Your Committee

The current UKIRSC committee members are:


Laura Palmer

University of Bristol

Email:| Twitter: @_laurapalmer93



I am interested in bottlenose dolphin communication and the role of sociality in mediating spatial ecology.  I am currently a NERC GW4+ PhD student at the University of Bristol where my research focusses on the acoustic and movement behaviour of bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay, Wales. I am using a network of acoustic recorders to track individuals using their uniquely identifiable vocal signals (termed “signature whistles”) and to determine natural and anthropogenic drivers of their movements.

This is my second year on the UKIRSC committee and I’m looking forward to another year planning the conference and meeting everybody in our community!



James Robbins

University of Portsmouth

Email: | Twitter: @JamesRRobbins



I am a PhD student at the University of Portsmouth, trying to stop ships from hitting cetaceans. Ship strike is a global issue, but many details remain unknown. My work involves using large datasets to investigate shipping patterns, calculate collision risk and the risk of mortality for multiple species, also incorporating data from animal-bourne tags and stranded animals to compliment and test these approaches.

Outside of my PhD subject, I’m involved in projects using citizen science data to investigate cetacean distribution, and I also collaborate on research into predation techniques used by Antarctic seals. I’m looking forward to hearing all about the exciting research conducted by students in the UK & Ireland at the next conference.



Julia Sutherland

Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St Andrews 

Email: | Twitter: @jcqsutherland



I am a SUPER DTP PhD student at the Sea Mammal Research Unit (University of St. Andrews), investigating predator-prey interactions of killer whales and seals in coastal Scotland as part of the ECOPredS research project. Killer whales are known to predate both harbour and grey seals in the coastal waters of Scotland, however the extent to which they target specific species or age classes (pups vs adults) is unknown. My research aims to quantify killer whale predation rates of harbour and grey seals, understand the non-consumptive (e.g. behavioural) impacts of killer whale predation risk on seal species, and investigate whether killer whale predation may be contributing to regional declines in harbour seal populations.

I very much look forward to meeting the UKIRSC community and learning more about the innovative and exciting research being undertaken by my fellow students.



Becca Hamilton

University of Manchester

Email:  | Twitter: @BeccaAHamilton



I recently completed my MSc in Biology in collaboration with the Cedar Key Dolphin Project and I am now beginning a BBSRC DTP PhD project at the University of Manchester. My previous work has focused on communication of bottlenose dolphins during cooperative and role-specialised behaviours. For my PhD, I will be investigating the evolution and development of cooperative and mutualistic interactions. Specifically, I’ll be using experimental designs to compare cooperation in human children, non-human primates, and dolphins.

I am very excited to be serving my first year on the UKIRSC committee and am really looking forward to catching up with everyone and hearing about the progress of everyone’s research at our next conference!



Helen Hiley

The Scottish Association for Marine Science

Email: | Twitter: @HelenMHiley



I am a PhD student at the Scottish Association for Marine Science studying harbour porpoises fine scale habitat use around Scotland. By using data collected as part of the ECOMMAS, COMPASS and SAMOSAS projects (and more!), I will look at differences in presence of harbour porpoises between the East and West coasts of Scotland. I also hope to gain a greater understanding of what detections on single point mooring really mean by using passive acoustics to quantify the movement behaviour of porpoises through a fine scale array.

Before starting my PhD, I worked as a Research Assistant at the Sea Mammal Research Unit on two different projects; the harbour seal decline project and a project studying the behavioural reactions of harbour porpoise to startle-eliciting stimuli.

I am really excited to be part of the committee this year and look forward to sharing my research and hearing about all of your research projects at the next conference!



Maeva Terrapon

Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St Andrews 

Email: | Twitter: @MTerrapon



After completing my MSc in Marine Mammal Science at the University of St Andrews, I am now a PhD student at the Sea Mammal Research Unit, investigating the distribution, movements, and feeding behaviour of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the tropical southwestern Indian Ocean.

Killer whales in low latitudes worldwide are challenging to study due to their offshore habitat and low probability of encounter. In addition to compiling existing opportunistic sightings and photo-identification data into regional databases, I will use passive acoustic monitoring and stable isotope methods to assess the presence and movements of these cryptic animals throughout the region.

I am looking forward to sharing the future results of this project with the UKIRSC community, to learn more about the research conducted in this field by other postgraduate students, and to share my passion for marine mammals (and cheese!) with everyone.



Morgane Pommier

Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology

Email: | Twitter: @morgane_pommier



I am a PhD student at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, involved in cetacean and noise monitoring under the SeaMonitor project (INTERREG VA funded). I am using data collected from static acoustic receivers and an underwater glider to model cetacean occurrence and habitat-use between Malin Head (Ireland) and Islay (Scotland), depending on environmental conditions. My work focuses essentially on harbour porpoises, although we will report on other species passing through the area as well. We are also monitoring noise levels in order to identify potential disturbance to marine life. By combining these data with cetacean occurrence models, we hope to inform future conservation plans in this trans-border area.

Before the PhD, I already joined GMIT for my MSc thesis, during which I studied the acoustic occurrence and whistling behaviour of bottlenose dolphins in the Lower Shannon SAC using visual and acoustic techniques.

I am very happy to be involved in the UKIRSC committee this year, and I am looking forward to attending to the next conference and hearing all about exciting the research projects going on right now!