animal behavior, photo-identification, population estimates, species voca l repertoire and threat assessment. Currently, she runs dedicated surveys within the least studied regions of the Mediterranean Sea to fill the existing knowledge gaps on cetaceans for effective conservation and mitigation strategies. She has published over 30 articles in international journals to reveal the first results of dedicated efforts, mainly in Turkey and Montenegro.

Shakira G. Quiñones-Lebrón, is a behavioural ecologist with experience in both vertebrate and invertebrate research. She is currently a researcher at Morigenos - Slovenian Marine Mammal Society, and a Research Affiliate at MCERC (Marine and Coastal Education and Research Center). In 2012, she completed her Master’s degree at the University of Puerto Rico with a focus on behaviour, bioacoustics, and conservation of bottlenose dolphins. Between 2010 and 2014, she coordinated research and outreach projects for the Bocas del Toro dolphin conservation project in Panama. She obtained her PhD at the University of Ljubljana in 2020 with a focus on evolutionary and behavioural ecology.

Dr. Tilen Genov, is a marine biologist specialising in marine mammals and conservation. He holds an MSc degree from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and MRes and PhD degrees from the University of St Andrews, UK. With over 20 years of research experience across various regions, including the Mediterranean, Red, Arabian, and North Seas, as well as the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans, his work focuses on marine mammal population dynamics, habitat use, social structure, behaviour and interactions with fisheries, chemical pollutants and underwater noise. He is the founder of Morigenos – Slovenian Marine Mammal Society and serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Primorska, Slovenia. He is actively involved in international conservation efforts, including membership in the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group and the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. His dedication to marine conservation has earned him the European Cetacean Society's Mandy McMath Conservation Award.