Recent activity

Research Fellow Position, University of St. Andrews

Grant RW Humphries, April 21, 2016

University of St Andrews

School of Biology (SMRU)

Research Fellow – AR1787SB

Further Particulars for Applicants

The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU)

The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) ( is a major component of the Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI) ( and currently comprises over 15 PIs as well as numerous Research Fellows, PhD students, engineers and support staff. SMRU staff are members of the School of Biology ( SMRU also has strong links with the university’s Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling (CREEM) (

SMRU is a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) National Oceanographic Centre Delivery Partner. This funding, which is focused on seal work, reflects the strategic need to support the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 and the Marine Scotland Act (2010). However, SMRU also focuses significant research effort on cetaceans. SMRU raises additional funds from other sources, including the EU, Defra, Scottish Government, MoD, and DECC. SMRU also incorporates the SMRU Instrumentation Group, which develops and sells marine mammal telemetry systems.

SMRU’s current strategic science priorities include: evaluating the status of marine mammal populations; investigating the importance of marine mammals as components of marine ecosystems; determining the dynamics of marine mammal populations; studying marine mammal social structure and communication, and providing the technological basis for observing free-ranging marine mammals and their environment.

SMRUs’ interdisciplinary approach is central to its investigations of the impact of anthropogenic activities (e.g. fishing and offshore energy developments) on both seals and cetaceans.

The Project

The spatial distribution of a species is a function of various intrinsic and extrinsic factors. These extrinsic factors include the distribution of other species including prey and competitors. There is an increasing focus on the impact of anthropogenic activities, both indirect and direct on species’ distributions. Examples include the impacts of climatic change and the development of marine renewable energy generation infrastructure. Once renewable energy structures are installed, the underwater impact on marine predators in less well understood. Marine predators may avoid such structures as a result of operational noise or the prevalence of maintenance vessels, for example. However, these structures may also attract some predators by providing a refuge from shipping or commercial fishing (de facto Marine Protected Areas) or in hosting an artificial reef resulting in local concentrations of prey.

INSITE – the INfluence of man-made Structures In the Ecosystem – is an oil and gas industry-sponsored initiative committed to developing the independent scientific evidence-base needed to improve understanding of the influence of man-made structures on the ecosystem of the North Sea. As part of this, SMRU is leading a project “Man-made structures and Apex Predators: Spatial interactions and overlap (MAPS)” which is a collaboration with The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Centre for Research into Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and IMARES, Netherlands.

In this project the impact of anthropogenic structures will be investigated on two spatial scales. The distribution of top predators, cetaceans and seals, in the North Sea will be investigated using line transect sampling and telemetry data, respectively. Habitat preference modelling will be used both to predict species’ distributions and thus overlap with marine structures and also to determine whether these structures influence species distributions. On a finer spatial scale, a use-encounter rate will be quantified. Use-encounter rate is defined as the proportion of encounters between individuals and these structures for which behaviour analogous to foraging activity is exhibited. This will be investigated using both seal telemetry data held by SMRU from around 150 individuals) and seabird telemetry data collected by RSPB and CEH on five species of seabird (700 individuals).

This project will involve collaboration with various researchers within SMRU and with colleagues from partner institutions (CEH, IMARES, RSPB and UHI).

Job Description

Job Title: Research Fellow

School/Unit: SMRU, School of Biology

Reporting to: Dr Debbie JF Russell

Job Family: Academic Research

Duration of Post: 1 year or equivalent

Working Hours: Full time/36.25 hours per week

Grade/Salary Range: 6/£31,656 - £32,600 per annum

Reference No: AR1787SB

Start Date: June 2016 or as soon as possible thereafter

Main Purpose of Role

The primary role is to make a key contribution to fulfilling the objectives of the MAPS project described above, and to take a leading role in publishing the findings. A key task will be to conduct habitat preference analyses using grey and harbor seal telemetry data with regard to static and dynamic covariates. The role will include involvement in habitat preference analyses using cetacean survey data and quantifying a use-encounter rate of anthropogenic structures for various species of seabird and seals.

Key Duties and Responsibilities

1. Habitat preference analyses using grey and harbour seal telemetry data.

2. Habitat preference analyses of cetacean survey data.

3. Quantifying a use-encounter rate for seabirds and seals, using telemetry data.

4. Publish research findings in collaboration with colleagues.

The post-doc will be supervised by Dr Debbie JF Russell.

Please note that this job description is not exhaustive, and the role holder may be required to undertake other relevant duties commensurate with the grading of the post . Activities may be subject to amendment over time as the role develops and/or priorities and requirements evolve .

Person Specification

This section details the attributes e.g. skills, knowledge/qualifications and competencies which are required in order to undertake the full remit of this post.




Means of Assessment

(i.e. application form, interview, test, presentation etc)

Education & Qualifications

(technical, professional, academic qualifications and training required)

PhD in a relevant subject (biology, statistics).


Experience & Knowledge

(examples of specific experience and knowledge sought)

Experience of analysis of spatial data

Proficiency in the use of R

Ability to handle large datasets

Good publication record in a relevant field

Knowledge of marine mammal/seabird ecology

Experience with the analysis of telemetry and line transect data.

Experience of habitat preference analyses

Application and interview

Competencies & Skills

(e.g. effective communication skills, initiative, flexibility, leadership etc)

Capability to take a lead role in publishing papers

Application and interview

Essential Criteria – requirements without which a candidate would not be able to undertake the full remit of the role. Applicants who have not clearly demonstrated in their application that they possess the essential requirements will normally be rejected at the short listing stage.

Desirable Criteria – requirements which would be useful for the candidate to hold. When short listing, these criteria will be considered when more than one applicant meets the essential requirements.

Other Information

We encourage applicants to apply online at, however if you are unable to do this, please call +44 (0)1334 462571 for a paper application form.

For all applications, please quote ref: AR1787SB

The University of St Andrews is committed to promoting equality of opportunity for all, which is further demonstrated through its working on the Gender and Race Equality Charters and being awarded the Athena SWAN award for women in science, HR Excellence in Research Award and the LGBT Charter;

The University is committed to equality of opportunity.

The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland (No SC013532).

Obligations as an Employee

You have a duty to carry out your work in a safe manner in order not to endanger yourself or anyone else by your acts or omissions.

You are required to comply with the University health and safety policy as it relates to your work activities, and to take appropriate action in case of an emergency.

You are required to undertake the Information Security Essentials computer-based training course and adhere to its principles alongside related University Policy and Regulations.

You are responsible for applying the University’s equality and diversity policies and principles in your own area of responsibility and in your general conduct.

You have a responsibility to promote high levels of customer care within your own area of work/activities.

You should be adaptable to change, and be willing to acquire new skills and knowledge as applicable to the needs of the role.

You may, with reasonable notice, be required to work within other Schools/Units within the University of St Andrews.

You have the responsibility to engage with the University’s commitment to Environmental Sustainability in order to reduce its waste, energy consumption and carbon footprint.

The University & Town

Founded in the early 15th century, St Andrews is Scotland’s first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world.

Situated on the east coast of Scotland and framed by countryside, beaches and cliffs, the town of St Andrews was once the centre of the nation’s political and religious life.

Today it is known around the world as the ‘Home of Golf’ and a vibrant academic town with a distinctively cosmopolitan feel where students and university staff account for more than 30% of the local population.

The University of St Andrews is a diverse and international community of over 10,500, comprising students and staff of over 120 nationalities. It has 8,200 students, just over 6,600 of them undergraduates, and employs approximately 2,540 staff - made up of c. 1,190 in the academic job families and c 1,350 in the non-academic job families.

St Andrews has approximately 50,000 living graduates, among them former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and the novelist Fay Weldon. In the last 90 years, the University has conferred around 1000 honorary degrees; notable recipients include Benjamin Franklin, Rudyard Kipling, Alexander Fleming, Iris Murdoch, James Black, Elizabeth Blackadder, Tim Berners-Lee and Hillary Clinton.

The University is one of Europe’s most research intensive seats of learning. It is the top rated university in Scotland for teaching quality and student satisfaction. In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 the University was ranked top in Scotland for quality of research output and one of the UK’s top 20 research universities.

St Andrews is consistently held to be one of the United Kingdom’s top ten universities in university league tables compiled by The Times and The Sunday Times, The Guardian and The Complete University Guide. In the 2014/15 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, St Andrews is ranked 3rd in the UK, behind only Oxbridge. The same guide has named St Andrews its Scottish University of the Year in 2013 and 2014. The University has eight times been named the top multi-faculty university in the UK in the National Student Survey – a direct reflection of the quality of teaching, assessment and facilities. In international and world rankings St Andrews scores highly for teaching quality, research, international outlook and citations. In the 2014 Times Higher Education World Rankings St Andrews is 14th in the world for International Outlook, 33rd for research and teaching in Arts and Humanities and 81st for Citations. It is ranked 111th overall in the Times Higher Rankings and 88th in the QS University World Rankings.

Its international reputation for delivering high quality teaching and research and student satisfaction make it one of the most sought after destinations for prospective students from the UK, Europe and overseas. In 2012 the University received on average 12 applications per place. St Andrews has highly challenging academic entry requirements to attract only the most academically potent students in the Arts, Sciences, Medicine and Divinity.

The University is closely integrated with the town. The Main Library, many academic Schools and Service Units are located centrally, while the growth in research-active sciences and medicine has been accommodated at the North Haugh on the western edge of St Andrews.

As the University enters its seventh century, it is pursuing a varied programme of capital investment, including the refurbishment of its Main Library and a major investment in its collections, the opening of a research library, the development of a major arts centre, the refurbishment of the Students’ Union, and the development of a wind-farm and green energy centre to offset energy costs.