PhD Project Title: Life history, social and foraging behaviour of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Shannon Estuary, Ireland
Supervisors: Dr Simon Berrow and Dr Joanne O’Brien
Research Advisor: Dr Katie McHugh
My research focus is marine mammal biology, in particular, the study of bottlenose dolphin behaviour. Bottlenose dolphins are extremely interesting research subjects because of their high level of intelligence and their complex social and foraging behavioural repertoires. The aim of my research is to collect detailed life history and behavioural data on bottlenose dolphins in the Shannon Estuary, Ireland for the first time and to compare results with research on other well-studied bottlenose dolphin populations around the world, including in Sarasota, Florida and Shark Bay, Western Australia, where I have previously conducted research.
BSc (Hons) Marine Biology (First Class)
University of St Andrews, Scotland, 2005-2009
Dissertation Title: Investigating the effect of environment and body mass on juvenile seal energetics
Supervisor: Dr David Thompson
Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM)
European Cetacean Society (ECS)
Animal Behavior Society (ABS)
Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) – Photo-ID Officer
ECS Conference, Funchal, Madeira, 2016
SMM Conference, San Francisco, USA, 2015
All-Ireland Mammal Symposium, Cork, Ireland, 2015
ECS Conference, St Julian’s, Malta, 2015
SMM UK Student Chapter Conference, Bangor, Wales, 2015
ECS Conference, Liège, Belgium, 2014
SMM UK Student Chapter Conference, St Andrews, Scotland, 2014
ECS Conference, Setúbal, Portugal, 2013
All-Ireland Mammal Symposium, Dublin, Ireland, 2012
ECS Conference, Galway, Ireland, 2012
ECS Conference, Cádiz, Spain, 2011
SMM Conference, Québec, Canada, 2009
Personal Sea Survival Techniques (PST) Certificate
JNCC Marine Mammal Observer (MMO)
Geographic Information System (GIS) Certificate
Cetacean Live-stranding Course Certificate
Coxswain Restricted Marine Qualification for Western Australia
Recreational Skipper’s Ticket
Marine Radio Operator’s VHF Certificate of Proficiency
Senior First Aid Certificate
US Coast Guard Certificate in Basic Boating Safety
RYA National Powerboat Level 2 Certificate
Full Irish Driving Licence
I have been conducting research on the Shannon Estuary’s resident bottlenose dolphin population since 2012, first as a Research Assistant, then as Photo-ID Catalogue and Database Developer, as a Marine Mammal Observer (MMO), and most recently as the Assistant Director/Centre Manager for the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation. The aim of this work has been to continue long-term monitoring of bottlenose dolphins in the Shannon Estuary, by collecting photographic, GPS and written data. I have created and developed an innovative digital database system (which contains both archived and current datasets) comprising a comprehensive photo-identification catalogue and specially designed sightings/photographic relational database (“FinBase”, Adams et al. 2006).
I am also an active member of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s Cetacean Stranding Network and their National Photo-ID Officer for sightings of cetaceans recorded in Irish waters.
Previous Research Experience
Harbour porpoise surveys of Dublin Bay, Ireland
The Dolphin Alliance Project (DAP), Shark Bay, Western Australia, Australia
Spinner dolphin Acoustics, Population Parameters, and Human Impacts Research (SAPPHIRE) Project, Hawaii, USA
Humpback whale Acoustic Research Collaboration (HARC), Peregian Beach, Queensland, Australia
Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP), Sarasota, Florida, USA
Levesque, S., Reusch, K., Baker, I., O’Brien, J. and Berrow, S. (2016). Photo-identification of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Tralee Bay and Brandon Bay, Co. Kerry: A case for SAC boundary extension. Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. 116(1). 1-10.
O’Brien, J., Baker, I., Barker, J., O’Donoghue, B., Berrow, S., O’Connell, M. and Ryan, C. (2014). The first confirmed successful re-float of a stranded bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) in Ireland, and subsequent re-sighting with a neonate. Aquatic Mammals. 40(2). 191-194.
Poster Presentation: Longitudinal study of a live-stranded female bottlenose dolphin in the Shannon Estuary, Ireland. European Cetacean Society (ECS) Conference, Funchal, Madeira, 2016.
Poster Presentation: Exploring the social structure of the resident bottlenose dolphin population in the Shannon Estuary, Ireland. Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) Conference, San Francisco, USA, 2015.
Poster Presentation: Assessing the effectiveness of long-term tour boat and research vessel data for monitoring bottlenose dolphins in the Shannon Estuary, Ireland. European Cetacean Society (ECS) Conference, Setúbal, Portugal, 2013.
Invited Lecture: Guest Speaker on GMIT Applied Freshwater and Marine Biology Seminar Series 2012. “Bottlenose Dolphin Research and Photo-identification of Individual Dolphins”.
Telephone number(s): +353 (0) 864057633
Postal Address: Marine and Freshwater Research Centre, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Dublin Road, Galway, Ireland
RTE Report on Shannon dolphin research