Quantifying cetacean mortality

The following opportunity is funded by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

Project Detail

  • Quantifying mortality; improving understanding of cetacean drift and stranding to improve impact monitoring

The need to quantify anthropogenic impacts on marine mammal populations is becoming ever more pressing as the next decade will see significant changes to the marine environment, most notably from the marine renewables industry.  Monitoring the interaction between live animals and renewable energy devices is logistically challenging and expensive.  Conversely, monitoring for dead, stranded individuals offers a relatively low-cost method of surveillance.  If individuals die as a result of an encounter with a device, a key challenge is to understand their subsequent drift and stranding in order to anticipate or interpret observed patterns of strandings.

The drift of floating objects is a complex response to wind drag, near-surface currents and waves.  Previous models of drift have used relatively crude representations of these processes.  Observations of objects at sea have shown great sensitivity to the precise shape and size of an object, its extent in the water column, and its surface exposure.  This project will focus on clarifying and quantifying this sensitivity through a combination of direct experimentation in the marine environment, theoretical considerations and modelling studies.  In combination, these will lead to recommendations for drift modelling of marine animals, with wide applicability to other drift problems in the marine environment.

Other project collaborators include Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS).


Applicants must possess a minimum of an Honours degree at 2:1 and/or a Master’s Degree (or International equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Funding information

The studentship covers fees, plus a stipend at the RCUK level, for a total of 36 months (including writing-up).

Funding is available for students worldwide, however non UK/EU students will be liable for the difference between home/EU and international fees.  View our current fees.

Students must be domiciled in the Highlands and Islands region during the course of their study to be eligible for funding.

Further information

Students are expected to be based full-time at SAMS, Oban.

The project is expected to start May 2018, and is offered through The Bryden centre (TBC).

Informal project specific enquiries can be made to Dr Andrew Dale: Andrew.Dale@sams.ac.uk

Deadline for applications for this project is 6th April 2018, 5pm (UK time).