I am a marine mammal ecologist currently researching collisions between vessels and whales as part of a PhD.
Originally from Scotland, I studied BSc (Hons) Zoology at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, followed by MSc Marine Biology at University College Cork in Ireland. For several years post-graduation, I worked on short-term projects researching marine mammals in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. In 2014 I began working on remote islands, researching seals. First was the Farallones off the California coast, where I developed skills in demographic and behavioural observations of a breeding northern elephant seal colony, and learned how to tag animals. These skills prepared me for my next job with the British Antarctic Survey. Based on South Georgia for 18 months, I was responsible for long-term monitoring of Antarctic fur seals and leopard seals. With only three others present over-winter, we had a range of responsibilities and I became the lab manager and also in charge of communications.
Back in the 'real-world', I became a research assistant at Plymouth University, analysing acoustic and citizen science data. This led to employment with one of the contractors, ORCA, a citizen science charity who train members of the public to collect marine mammal data from ferries and cruise ships. As their Science Officer, I handled their enormous dataset and led the peer-reviewed publications and analyses. I continued my role at Plymouth University as a Visiting Researcher, supervising MRes students. During my time at ORCA, I continued and led a 'ship strike' project, investigating the behavioural responses of fin whales to ferries in the Bay of Biscay. This project has now expanded as my PhD research.
Working with numerous external partners, my PhD aims to: 1) Quantify spatio-temporal patterns in vessel traffic in the North-East Atlantic; 2) Investigate overlap, collision risk, and probability of fatality of large baleen whales; 3) Determine the behavioural response of cetaceans to an oncoming vessel; 4) Incorporate the opinions and experiences of vessel crews to suggest mitigation strategies.
I am also Associate Editor for the journal Marine Biodiversity Records, for whom I handle marine mammal, shark and ray manuscripts.