Your Committee

The current UKIRSC committee members are:

Katherine Whyte

University of St Andrews

Email: | Twitter: @kateywhyte



I’m a PhD student at the University of St Andrews. My research investigates how seals react to the noise produced by offshore industrial activity. Renewable energy developments such as pile driving, offshore wind farms and tidal energy devices pose a risk to seals: the noise can cause hearing damage, the moving turbine blades physical damage, and the invasive operations potentially exclude seals from their natural habitat. Using telemetry data on harbour seals (Phoca vitulina), my project aims to quantify, through statistical modelling, the effect these activities have on seal behaviour. This can inform industry how best to mitigate their effect on seal populations and how management practices, such as the use of acoustic deterrent devices, can be optimally used to ensure seals stay a safe distance from damaging noise but are not evicted from their preferred habitat.

Supervisors: Gordon Hastie, Debbie Russell, Len Thomas & Carol Sparling


William Kay

Swansea University

Email: | Twitter: @willpkay



I’m currently studying towards my PhD at Swansea University which investigates the movement ecology of grey seals Halichoerus grypus in Wales and their interactions with marine renewable energy developments. My PhD is linked with Natural Resources Wales and is a very applied project with the aim of providing evidence to meet consenting issues for the renewables industry and to aid policy makers in their decision making. I am particularly interested in the energetics of grey seals’ movements in fast flowing and turbulent tidal environments and deploy telemetry devices to record their 3D diving behaviour in extremely fine resolution to investigate this. Supervised by Dr James Bull, Prof. Luca Börger, Prof. Rory Wilson and Dr Thomas Stringell (NRW). Previous studies also undertaken at Swansea University (MSc Res Animal Movement Science & BSc Marine Biology) have investigated central-place foraging in Harbour seals Phoca vitulina and prey capture in Magellanic penguins Spheniscus magellanicus.


Heather Vance

University of St Andrews




I am a PhD student working at the Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St Andrews. My work involves deploying high resolution sound and movement sensor tags (Dtags) on wild and captive animals to compare foraging tactics of two similar sized marine mammal species with overlapping habitats and similar diets, but with differing sensory capabilities; the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) and the harbour seal (Phoca vitulina). I aim to develop novel methods to indirectly quantify selected parameters of foraging behaviour from DTag data gathered from these species. I work in collaboration with colleagues in Aarhus University, Denmark and the Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research, Gemany, with the main aim of investigating the effects of anthropogenic noise sources on these species in and around Danish and German waters.

My previous research has focused on foraging and energetics of basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus), working in conjunction with Queens University Belfast and the Irish Basking Shark Study Group, using a combination of on-animal video and movement sensors.


Alësha R. Naranjit

University of Chester




I am studying cetacean populations around Trinidad and Tobago with a focus on diversity, distribution and threats faced around these islands. I am particularly interested in cetacean interactions with artisanal fisheries in the area. My research involves a combination of opportunistic, visual boat-based surveys; field-based fisher interviews and the collating and verification of the country’s existing cetacean records from literature, photographs and specimen collections. I will be using remote sensing data to model distribution and potential cetacean overlap with fisheries. Conclusions based on this research will be used to formulate conservation and management recommendations for the country.

I am currently working toward my MPhil, supervised by Dr. Howard P. Nelson, Dr. Simon Oliver and Prof. Andrew Lawrence.