21st Century - Biology

Celine Frere

Celine Frere is a Swiss evolutionary biologist. In 2017, she was named one of Australia’s first “Superstars of STEM” by Science & Technology Australia.[1] She is known for co-founding USC’s Detection Dogs for Conservation initiative, training sniffer dogs to aid in research and conversation efforts around endangered and protected species.

Early life and education

Frere was born and raised outside of Geneva, Switzerland.[2] After graduating high school in 1999, she moved to Australia to attend university. In 2002, she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of Queensland, where she studied humpback dolphins for her undergraduate research.[2] She then pursued her graduate education in evolutionary biology at the University of New South Wales, where she joined the Shark Bay Dolphin Project, working to understand how social and genetic factors affect dolphins’ ability to survive and reproduce.[2] She began her postdoctoral work in 2009 at the University of Queensland, transitioning from studying dolphins to studying koalas as they were undergoing a dramatic decline in their population.[2] Her research focused on using koala poop to track and trace the animals, which became the basis for her subsequent research.[3]


Frere became a research fellow at the University of the Sunshine Coast where she began her program of training dogs to follow the scent trail of koala poop to track where koalas were living and patters of habitation.[2] She and her research group tested a detection dog called Maya trained by professional dog trainer Gary Jackson to smell koala scat, demonstrating that this method was more efficient and accurate than other scat surveying methods.[4] The method served as the basis for USC’s Detection Dogs for Conservation, which she co-founded with colleague Romane Critescu.[5] The program is dedicated to promoting the use of detection dogs in environmental conservation efforts.[5] The program has since trained three dogs, including a dog called Bear, who found and rescued over 100 koalas affected by the 2020 bushfires.[6][7]

Awards and honours

  • Superstar of STEM, Science & Technology Australia, 2017[8]
  • Young Tall Poppy Science Award, Australian Institute of Policy and Science, 2020[9]


  1. ^ Threadingham, Tom. “Coast’s superstar of science is out to smash stereotypes”Sunshine Coast Daily. Retrieved 2021-01-12.
  2. Jump up to:a b c d e Kozlov, Max (January 1, 2021). “Celine Frere Chases Dragons and Koalas to Learn How They Adapt”The Scientist MagazineArchived from the original on 2021-01-01. Retrieved 2021-01-12.
  3. ^ Frere, Celine; Whisson, Desley; Cristescu, Romane H. “Drones, detection dogs, poo spotting: what’s the best way to conduct Australia’s Great Koala Count?”The Conversation. Retrieved 2021-01-12.
  4. ^ Cristescu, Romane H.; Foley, Emily; Markula, Anna; Jackson, Gary; Jones, Darryl; Frère, Céline (2015-02-10). “Accuracy and efficiency of detection dogs: a powerful new tool for koala conservation and management”Scientific Reports5 (1): 8349. Bibcode:2015NatSR…5E8349Cdoi:10.1038/srep08349ISSN 2045-2322PMC 4322364PMID 25666691.
  5. Jump up to:a b “Dogs join the fight for conservation”Sunshine Coast Daily. November 25, 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-11-24. Retrieved 2021-01-12.
  6. ^ Vega, Sharon (2020-05-05). “Superhero Dog Finds and Saves Over 100 Sick and Injured Koalas Affected by Bushfires in Australia”One Green PlanetArchived from the original on 2020-05-07. Retrieved 2021-01-12.
  7. ^ Contreras, Cydney (January 7, 2020). “Meet the Dog Helping Save Koalas and Other Wildlife From Australia Fires”E! OnlineArchived from the original on 2020-01-08. Retrieved 2021-01-12.
  8. ^ “2017 Superstars of STEM – mentors Archives”Science and Technology Australia. Retrieved 2021-01-12.
  9. ^ “Young Tall Poppy Science Awards”Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist. 2018-06-12. Archived from the original on 2020-11-24. Retrieved 2022-01-24.

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