Julia Sutherland

My background is in animal behaviour (Psychology BSc. Hons.) and marine mammal biology (Marine Mammal Science MSc.). My PhD research is a collaborative project investigating predator-prey interactions of killer whales and seals in coastal Scotland, utilizing a variety of dataset including citizen science (sightings, images, drone footage), acoustic monitoring, seal telemetry, and seal population data.

Killer whale predation of harbour seals in the coastal waters of Scotland: investigating the ecological drivers and consequences of an apex predator-prey interaction

PhD Aims:

The overarching aims of my PhD are to 1) quantify the extent to which killer whales predate harbour vs. grey seals in coastal Scotland, 2) understand the non-consumptive (e.g. behavioural) impacts of killer whale predation risk on seal species and 3) investigate whether killer whale predation may be contributing to regional declines in harbour seal populations.

PhD Objectives:

  • Provide age- and stage-specific estimates of harbour and grey seal consumption by killer whales in coastal Scotland.
  • Quantify the spatial and temporal variation of seal predation in coastal Scotland.
  • Characterise the underwater predator-prey soundscape of killer whales and seals.
  • Investigate anti-predator strategies of harbour and grey seals to understand species-specific sensitivity to killer whale predation.
  • Characterise the foraging strategy of seal-hunting killer whales in Scotland.
  • Estimate the likely level of killer whale predation vs. the required level of predation to contribute to regional declines observed in harbour seal population.

Contact Details:

Updates:

  • April 2021: Won a MASTS Marine Technology and Technical Innovation funding award for purchase of DJI Mavic Pro Drone