Julia Sutherland started her PhD with the project in October 2020. Before joining us, Julia worked as Marine Species Advisor for JNCC. Her background in behavioural ecology and population biology also includes work with the Kalahari Meerkat Project (KMP) and Elephant Seal Research Group (ESRG) in the Falkland Islands. Already before her PhD field work, she was fortunate enough to spot killer whales in Shetland in 2018 while assisting with tagging of red-throated divers. The PhD supervisor team includes Saana Isojunno and Gordon Hastie (see below), Peter Tyack (University of St Andrews), Joe Onoufriou (Marine Scotland Science) and Karen Hall (NatureScot).

Saana Isojunno is a senior research fellow at the Centre for Research into Ecological & Environmental Modelling (CREEM) and is also affiliated with the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St Andrews. Saana pulled the ECOPredS project together and continues to drive it forward. Her research in animal ecology strives to understand individual flexibility and resilience to cope with environmental stressors and change, especially in foraging and predator-prey contexts. You can read more about her work at her research/outreach website.

Gordon Hastie is a senior research fellow in SMRU. Gordon’s research is focused on how marine mammals utilize their dynamic marine environment and adjust to both natural and anthropogenic changes – including tidal flows, predation risk, renewable energy development and other underwater noise sources.

Chloé Deleu completed her Master’s degree in Marine Biology and Ecology at the University of Bordeaux in France. Her project with ECOPredS investigates fine-scale habitat use of killer whales and potential risk-taking in nearshore waters. This includes an analysis of image and video data to quantify the whales’ proximity to shore as a function of habitat type and killer whale age class.

Kalliopi Gkikopoulou is a postdoctoral acoustic analyst in SMRU who worked on the project’s sound recordings. Popi used automated detection methods (Pamguard) as well as listening and manual inspection of spectrograms to detect and characterize killer whale sounds. The acoustic data included both continuous recordings made in Scapa Flow, Orkney (July – August 2019) and collaborator data from the West Coast of Scotland (COMPASS project). The acoustic analysis was generously funded by the the Carnegie Trust.

Sea Mammal Research Unit

SMRU is the home of the ECOPredS project at the University of St Andrews. SMRU monitors the population status and investigates the ecology of harbour seals and grey seals in the UK, with a particular focus on their habitat use and movements through satellite tagging. The harbour seal decline project investigates the multiple potential factors involved in the local population declines of harbour seals in Scotland. Another SMRU project, SMRUsealpred, investigates grey seal-inflicted mortality on marine mammals.

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Anna Pfoertner analysed data from ECOPredS for her 4th year undergraduate dissertation at SAMS/UHI under the supervision of Dr Denise Risch (SAMS). Anna’s dissertation investigated how the communication range and detectability of killer whales is impacted by tidally influenced ambient noise. For this, she was able to use ECOPredS recordings made at Scapa Flow, Orkney, with support and advice from Saana, and has shared her annotations with ECOPredS in return. Anna is hoping to progress into a career in marine mammal conservation.

Riccardo Alpa completed a remote internship with ECOPredS on the potential influence of tides on killer whale occurrence around Pentland Firth and Shetland, as part of his MSc studies (large marine vertebrates programme, University of Bologna) in 2021. For his Msc, Riccardo also interned for the Icelandic Orca Project, supervised by Dr Filipa Samarra. Riccardo is currently a marine Biologist on board an Italian whale-watching company, and teaches Science and Math in Secondary school. Riccardo is passionate about sharing knowledge and respect for the sea.

Matt Audley worked alongside Julia in Shetland in summer 2021. Originally a landscape gardener from Buckinghamshire, Matt moved to Shetland in 2019. He has done his Green badge tourist guide training and plans to set up a tour guide business. He has a huge passion for the natural world and loves to spend his time in the great outdoors with his dog Taz. Matt’s position with the project was funded by the the Carnegie Trust.

Emily Hague volunteered with ECOPredS in 2019, helping kick-start and promote the citizen science data collection through her On the Killer Whale Trail blog and camping trip to Shetland in summer 2019. The citizen science pilot phase was generously funded by the Sea Changers. Emily is currently doing a PhD and continues to blog about her adventures in marine mammal science.

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