Marine Vertebrate Research Group

Welcome to MVRG

We are a group of scientists, based in the Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre (MBERC) and Plymouth Marine Laboratory, who are interested in the ecology, physiology and behaviour of vertebrate predators in the world’s oceans. Our research covers a wide range of topics that link foraging behaviour of fish, birds and mammals with their physical environment, individual success and population dynamics; explore their interactions with human activities that impact on the marine environment, such as fisheries, renewables and pollution; and investigate how their physiology provides opportunities or places constraints on their ability to survive and thrive. We have close links with other themes within MBERC, other research centres in the Marine Institute, such as the Centre for Marine and Coastal Policy Research (MarCoPol) and the Marine Physics Research Group (MPRG), and with external research groups including Exeter University, the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews, University of Southampton, Scottish Association of Marine Science (SAMS), and the University of Delaware, USA.

We have expertise in satellite tracking, passive acoustic monitoring, physical oceanography, Earth observation from satellite, and photo-ID as well as leading edge biochemical and molecular tools.

Current recent research areas include investigating the co-operative interactions between bottlenose dolphins and fishermen in Brazil; population structure and conservation management of coastal bottlenose dolphins; identifying oceanographic features (e.g. oceanic fronts and eddies) associated with foraging behaviour in marine mammals and birds; using satellite telemetry to determine how grey seal pups learn how to forage; developing noise propagation models to examine impact of shipping noise on marine mammals; investigating the distribution and abundance of harbour porpoises and sperm whales around the UK; mapping growth dynamics of young fishes to identify key nursery habitats; and understanding the causes of cellular stress in grey seals and the subsequent consequences for tissue function and whole animal health.

MVRG news

Society for Marine Mammalogy UK and Ireland Student Chapter Conference 2017

MVRG hosted the UKIRSC SMM 2017 conference here in Plymouth at the University's new Marine Station facility. The conference was a chance for postgraduates to share their marine mammal research and network in an informal setting. The event kicked off with an ice-breaker evening at the National Marine Aquarium. Keynote speaker Dr Kimberley Bennett from the University of Abertay spoke of her work using seals as a model for understanding obesity in humans. Dr Iain Staniland then presented some highlights from his work for the British Antarctic Survey on South Georgia. Abby Crosby from Cornwall Wildlife Trust also spoke about the citizen science projects she co-ordinates to monitor and conserve cetaceans in the region.

The event included workshops aimed at providing attendees with new skills and insights to prepare them for life after postgraduate study. Dr Bennett and Dr Clare Embling led a workshop on publishing your research and kick-starting your career in marine mammalogy. Representatives from Seiche Training spoke about life as a marine mammal observer, whilst Dr Rebecca Ross and Dr Sarah Lane of MBERC gave students tips on how to survive their PhD. Dr Paul Cox from the Shark Trust also delivered a light-hearted workshop on science communication. The event was a huge success with over 40 attendees from academic institutions across the UK and Ireland as well as further afield (including Spain and Taiwan!).


Grey seal research

The University and our partners are studying seal pups during their first months of independent life to discover how they learn to forage, and develop habitat preference.

Watch our video to find out more.

More information