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Dr. Donna Cawthorn

Marie Curie Individual Fellow, SNAPTRACE

I am a food scientist working at the interface between food security, wildlife utilisation and illicit trade, with a particular passion for the fisheries and bushmeat trade. I also have a deep-seated interest in the socioeconomic and human behavioural drivers of wildlife demand and consumption, as well as the multitude of factors that threaten the sustainability of the future supply.


Hailing from South Africa, I completed my PhD at the University of Stellenbosch in 2011, focusing on the establishment of a DNA-sequence database for South African fish species, as well as the use of DNA barcoding to evaluate the extent of seafood mislabelling in the country. This work was extended during my five-year post-doctoral stint at the same university, employing various DNA-based methods to identify the species origin of domestic meats and wildlife products. During my post-graduate studies in South Africa, I also worked as consultant food scientist and technical manager of a commercial laboratory for seven years, gaining expertise on food allergens, immunological techniques, food legislation and laboratory accreditation.


In June 2016, I joined the Mariani Lab at the University of Salford to initiate my current project – SNAPTRACE. This project aims to enhance our understanding of the intricacies of global seafood trade and to pave the way forward for more transparent, traceable and sustainable seafood markets, using one of the world’s most highly-prized, yet misunderstood, groups of fishes as a model: the snappers, family Lutjanidae.

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Selected publications


  • Cawthorn, D.M. & Hoffman, L.C. (2016). Controversial cuisine: A global account of the demand, supply and acceptance of "unconventional" and "exotic" meats. Meat Science, in press. doi: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2016.04.017. 

  • Cawthorn, D.M. & Hoffman, L.C. (2015). The bushmeat and food security nexus: a global account of the contributions, conundrums and ethical collisions. Food Research International, 76, 906–925.

  • Cawthorn, D.M., Duncan, J., Kastern, C., Francis, J. & Hoffman, L.C. (2015). Fish species substitution and misnaming in South Africa: an economic, safety and sustainability conundrum revisited. Food Chemistry, 185, 165–181.

  • Cawthorn, D.M., Hoffman, L.C., Witthuhn, R., Duncan, J., Kastern, C., Francis, J. & Steinman, H. (2015). Harnessing the power of DNA barcoding to detect and deter fish mislabelling in South Africa. Genome, 58, 204.

  • Cawthorn, D.M., Steinman, H.A. & Hoffman, L.C. (2013). A high incidence of species substitution and mislabelling detected in meat products in South Africa. Food Control, 32, 440–449.

  • Cawthorn, D.M., Steinman, H.A. & Witthuhn, R.C. (2012). DNA barcoding reveals a high incidence of fish species misrepresentation and substitution on the South African market. Food Research International, 46, 30–40.



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