Your Committee

The current UKIRSC committee members are:




Laura Palmer

Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St Andrews & University of Bristol

Email: | Twitter: @_laurapalmer93


I am a Research Assistant at the Sea Mammal Research Unit, St Andrews. My current research uses passive acoustics to quantify the presence and movement behaviour of cetaceans around tidal turbines. Our aim is to fill knowledge gaps in our current understanding of collision risk, such as whether individuals behaviourally respond to operation of the turbine, increasing or decreasing their risk of collision.

In September, I will start my PhD at the University of Bristol. For my PhD, I will use passive acoustics and behavioural follows to investigate space-use of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Cardigan Bay, Wales where there are two Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).

I look forward to discussing my research and hearing about all the exciting research going on in the UKIRSC 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.




Cynthia Barile

Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology

Email: | Twitter: @cynthia_barile


Holding a B.Sc. in Neuroscience and M.Sc. in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, I am currently a PhD student in the Marine and Freshwater Research Centre in the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. My research focuses on deep-diving cetaceans present in offshore Irish waters, namely sperm whales, pilot whales and beaked whales. I aim on establishing models of habitat use for these species based on bioacoustic data collected using fixed bottom-mounted autonomous acoustic recorders. Part of my project focuses on the impacts of anthropogenic noise on these species. Additionally, I aim to develop an approach to automatically detect on-axis sperm whale clicks in my datasets, to apply acoustic methods allowing the estimation of size-classes in the population. I work under the supervision of Drs. Joanne O’Brien and Simon Berrow (GMIT), in collaboration with Woodside Petroleum LTD.




Izzy Langley

Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St Andrews

Email: | Twitter: @LangleyIzzy


I am a PhD student at the Sea Mammal Research Unit, investigating the inter-specific interactions of seal species in the UK; specifically looking at the role of grey seals in the regional harbour seal decline.

Grey and harbour seal distributions overlap outside of breeding and moulting, which makes it likely that they compete for resources through exploitative and interference competition. Recent evidence has found that they also interact through asymmetric intraguild predation. I plan to employ both spatial and population modelling methods to understand how inter-specific competition and predation could contribute to population decline.

I really value the networks I have developed through the UKIRSC community and I look forward to learning more about everyone’s research and experience working in marine mammal science.




Laura Oller

University of Abertay

Email: | Twitter: @Laura__Oller


I am a postgraduate research student based at University of Abertay, in collaboration with the Sea Mammal Research Unit.

My research focuses on understanding how grey seals cope with blubber tissue expansion. I use a physiological comparative approach to describe what strategies seals have developed differently than other mammals to be able to store fat safely. Fat storage is essential for grey seal’s survival; however, excessive fat deposition is associated with detrimental health effect in humans and other mammals. Therefore, I am interested in studying those processes that are a potential challenge for an animal of extreme fat deposition, particularly oxygen management and its downstream effects, a fundamental factor for a correct tissue function.

I look forward to sharing my fascinating project with the UKIRSC community as well as listening the wide variety of projects that are being developed by other postgraduate students.




María Pérez Tadeo

Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology

Email: | Twitter: @mariaptadeo 

My background includes a BSc in Marine Sciences and a MSc in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation.

I’m currently a PhD student at the Marine and Freshwater Research Centre in GMIT. I’m working on the population assessment of Grey (Halichoerus grypus) and Harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) on the west coast of Ireland through a combination of methods (behaviour, acoustic and photo-ID techniques) and its implication for management and conservation. Part of my research if focused on the assessment of anthropogenic disturbances due to ecotourism on Grey seals.

The outcomes of this research will be used to provide policy advice and help Ireland meet legislative obligations in relation to the conservation of these species, addressing concerns that are required under the Habitats Directive and the Marine Strategy framework Directive.

Supervised by Dr Joanne O’Brien and Dr Martin Gammell, who are also carrying out research at GMIT.