IMG_4004Mònica Arso Civil

Mònica is a research fellow at SMRU. Her research interests focus on marine mammal population dynamics and how these can inform on the conservation status of wild populations. Mònica leads this project, coordinating all the fieldwork data collection, data processing and analysis. She has spent most summers in Orkney collecting data, and outside the summer months she is busy processing and analyzing the photo-identification data from the different study sites to estimate vital rates.


Sally Tapp

Sally is a research assistant with the Harbour Seal Decline Project. She will be monitoring harbour seals around Loch Dunvegan, on the north west coast of the Isle of Skye, during the 2021-22 pupping seasons. She will be collecting photo-ID data, counts of seals hauled out across a number of skerries on the loch, and recording the presence and number of pups visible. Since graduating from her MRes at SMRU in 2013, during which she investigated the reproductive behaviour of grey seals on the island of North Rona, Sally has worked in marine conservation focussing on the colony of grey seals on Walney Island and the designation of Marine Conservation Zones around England and Wales.

John Dickens

John is a research assistant with the Harbour Seal Decline Project. He will be conducting fieldwork in Orkney during the 2021-22 pupping seasons, focussing on photo-ID and counts of the seals on Burray and South Ronaldsay where our monitored sites are located. He, along with Sally Tapp, will be processing the images at the end of the field season to identify the photographed seals. Over the past 5 years John has worked as a field assistant in the sub Antarctic, spending time on Marion Island and South Georgia, where he studied southern elephant seals, Antarctic and subantarctic fur seals, leopard seals, killer whales and a variety of seabirds

Eiren Jacobson

Eiren Jacobson is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling (CREEM) where she works on quantitative approaches to population studies of marine mammals. Within the Harbour Seal Decline Project, Eiren is developing an integrated population model fit to both counts of hauled-out seals and estimates of vital rates from photo-identification data.

Ailsa Hall


Ailsa is an Emeritus Professor at the University of St Andrews and was the Principal Investigator for the Harbour Seal Decline Project for the first 5 years (2015-2020). Her interests are aimed at determining the effect that contaminant and pathogen exposure has on the risk of mortality and morbidity in marine mammals. Ailsa’s work in this project have focused in obtaining individual covariates from wild harbour seals, and on HAB toxin levels in prey that may help better understand what may be driving the decline.

Bernie McConnell Bernie

Bernie is a senior research fellow at SMRU where he has been studying the movement and behaviour of marine mammals for over 25 years. Bernie also co-manages the SMRU Instrumentation Group, which will develop the telemetry tags that will be deployed on a sample of wild harbour seals to look at their haulout usage. Bernie has been working with Ailsa to collect HAB toxin data in prey and develop a toxin risk assessment model for harbour seals.

Callan Duck

Callan is a senior research scientist at SMRU and his main role is to monitor the size and status of the UK seal populations. Together with Chris Morris, they run aerial surveys during the harbour seal moult in August which allows SMRU to monitor their populations.

Chris Morris

Chris is a senior aerial survey technician at SMRU. He works together with Callan Duck, and they run the aerial surveys during the harbour seal moult in August.

Past team members and collaborators

Craig Morton


Craig graduated from the University of St Andrews Ecosystem-based Management of Marine Systems masters programme. He is motivated by a desire to better understand and protect cold-water marine ecosystems. During the summer months, Craig was based in Kintyre (West coast) collecting photo-identification data, ground counts, presence and number of pups at different haulouts and seal scat samples.


Maeva Terrapon

Maeva joined the team in 2019 as a Research Assistant to help process photoID data collected in 2018 and 2019, teaming up with Helen to tackle the never ending Isle of Skye photo ID data. Together they sorted out duplicates, juveniles and cleaned up the dataset to have it up to date. Team effort! Maeva is currently doing her PhD at the University of St Andrews working on elusive killer whales in the tropical SW Indian Ocean.

Helen Hiley

Helen is a marine mammal ecologist interested in cetacean and pinniped behaviour, acoustics and habitat preference. She stepped in to help as a Research Assistant at a moment of need for the field season of 2019 in Isle of Skye, and we are so very thankful for that! She collected data in Loch Dunvegan and then teamed up with Maeva to process it. Helen is currently doing her PhD at SAMS, which focuses on harbour porpoise fine scale habitat use in Scotland.

Abigail Parker

Abigail joined the team at SMRU in 2019 as a Research Assistant. She graduated with an MSc from Bangor University, during which she studied bottlenose dolphin behaviour in Cardigan Bay. She is currently doing her PhD at Monash University investigating the role of maternal influence in determining reproductive success in sea turtles. Abigail collected photo-identification data and ground counts of harbour seals around the Kintyre Peninsula. She also assisted with photo-ID research in Skye, and outside of the field season Abigail helped process these data.


Andy Law

Andy was a field research assistant at SMRU for the first 4 years of the project. During the summer pupping season he was monitoring harbour seals around Loch Dunvegan on the north west coast of the Isle of Skye. He collected photo-identification data, did ground counts and recorded the presence and numbers of pups across a number of skerries where harbour seals haulout on the loch. Sadly Andy passed away unexpectedly in 2019. We miss him very much. His love for all nature things was exceptional, as well as his depth of knowledge of the natural world of Isle of Skye and beyond.

Izzy Langley

Izzy finished her MSci at SMRU in 2015 during which she investigated the behavioural ecology of Weddell seals in the southern Weddell Sea, and is currently doing her PhD at SMRU investigating competition and predation between grey seals and harbour seals in the UK. Izzy’s role in this project included photo-ID data collection and processing, as well as analysing the telemetry data collected during 2016 and 2017.

Emily Hague

Emily is a graduate from the University of Aberdeen Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology MSc programme, and currently a PhD student at the Institute of Life and Earth Sciences, Heriot-Watt University. Emily joined Izzy at Kintyre during the 2018 summer to collect photo-ID data, which she also processed.


dt2_Dave Thompson

Dave is a senior research scientist at SMRU. In this project, Dave has conducted aerial surveys during the harbour seal breeding season in June at the study sites, to investigate the feasability of characterizing numbers and age structure of harbour seal haulout sites during the breeding season.

PaddyPaddy Pomeroy

Paddy is a senior research scientist at SMRU, looking at how individual differences in seals translate into population-scale effects. Paddy looked into using small drones at selected haulouts to collect data on harbour seals.

SophieSophie Smout

Sophie is a lecturer at the University of St Andrews. Her research interests focus in the processes that drive changes in animal populations, especially in marine ecosystems. For this project she worked on a population dynamics model that will help improve our understanding of the main (potential) drivers of the decline in harbour seal numbers.

Hammond mugshotPhilip Hammond

Phil is a population ecologist whose interests include how seals interact with the marine environment and obtaining robust information to support conservation and management. In this project, he has coordinated studies of seal diet based on analysis of prey remains from scats and contributed to aspects of the population modelling and vital rate estimation.