Marine biology, ecology and fisheries.

Prof. Graham Pierce's group works on the biology and ecology of a range of marine animals, particularly cephalopods, cetaceans and fish, including studies on life history, parasites, habitat requirements, environmental relationships and trophic interactions, using data and samples from a variety of sources, including a long-standing collaboration with the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme.

A second focus is fisheries, including the assessment of target species, quantifying effects on non-target species, and the management measures and governance systems needed to achieve sustainable resource use.

Over the last 15 years we have also become increasing involved with statistical modelling and collaborate with Dr Alain Zuur and Dr Elena Ieno of Highland Statistics Ltd. In addition to laboratory work and data analysis carried out at Oceanlab, we carry out analyses of a range of ecological (e.g. stable isotopes, fatty acids, metals and persistent organic pollutants) and genetic markers in collaboration with other groups within the university and elsewhere, notably Marine Science Scotland and University of La Rochelle.

Our work on cephalopods started in 1990, through involvement with the first of a series of EU-funded projects on biology and fisheries of squid and other cephalopods, the origin of long-standing collaborations with research institutes and universities in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Ireland and elsewhere.

More recently we have been working on habitat modelling for cephalopods and developing candidate indicators of the status of cephalopods to meet requirements of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Our work on marine mammals originated in the mid-1980s, when we started work on seal diets; more recently, attention has turned to interactions between seals and humans in the Ythan estuary, on Oceanlab's doorstep.

Since the early 1990s we have increasingly focused on the life history and ecology of cetaceans, including work on diet, age and growth, maturation, contaminant bioaccumulation, ecological tracers, population identification, interactions with fisheries and habitat use. Building on EU projects such as BIOCET (2001-04) this work increasingly involves national and  international collaborations, with research institutes, universities and NGOs in the UK, France, Spain, Ireland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, as well as PhD projects based in Italy, Libya and West Africa.

We have also worked on a range of fish species and fisheries, both demersal and pelagic, in the North Sea, Iberian Peninsula and Mediterranean. Increasingly, we are looking management measures and governance systems for fisheries, in particular implementation issues, and collaborating with social scientists and economists. The group also hosts the oil industry-funded North Sea Bird Club.


Current and recent projects

Current and recent projects from the Pierce Group

  • University of Aveiro and Caixa Geral de Depósitos: Funding for Visiting Chair in Marine Studies at University of Aveiro (2012-15).
  • Defra: Cephalopod indicators for the MSFD (2013-14).
  • EU FP7: Parasite Risk Assessment with Integrated Tools in EU fish production value chains (Partners, with Prof Norval Strachan and Prof Ioannis Theodossiou, 2013-2016).
  • Scottish Agricultural College: Life history studies on cetaceans (with Fiona Read, ongoing)
  • Scottish Natural Heritage: Can Essential Habitat Modelling For The Lesser Octopus Eledone cirrhosa Help Identify Key Areas For Risso’s Dolphin Grampus griseus In Scottish Waters? (2012)
  • ASCOBANS: Understanding harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)-fishery interactions in the north-west Iberian Peninsula (with Fiona Read, 2010-11)
  • European Commission Lifelong Learning Programme: Aquaculture, Fisheries & Aquatic Resource Management (2012-2014)
Selected publications

Selected publications from the Pierce Group

  • Learmonth, J.A., Murphy, S., Luque, P.L., Reid, R.J., Patterson, I.A.P., Brownlow, A., Ross, H.M., Barley, J., Santos, M.B. & Pierce, G.J., In Press. Life history of harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) in Scottish (UK) waters. Marine Mammal Science.
  • MacLeod, C.D., MacLeod, R., Learmonth, J.A., Cresswell, W. & Pierce, G.J., In Press. Predicting population level risk effects of predation from the responses of individuals. Ecology.
  • Goetz, S., Read, F.L., Santos, M.B., Pita, C. & Pierce, G.J., 2014. Cetacean–fishery interactions in Galicia (NW Spain): results and management implications of a face-to-face interview survey of local fishers. ICES Journal of Marine Science 71, 604-617.
  • Lambert, E., Pierce, G.J., Hall, K., Brereton, T., Dunn, T.E., Wall, D., Jepson, P.D., Deaville, R. & MacLeod, C.D., 2014. Cetacean range and climate in the eastern North Atlantic: future predictions and implications for conservation. Global Change Biology 20, 1782-1793.
  • MacLeod, C.D., Santos, M.B., Burns, F., Brownlow, A. & Pierce, G.J., 2014. Can habitat modelling for the octopus Eledone cirrhosa help identify key areas for Risso’s dolphin in Scottish waters? Hydrobiologia 725, 125-136.
  • Méndez-Fernandez, P., Webster, L., Chouvelon, T., Bustamante, P., Ferreira, M., González, A.F., López, A., Moffat, C.F., Pierce, G.J., Read, F.L., Russell, M., Santos, M.B., Spitz, J., Vingada, J.V. & Caurant, F., 2014. An assessment of contaminant concentrations in toothed whale species of the NW Iberian Peninsula: Part I. Persistent organic pollutants. Science of the Total Environment 484, 196-205.
  • Rodhouse, P.G.K., Pierce, G.J., Nichols, O.C., Sauer, W.H.H., Arkhipkin, A.I., Laptikhovsky, V.V., Lipinski, M.L., Ramos, J., Gras, M., Kidokoro, H., Sadayasu, K., Pereira, J., Lefkaditou, E., Pita, C., Gasalla, M., Haimovici, M., Sakai, M. & Downey, N., 2014. Environmental effects on cephalopod population dynamics: implications for management of fisheries. Advances in Marine Biology 67, 99-233.
  • Pita, C., Theodossiou, I. & Pierce, G.J., 2013. The perceptions of Scottish inshore fishers about marine protected areas. Marine Policy 37, 254-264.
  • Santos, M.B., German, I., Correia, D., Read, F.L., Martinez Cedeira, J., Caldas, M., López, A., Velasco, F. & Pierce, G.J., 2013. Long-term variation in common dolphin diet in relation to prey abundance. Marine Ecology Progress Series 481: 249–268.
  • Santos, M.B., González-Quirós, R., Riveiro, I., Iglesias, M., Louzao, M. & Pierce, G.J., 2013. Characterization of the pelagic fish community of the North Western and Northern Spanish shelf waters. Journal of Fish Biology 83, 716-738.
  • Smith, J.M., MacLeod, C.D., Valavanis, V., Hastie, L.C., Valinassab, T., Bailey, N., Santos, M.B. & Pierce, G.J., 2013. Habitat and distribution of post-recruit life stages of the squid Loligo forbesii. Deep-Sea Research II 95, 145-159.
  • Jereb, P., Allcock, L.A., Lefkaditou, E., Piatkowski, U. Hastie, L.C. & Pierce, G.J. (Editors) In Press. Cephalopod biology and fisheries in European waters: species accounts. Co-operative Research Report, International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.
  • Rosa, R., O’Dor, R. & Pierce, G.J. (Editors), 2013. Advances in squid biology, ecology and fisheries. Part I. Myopsid squids. Nova Science Publishers, Inc., New York.
  • Rosa, R., Pierce, G.J. & O’Dor, R. (Editors), 2013. Advances in squid biology, ecology and fisheries. Part II. Oegopsid squids. Nova Science Publishers, Inc., New York.