Dr. Ada Natoli

Assistant Professor
  • Ph.D. in Molecular Ecology, School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, University of Durham, UK,
  • Degree in Biology, Plant Genetics, Department of Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology, University of Milan, Italy

Dr. Natoli is a molecular ecologist with primary interest in utilizing molecular markers and monitoring techniques to investigate population structure and evolutionary mechanisms that shape populations in order to support conservation of species.

She has a broad background covering plant genetics, chemistry, microbiology and general ecology, but her main research focuses on marine megafauna, in particular whales and dolphins for which species she has extensive monitoring experience.

She is currently concentrating her efforts on the cetacean species occurring in the Gulf and Northern Indian Ocean coordinating with the local authorities and international research groups, developing different lines of long term research to support the development of conservation measures for these species. These include boat based and land based monitoring surveys, stranding monitoring, diet and genetic analysis and citizen science.

Ada is currently part of the IUCN cetacean specialist (https://iucn-csg.org/) list and she is involved in the International Whaling Commission https://iwc.int/home.

Google Scholar Profile


  • Adjunct Assistant Professor – Dept. of Environmental Science, Zayed University Dubai – 2016 -2019
  • Scientific External consultant – 2017-2018
  • Adjunct Assistant Professor – Dept. Biological Sciences, UAE University - 2010 – 2013
  • External scientific collaborator – advisor - 2005 – 2010
  • Researcher – Department of Zootechnics, University of Piacenza (Italy) - 1998
  • Researcher – Tethys Research Institute (Italy) - 1995-2000


Abu Dhabi - Khalifa City, FF1-1-052


+971 2 5993298

Teaching Areas

  • Biology
  • Population genetics
  • Ecology
  • Marine mammals

Research and Professional Activities

  • 26 years of involvement in cetacean research

  • 19 internationally peer reviewed scientific publications with 1286 citations

  • 16 abstracts for international conferences

  • Co-author on two books on Marine mammals

  • 22 participations to national workshops and meetings of which 11 as invited speakers

  • 9 International Whaling commission scientific committee as invited participant or member of the Italian Delegation

  • Reviewer for international scientific journals and external examiner for PhD thesis



UAE Dolphin Project - Project Director and founder- UAE Dolphin Project 2013 – present
Non-profit initiative dedicated to investigating the dolphin population along the UAE coastline, to provide scientific information and to support the conservation of these local marine species (https://www.uaedolphinproject.org/)

Conservation genetics of Hawksbill turtles in UAE - Project aimed to determine the population identity and structure of the UAE Hawksbill turtle population to support the implementation of conservation measure.

Ionian Dolphin Project - A long-term research project aimed to the study of the ecology, status and conservation of bottlenose and common dolphins in the Ionian Sea (Greece).


IUCN/SSC Cetacean Specialist Group ( http://www.iucn-csg.org/index.php/home/)

Member of The Marine Mammal Science


  • Moura, A.E., Shreves, K., Pilot, M., Andrews, K.R., Moore, D.M., Kishida, T., Möller, L., Natoli, A., Gaspari, S., McGowen, M. and Gray, H., 2020. Phylogenomics of the genus Tursiops and closely related Delphininae reveals extensive reticulation among lineages and provides inference about eco-evolutionary drivers. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 146, p.106756.

  • Gray, H., Nishida, S., Welch, A. J., Moura, A. E., Tanabe, S., Kiani, M. S., Culloch, R., Möller, L., Natoli, A., Ponnampalam, L. S., Minton, G., Gore, M., Collins, T., Willson, A., Baldwin, R., Hoelzel, A. R., 2018. Cryptic lineage differentiation among Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in the northwest Indian Ocean. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 122. pp. 1-14. ISSN 1055-7903.

  • Natoli A., Phillips K. P., Richardson D. S., Jabado R.. W., 2017. Low genetic diversity after a bottleneck in a population of a Critically Endangered migratory marine turtle species. J. Exper. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 491, 9-18.

  • Gonzalvo J., Lauriano G., Hammond P.S., Viaud-Martinez K.A., Fossi M.C., Natoli A., Marsili L., 2016. The Gulf of Ambracia’s Common Bottlenose Dolphins, Tursiops truncatus: A Highly Dense and yet Threatened Population. In Advances in Marine Biology Volume 75; Mediterranean Marine Mammal Ecology and Conservation. doi:10.1016/bs.amb.2016.07.002

  • Richards V.P., Greig T.W, Fair P.A., Mcculloch S.D., Politz C., Natoli A., Driscoll C.A., Hoelzel A.R., David V., Bossart G.D., Lopez J.V. 2013. Patterns of Population Structure for Inshore Bottlenose Dolphins along the Eastern United States. J.Hered. 104(6): 765–778. 

  • Moura A, Nielsen S.C.A., Vilstrup J.T., Moreno-Mayar J.V., Gilbert M.T.P., Gray H., Natoli A., Möller L., Hoelzel A.R. 2013. Recent diversification of a marine genus tracks habitat preference and environmental change. Syst. Biol. 62 (6): 865-77. 

  • Moura A, Natoli A, Rogan E., Hoelzel A.R., 2013. Atypical panmixia in a European dolphin species, and local differentiation likely associated with a recent population bottleneck. J. Evol. Biol., 26: 63-75. 

  • Stockin K.A., Amaral A.R., Latimer J., Lambert D.M. & Natoli A., 2013. Population genetic structure and taxonomy of the common dolphin (Delphinus sp.) at its southernmost range limit: New Zealand waters. Mar. Mamm. Sci., 30 (1): 44-63. 

  • Moura A, Natoli A, Rogan E., Hoelzel A.R., 2012. Evolution of Functional Genes in Cetaceans Driven by Natural Selection on a Phylogenetic and Population Level. Evol.Biol. 40 (3): 341-354. 

  • Vassilakos D., Natoli A., Dahlheim M., Hoelzel A.R, 2009. Balancing and directional selection at exon-2 of the MHC DQB1 locus among populations of Odontocete cetaceans. Mol. Biol. Evol. 26: 681-9.

  • Natoli A., Cañadas A., Vaquero C., Politi E., Fernández-Piqueras J., Hoelzel A.R., 2008. Conservation genetics of the short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) in the Mediterranean Sea and in the eastern North Atlantic Ocean. Conservation Genetics, 9:1479-1487. 

  • Natoli A., Peddermors V.M., Hoelzel A.R., 2008. Population structure of bottlenose dolphins impacted by bycatch along the east coast of South Africa. Conservation genetics. 9(3): 627-636. 

  • Gaspari, S., Natoli, A., 2006. Risso's dolphin Grampus griseus (Mediterranean subpopulation). In: Reeves, R.R., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G. (Eds.), The Status and Distribution of Cetaceans in the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea, IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation, Malaga, Spain, pp. 29-33. 

  • Natoli A., Cañadas A., Peddemors V. M., Aguilar A., Vaquero C., Fernandez-Piqueras P. and Hoelzel A. R., 2006. Phylogeography and alpha taxonomy of the common dolphin (delphinus sp.). J. Evol. Biol. 19:943- 954. 

  • Natoli A., Birkun A., Aguilar A., Lopez A. and Hoelzel A.R. 2005. Habitat structure and the dispersal of male and female bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) Proc. R. Soc. B 272: 1217-1226. 

  • Natoli A., Peddermors V.M., Hoelzel A.R. 2004. Population structure and speciation in the genus Tursiops based on microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA analyses. J. Evol. Biol. 17(2): 363-75. 

  • Fossi M.C., Marsili L., Neri G., Natoli A., Politi E., Panigada S. 2003. The use of a non-lethal tool for evaluating toxicological hazard of organochlorine contaminants in Mediterranean cetaceans: new data 10 years after the first paper published in MPB. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 46(8): 972-82. 

  • Hoelzel A.R., Natoli A., Dahlheim M.E., Olavarria C., Baird R.W., Black N.A., 2002. Low worldwide genetic diversity in the killer whale (Orcinus orca): implications for demographic history. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. Biol. Sci. 2; 269:1467-73. 

  • Natoli A., Gorni C., Chedgani F., Ajmone-Marsan P., Colombi C., Lorenzoni C., Marocco A. 2002. Identification of QTLs associated with sweet sorghum quality. Maydica 47:311-322.