Personal Chair


Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 272843
The University of Aberdeen Zoology Building - Room 415 Tel.: +44 (0) 1224 27 2843
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  • Reader, University of Aberdeen, UK, 2014- 
  • MASTS Senior Lecturer in Marine Top Predator Biology, University of Aberdeen, UK, 2011- 2014
  • MASTS Lecturer in Marine Top Predator Biology, University of Aberdeen, UK, 2010-2011
  • Lecturer in marine populations, University of Aberdeen, UK, 2007-2010
  • Izaak Walton Killam Postdoctoral Fellow, Dalhousie University, Canada, 2006-2007

  • Research Fellow, University of Aberdeen, UK, 2003-2005

  • PhD in Zoology, University of Otago, New Zealand, 2003

  • Bsc in Marine Biology, Florida Institute of Technology, USA, 1996


Research Interests

  • Decision theory
  • Conservation behaviour
  • Environmental Decision Support Systems
  • Population Consequences of Disturbances
  • Socioecology
  • Cognitive ecology

Current Research

We study the causes and consequences of behavioural decisions. We use mathematical and statistical models grounded in empirical studies to investigate the mechanisms and strategies individuals use to interact with their socioecological landscape.

Our main research themes are:


Population consequences of disturbances

A consensus is emerging that wildlife manages non-lethal interactions with human activities in the same manner as these species manage predation risk. We study these management strategies and the consequences cumulative exposure to disturbance has on the fitness of individuals and the resulting viability of their populations. 

This work is helping us develop new ways to link decisions taken by individuals at the behavioural scale and variability in populations at the ecological scale.


The evolution of social complexity

We develop models of social network evolution and network dynamics inspired from empirical studies. We strive to develop a quantitative, non-anthropocentric, notion of social complexity and understand what drives its evolution. 

This work also leads us to understand how behavioural traits, information, and diseases evolve and propagate in networked populations


Collective decisions

We are investigating how variation in social structure and cognitive abilities influences the way in which groups make collective decisions about their movement and their behavioural budget and how these decision-making processes influences the fitness of individuals.


From genes to behaviour

We are developing models to understand how information is generated and propagates in individuals to adapt behaviour to local conditions.

Current focus include the influence of perception systems on decisions, the resilience of behavioural systems and whole body interactome inference.


We have the great opportunity to work with amazing collaborators across the globe (see our publication list for details). current collaborators include:

 Louise Barrett and Peter Henzi (socioecology); John HarwoodDan Costa and Randy Wells (PCoD); Lars Bejder (whalewatching disturbance);  Alex Douglas and John Speakman (network analysis of graded caloric restriction)

Research Grants

our work is supported by a range of funding bodies, including consultancy for a range of clients. Thank you for enabling us to advance our scientific endeavours!
  • Marine Scotland Science (2014-2018): behaviourally-mediated effects in parasite-prey-predator population dynamics 
  • ONR (2013-2014), principal investigator: Predicting the ability of marine mammal populations to compensate for behavioural disturbances.
  • NOAA Sea Grant (2012-2014), co- principal investigator: Determining the factors contributing to human-dolphin interactions in a long-term resident inshore bottlenose dolphin community.
  • Marine Scotland/DECC (2012-2013), co-principal investigator: Development and implementation of an interim PCoD approach for assessing the potential effects of marine renewables on marine mammals in UK waters
  • NERC (2012), principal investigator: Assess the risk to the marine mammal populations from renewable energy devices.
  • JNCC (2011-2012), principal investigator: Assess the risk to the marine mammal populations from renewable energy devices.
  • SNH (2010-2011), principal investigator: The development of a framework to understand and predict the population consequences of disturbances for the Moray Firth bottlenose dolphin population.
  • NOAA, WASC (2010), principal investigator: Killer whale activity budgets under no-boat, kayak-only and power-boat conditions.
  • NOAA, SWRO (2009-2014), co-investigator: Assessing tourism effects and management actions on spinner dolphins in the main Hawaiian Islands.
  • US MMC (2010), co-investigator: Assessing tourism effects and management actions on spinner dolphins in the main Hawaiian Islands.
  • Moray Firth Partnership (2009), co-investigator: Economic valuation of Moray Firth bottlenose dolphins.

Teaching Responsibilities

  • BI 20Z1 - Vertebrate Zoology
  • ZO 3507 - Animal Behaviour
  • ZO4535 - Behavioural Ecology
  • BI 5009  - Experimental Design and Analyses
  • BI 5010 - Statistics for complex designs
  • ZO 5903 - Network Science
  • BI 5505 - Introduction to Bayesian inference
Further Info

External Responsibilities

Current extra-curricular activities include:

Current students

  • Francesca Mancini, Managing the wildlife tourism commons (Scottish Natural Heritage/MASTS, 2015-2018)
  • Roman Susdorf, Modelling parasite-prey-predator population dynamics (Marine Scotland, 2014-2018)
  • Derek Murphy, The ecological drivers of social network dynamics (NERC PhD student, co-supervised with Louise Barrett and Peter Henzi, University of Lethbridge, 2011-2014)
  • Enrico Pirotta, Assessing the population consequences of disturbances caused by human development on marine mammal populations (MASTS Prize PhD student, co-supervised with John Harwood, CREEM St Andrews, and Paul Thompson, UoA, 2011-2014)
  • Margarita Machairopoulou, The role of macro-zooplankton in the dynamics of commercially important fish stocks (PhD student, co-supervised with Jens Rasmussen Marine Scotland Science, 2010-2012)
  • Barbara Cheney, The population ecology of bottlenose dolphins along the Northeast Scotland coast (PhD student, co-supervised with Paul Thompson, 2010-2015) 
  • Davina Derous, Transcriptomic Analysis of Graded Caloric Restriction in the Mouse (UoA PhD student, co-supervised with Alex Douglas and John Speakman, 2013-2017)
  • Cara Green, Metabolomic Analysis of Responses to Caloric Restriction (UoA PhD student, co-supervised with Alex Douglas and John Speakman, 2013-2017

Current Research Fellow

  • Dr Stuart Nattrass, Predicting the ability of marine mammal populations to compensate for behavioral disturbances (postdoctoral fellow funded by the Office of Naval Research 2013-2014)
  • Dr Elizabeth Hobson, The evolution of social complexity (postdoctoral fellow, based in NIMBios, 2014-2016)
  • Dr. Marianne Marcoux, The evolution of social role on social networks (postdoctoral fellow funded by le Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies, 2011-2013)


We are always looking for talented people with common interests to join our team. There are a number of funding bodies that can help fund fellowships including NSF, EU Marie Curie fellowship, NSERC, NERC, BBSRC, EPSRC, Leverhulme, Human Frontier Science Program. Contact me if you are interested.




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