I’m a marine biologist specialising in marine mammal research. In particular, I am interested in behaviour, ecology and underwater acoustics. But I also get excited about science communication and encouraging other people to take an interest in the natural world.
The Back Story…
Originally from a wee town called Westhill in Scotland, I completed my BSc Zoology (Hons) at the University of Aberdeen in 2008. For my honours project I studied aggression in bottlenose dolphins from different populations around Scotland. After this I did a MRes Marine Mammal Science at the University of St Andrews culminating on a research project investigating the behaviour of grey seals at a haul-out site (which also turned out to be an unofficial nudist beach – different story).
Here I met my partner and fellow marine biologist Phil (on the course not the nudist beach). We travelled to Australia in 2010 for a year of volunteering on various whale and dolphin research projects, then returned in 2011 so Phil could begin his PhD at the University of Western Australia looking at mobile oceanic predators and submarine topography. I was accepted for a PhD at Curtin University but unfortunately had no funding… For the next two years I toured Western Australia as a science communicator whilst looking for PhD funding and volunteering on several marine mammal projects. During this time I also worked at three different universities as a research assistant, lecturer and tutor.
In July 2013 I was able to start my PhD at the Centre for Marine Science and Technology at Curtin University. I will be looking at the behavioural and acoustical responses of coastal dolphins to noisy environments. I am primarily working with bottlenose dolphins (Swan River) and snubfin dolphins (Roebuck Bay) in Western Australia for my PhD project.
I’ll give a brief summary now, but if you have a spare 3mins check out my winning presentation from the 3-Minute-Thesis (3MT) Competition!
As human activities continue to expand across the marine environment, anthropogenic noise in the ocean is also rapidly increasing. This is of particular concern to marine mammals due to their elaborate and extreme acoustic specialisations. The strongest source of man-made underwater noise is motorised vessel traffic. Thus coastal species – such as coastal dolphins – are particularly at risk from the effects of noise pollution due to their high degree of habitat-overlap with human activities. This project aims to investigate the behaviour (both physical and acoustic) of dolphins in areas of high and low underwater noise.
I’m amazed at how many scientists are reluctant to communicate their research with the general public. Many are unsure how to talk to non-scientists, or worry that no one will be interested. Often scientists are stressed and low on time, but the internet provides a quick, easy way of spreading news with minimal effort. We need to become “virtual scientists”.
I love talking about what I do, and this blog acts as another platform for me to communicate my research and thoughts on science. Here I’ll be talking about my PhD work, science news, my life as a scientist, and throwing in occasional tips on science communication. I aim to enthuse rather than educate, and just want to share my own enthusiasm for science and the natural world. But at the same time I want to promote changing from a Science Geek to a Science Hero!