Category Archives: Academia

New paper: Behavioural and acoustical responses of dolphins to vessel traffic and noise

Last night, my sixth (and final) PhD paper was published in the journal Scientific Reports!

In earlier papers, I established that the Swan River is a pretty noisy place.  One of the noisiest sites from an anthropogenic perspective is the Fremantle Inner Harbour, which experiences high levels of vessel traffic.  However, during my initial visual observations I discovered that dolphins continued using the harbour, even though it was a busy noisy environment.  So in this latest paper, I searched for evidence of dolphins responding to boats and noise at a subtler scale.

To do this, I used a combination of visual and acoustic monitoring techniques.  I found that dolphins significantly increased their movement speeds when vessel traffic occurred at high levels.  Similarly, dolphins also changed their behavioural budgets at high vessel densities, spending more time travelling and less time resting or socialising.

I monitored dolphin movement speeds and behaviours, to see how these changed as vessel traffic increased

I also looked for acoustic responses, by measuring nine characteristics to describe the shape and frequencies of dolphin whistles in different noise scenarios.  I found that all nine of these characteristics varied with increasing levels of broadband noise, and that the response was particularly strong for low-frequency noise.

I used nine characteristics to describe dolphin whistles

I’ve spoken before about the importance of scientific publishing, in terms of career brownie points for researchers.  So I’m pretty chuffed to have completed publishing my PhD!  To view the full list of papers from this and other projects, check out my Publications page.  Now to deal with all the ‘leftover’ PhD data that I collected, but didn’t get around to including!


Associate Editor of Austral Ecology

Today I received my first email addressed to “Dear Dr Marley…

And as if that wasn’t enough of a buzz, the email itself was to welcome me onboard as a new Associate Editor for the scientific journal Austral Ecology!

The daunting world of academic publishing…

Most scientific work is published in an academic journal.  The idea is that a piece of work is reviewed by your peers, who can either reject it as unacceptable or recommend it for publication (often after implementing some improvements).  So everything that appears in academic journals has generally been vetted by at least two experts in the field through this ‘peer review’ system. This is to ensure the quality of work being published, as researchers are judged by their publications when applying for jobs and grants.  In some cases, the survival of whole university departments depends on their publication records.

But it’s not just about churning out article after article.  There are thousands of journals out there for different scientific fields, each of which with its own level of prestige.  And your success as a scientist depends on getting your work published in good-quality journals.

Austral Ecology is the official journal of the Ecological Society of Australia (ESA), and is the premier journal of basic and applied ecology in the Southern Hemisphere. This includes experimental, observational or theoretical studies on terrestrial, marine or freshwater systems.  ESA is the main professional association for ecologists in Australia, with over 1,500 members across the country.

The most striking ecological system I’ve ever worked in – the Kimberley of NW Australia

As an Associate Editor, I will be responsible for managing several manuscripts per year.  This involves finding suitable peer reviewers for each article, and making recommendations of the suitability of that article for publication based on the reviews received.

From my own experience, I know that a good editor makes all the difference.  When publishing my first paper, I received excellent support from the journal editor, who guided me through this overwhelmingly daunting process.  I have also received support from an editor in the past when a peer reviewed behaved less-than-professionally when assessing my work.  I believe having a good editor can make all the difference for authors – and I look forward to contributing to this process.