Dr Clare Embling

Dr Clare Embling

Associate Professor of Marine Ecology

School of Biological and Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)

Dr Clare Embling can be contacted through arrangement with our Press Office, to speak to the media on these areas of expertise.
  • Marine renewable energy
  • Marine conservation
  • Habitat mapping
  • Marine vertebrate ecology
  • Biological oceanography
  • Bioacoustics


I am an associate professor in marine ecology, and programme leader for the BSc Marine Biology and Oceanography. I teach a range of courses from statistics to biological oceanography and marine vertebrate ecology. My research is focused on the ecology and conservation of marine vertebrates (marine mammals, seabirds and fish), habitat modelling, bioacoustics, and human impacts on marine species (e.g. impacts of increasing noise in the sea).

Lead the Marine Vertebrates Research Unit and member of the Marine Conservation Research Group.


2012-2013 SOWFIA research fellow, University of Exeter
2008-2010 Named NERC Post-doctoral fellow, University of Aberdeen 
2003-2007 PhD 'Predictive models of cetaceans off the west coast of Scotland' (Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St Andrews)
2002-2003 MRes in Environmental Biology (University of St Andrews & Dundee)
2000-2002 Diploma in Biological Sciences (Open University)
1991-1996 MEng in Electrical Electronic Engineering with a year abroad & sandwich year (Imperial)

Professional membership

Member of the Society for Marine Conservation (SCB)
Member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM)
Member of the European Cetacean Society (ECS)

Roles on external bodies

Member of the Marine Autonomous & Robotic Systems - Working Group (MARS-WG)
Marine Mammal Advisor on the Programme Advisory Group for PrePARED (Predators and Prey Around Renewable Energy Developments)



Teaching interests

I am programme leader for the BSc Marine Biology and Oceanography, and I am module leader for:

  • MBIO120 Introduction to Marine Biology (1st year)
  • MBIO339 Ecology & Conservation of Marine Vertebrates (3rd year)

I also teach on the following modules:

  • MBIO123 Marine Biology Field Course (1st Year)
  • MBIO225 Methods in Marine Biology and Oceanography (2nd year)
  • MBIO227 Biological Oceanography Field Course (2nd year)
  • OS201 Global Ocean Processes (2nd year)
  • MBIO341 Biological Oceanography (3rd year)
  • OS304 Marine Ecosystems Conservation (3rd year) 

I also supervise around 8 undergraduate student projects, and 2 masters student projects a year.

Current MRes/MSc students:

  • Annabel Risdale (lead Natural England): 'Understanding Dorset's marine soundscape'
  • Koan Hughes (lead Manta Trust): 'Temporal changes in zooplankton community structure in a manta ray hotspot'

Past MRes/MSc students:

  • Harrison Smith (2022: Quantification of key areas for cetacean sensitivity to floating offshore wind farms in the Celtic Sea)
  • Kathryn Thibault (2022: Intra-annual variations of reef manta ray visitation patterns to a remote cleaning station)
  • Jennifer Devaney (2022: Change in plankton abundance in relation to tidal influences on Sandes seamount in the Chagos Archipelago)
  • Genevieve Alexander (2022: Feeding ecology and habitat use of the reef manta ray in the Chagos MPA revealed using stable isotope analysis)
  • Darcy Brady (2022; Tidal oceanographic influences on reef manta behaviour at a feeding station)
  • Megan Strachan-Williams (2021; Cetacean vocalisation diversity in the Chagos Archipelago)
  • Emma Moyse (2021; Harbour porpoise habitat models in SW UK based on historic datasets)
  • Emily Wood (2021; Spatial threat analysis of cetaceans in the English Channel)
  • Hannah Thompson (2020; Modelling habitat preferences of common dolphins off the west of Scotland)
  • Maisie Fawcett (2020; Odontocete vocalisation occurence and behaviour at Egmont Atoll, Chagos Archipelago)
  • Hayley McLennon (2020; Using visual & acoustic survey data to determine abundance, distribution & environmental drivers of harbour porpoises in South Cornwall)
  • Sam Matthews (2020; Temporal variations in tourism activities at a key MPA in the Maldives 2010-2019)
  • Matthew Clements (2020; Marine soundscape of the Southern Orkney Islands, Antarctica)
  • Joanna Harris (2019; Habitat use of reef manta rays, Mobula afredi, in the Chagos Archipelago MPA)
  • Katie Walsh (2019; Localisation and abundance of sperm whales from passive acoustics)
  • Veronica Steinheimer (2019; Can baleen whales keep up with plankton regime shifts?)
  • William Tingle (2019; Modelling the effect of ship strikes on fin whale distribution in the Bay of Biscay)
  • Shannon Booth (2018; Habitat models of long-finned pilot whales in the Northeast Atlantic)
  • Kimberley Nielsen (2018; Relative abundance of harbour porpoises around the UK from platforms of opportunity)
  • Caitlin Allen (2018; Oceanographic drivers of sperm whale distributions in the Northeast Atlantic)
  • Karley Khan (2017; Habitat modelling of sperm whales in the Northeast Atlantic)
  • Laura Bryans (2017; Predicting foraging aggregations of European storm petrels using habitat models)
  • Rosalyn Jones (2017; Impacts of seismic airguns on sperm whale vocalisations)
  • James Williams (2016; Habitat modelling of green turtles from telemetry data)
  • Gemma Starmore (2016; Using passive acoustics to understand human impacts on cetaceans)
  • Joshua Griffiths (2015; Habitat modelling of bottlenose dolphins for defining MPAs)
  • Jessica Rayner (2015; Risk modelling of minke whale entanglement in creel fishing gear)
  • Research


    Research interests

    I am a marine ecologist and bioacoustician with several research interests:

    (i) understanding the mechanisms linking oceanography with marine vertebrate (marine mammal, seabird and fish) distributions and behaviour, and using this knowledge to better conserve our marine environment;
    (ii) investigating the impacts of human activity on marine ecosystems, in particular, the impact of marine noise on marine vertebrate distributions and behaviour;
    (iii) use of habitat models for understanding the links between marine organisms and the marine environment, and using this as the basis for conservation such as in the design of marine protected areas;
    (iv) use of passive and active acoustics to understand the behaviour and distribution of marine vertebrates and infer predator-prey relationships.

    Current ResM student:
    Naomi Westlake (2022-current: Director of Studies): 'Genotyping and satellite tracking of hawksbill and green sea turtles in Grenada' (partnered with Ocean Spirits & St Georges University, funded by the Oscar Montgomery Environmental Foundation).

    Current PhD students:
    Isha (2022-current; Director of Studies): 'Cetacean distribution, abundance and habitat in the Chagos Archipelago' (funded by the Bertarelli Foundation)
    Udayanga Sampath (2022-current: co-supervisor): 'Cetacean acoustic spatio-temporal diversity in the Chagos Archipelago' (based in Oceans University & Oceanswell, Sri Lanka, funded by the Bertarelli Foundation)
    Danielle Eager (2019-current; Director of Studies): 'Identifying and quantifying pelagic biomass around seamounts, atolls and islands in Chagos Archipelago in relation to fine-scale oceanographic processes' (Funded by Garfield Weston Foundation, joint with University of Highlands and Islands)
    Joanna Harris (2019-current; Director of Studies): 'Investigating movement and foraging ecology of reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) in Chagos Archipelago' (funded by Garfield Weston Foundation, joint with the Manta Trust)
    Ted Robinson (2019-current; 2nd supervisor): 'Physical drivers of ecosystem variability in Chagos Archipelago' (funded by Garfield Weston Foundation)
    Chris Pass (2018- current part time; 2nd supervisor): 'Quantifying the impact of animal borne data loggers on free ranging marine mammals using tri-axial accelerometer data and computational fluid dynamics'

    Past PhD students:
    Leah Trigg (2015-2019; Director of Studies): 'Do marine mammals react to shipping noise?'
    Svenja Tidau (2016-2019; 2nd supervisor): 'Anthropogenic noise pollution in hermit crab behaviour'
    Matt Carter (Director of Studies 2014-2018): 'How do grey seal pups learn how to forage?'

    Research groups

    Other research

    Working with Promare, IBM and RS-Aqua on the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project (https://mas400.com/). The MAS400 is equipped with a hydrophone and trained using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automatically detect whale and dolphin vocalisations as it crosses the Atlantic. More information here.

    Run visual-acoustic cetacean surveys along the SW Cornwall coast to investigate the abundance and distribution of cetaceans in coastal waters from the university yacht Take the Helm, collected data in summer months since 2017 (with a gap in 2020 due to COVID)

    Grants & contracts

    2021-2025; PI Bertarelli Foundation for Marine Science (~£700K): 'Is Chagos Archipelago one of the last tropical refuges for cetaceans?', with Dr Simon Ingram, Dr Tom Letessier (ZSL), Dr Danielle Harris (University of St Andrews), Dr Asha de Vos (Oceanswell), and Charles Anderson (Atoll Wildlife).

    2020-2022; co-PI Garfield Weston Foundation (£500K): 'Conservation strategies for tropical marine ecosystems in the face of sustained environmental change', with Dr Phil Hosegood (PI), Prof Kerry Howell, and others. Partnered with University of Highlands and Islands & the Manta Trust.

    2019-2021; co-PI Garfield Weston Foundation (£1m): 'Conservation strategies for biodiversity hotspots and safe havens in a changing climate:oceanographic drivers of ecosystem variability in the Chagos archipelago', with Prof Martin Attrill, Dr Phil Hosegood, Dr Kerry Howell, and partnered with the Manta Trust.

    2018-ongoing; PI Cefas (£5K per year): Plymouth hub for the UK marine noise monitoring network.

    2016 SoMSE small research grant (£2500): 'Distribution and relative abundance of small cetaceans in southwest coastal waters and their exposure to anthropogenic noise', with Dr Simon Ingram & Tom Crichton.

    2015 SoMSE small research grant (£2500): 'Follow that smell: Spatial prediction of storm petrel distributions based on remote sensing models of dimethyl sulphide concentration.' with Dr Jill Schwartz, and Dr Simon Ingram (Plymouth University)

    2014 SoMSE small research grant (£2500): 'Seals, stratification & shipping noise: seasonal changes in shipping noise exposure experienced by diving seals.' with Dr Kimberley Bennett, Dr Simon Ingram, Professor Georgy Shapiro (Plymouth University), and Dr Dave Thompson (SMRU, University of St Andrews)

    2014 Marine Institute small collaborative grant (£5000): 'Understanding dynamic tidal drivers of bottlenose dolphin foraging behaviour' with Dr Simon Ingram & Dr Phil Hosegood (Plymouth University)

    2013 NERC MREKE (Marine Renewable Energy Knowledge Exchange) grant (£10,000): 'Use of static passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) for monitoring cetaceans at marine renewable energy installations (MREIs)', guidance document to Marine Scotland in collaboration with University of Exeter, SAMS & University of Aberdeen.



    Key publications

    Key publications are highlighted

    Harris J, williamson B, stevens G, Hosegood P, Robinson E & Embling C (2024) 'Spatiotemporal variations in reef manta ray (Mobula alfredi) residency at a remote meso-scale habitat and its importance in future spatial planning' Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems , DOI Open access
    Rayner J, Embling CB, Ryan C & Hartny-Mills L (2024) 'Minke whale entanglement in static fishing gear: identifying consistent areas of high risk in Western Scotland' Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 104, Publisher Site , DOI
    Harris JL, Embling CB, Alexander G, Curnick D, Roche R, Froman N, Stuhr M, Fileman ES, Hilbourne S & Carter R (2023) 'Intraspecific differences in short- and long-term foraging strategies of reef manta ray (Mobula alfredi) in the Chagos Archipelago' Global Ecology and Conservation 46, , DOI Open access
    Letessier TB, Mannocci L, Goodwin B, Embling C, de Vos A, Anderson RC, Ingram SN, Rogan A & Turvey ST (2023) 'Contrasting ecological information content in whaling archives with modern cetacean surveys for conservation planning and identification of historical distribution changes' Conservation Biology , DOI Open access
    Nielsen KA, Robbins JR & Embling CB (2021) 'Spatio-temporal patterns in harbour porpoise density: citizen science and conservation in UK seas' Marine Ecology Progress Series 675, 165-180 Publisher Site , DOI
    Harris J, Hosegood P, Robinson E, Embling C, Hilbourne S & Stevens G (2021) 'Fine-scale oceanographic drivers of reef manta ray (Mobula alfredi) visitation patterns at a feeding aggregation site' Ecology and Evolution , DOI Open access
    Hays GC, Hosegood P & Koldewey H (2020) 'A review of a decade of lessons from one of the world’s largest MPAs: conservation gains and key challenges' Marine Biology , DOI Open access
    Longden EG, Elwen SH, McGovern B, James BS, Embling CB & Gridley T (2020) 'Mark–recapture of individually distinctive calls—a case study with signature whistles of bottlenose dolphins (<i>Tursiops truncatus</i>)' Journal of Mammalogy 101, (5) 1289-1301 Publisher Site , DOI
    Trigg LE, Chen F, Shapiro GI, Ingram SN, Vincent C, Thompson D, Russell DJF, Carter MID & Embling CB (2020) 'Predicting the exposure of diving grey seals to shipping noise' The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 148, (2) 1014-1029 Publisher Site , DOI Open access
    Robbins JR, Babey L & Embling CB (2020) 'Citizen science in the marine environment: estimating common dolphin densities in the north-east Atlantic' PeerJ 8, (0) e8335-e8335 Publisher Site , DOI Open access
    Carter M, McClintock B, Embling C, Bennett K, Thompson D & Russell D (2019) 'From pup to predator; generalized hidden Markov models reveal rapid development of movement strategies in a naïve long-lived vertebrate' OIKOS , DOI Open access
    Erbe C, Marley SA, Schoeman RP, Smith JN, Trigg LE & Embling CB (2019) 'The Effects of Ship Noise on Marine Mammals—A Review' Frontiers in Marine Science 6, , DOI Open access
    Peterson AT, Anderson RP, Beger M, Bolliger J, Brotons L, Burridge CP, Cobos ME, Cuervo-Robayo AP, Di Minin E & Diez J (2019) 'Open access solutions for biodiversity journals: Do not replace one problem with another' Diversity and Distributions: a journal of conservation biogeography 25, (1) 5-8 Author Site , DOI Open access
    Yates KL, Bouchet PJ, Caley MJ, Mengersen K, Randin CF, Parnell S, Fielding AH, Bamford AJ, Ban S & Barbosa AM (2018) 'Outstanding Challenges in the Transferability of Ecological Models' Trends in Ecology and Evolution 33, (10) 790-802 , DOI Open access
    Cox SL, Embling CB, Hosegood PJ, Votier SC & Ingram SN (2018) 'Oceanographic drivers of marine mammal and seabird habitat-use across shelf-seas: A guide to key features and recommendations for future research and conservation management' Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 212, 294-310 , DOI Open access
    Trigg L, Chen F, Shapiro G, Ingram S & Embling C (2018) 'An adaptive grid to improve the efficiency and accuracy of modelling underwater noise from shipping' Marine Pollution Bulletin , DOI Open access
    Carter MID, Russell DJF, Embling C, Blight C, Thompson D, Hosegood PJ & Bennett KA (2017) 'Intrinsic and extrinsic factors drive ontogeny of early-life at-sea behaviour in a marine top predator' Scientific Reports 7, (1) 0-0 , DOI Open access
    Carter M, Bennett K, Embling C, Hosegood PJ & Russell D (2016) 'Navigating uncertain waters: a critical review of inferring foraging behaviour from location and dive data in pinnipeds' Movement Ecology Open access
    Chen F, Shapiro GI, Bennett KA, Ingram SN, Thompson D, Vincent C, Russell DJF & Embling CB (2016) 'Shipping noise in a dynamic sea: a case study of grey seals in the Celtic Sea' Marine Pollution Bulletin , DOI Open access
    Cox SL, Miller PI, Embling CB, Scales KL, Bicknell AWJ, Hosegood PJ, Morgan G, Ingram SN & Votier SC (2016) 'Seabird diving behaviour reveals the functional significance of shelf-sea fronts as foraging hotspots' Royal Society Open Science 3, (9) 0-0 , DOI Open access
    Cox SL, Witt MJ, Embling CB, Godley BJ, Hosegood PJ, Miller PI, Votier SC & Ingram SN (2016) 'Temporal patterns in habitat use by small cetaceans at an oceanographically dynamic marine renewable energy test site in the Celtic Sea' Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography , DOI Open access
    Greaves D, Conley D, Magagna D, Aires E, Chambel Leitão J, Witt M, Embling CB, Godley BJ, Bicknell AWJ & Saulnier J-B (2016) 'Environmental Impact Assessment: Gathering experiences from wave energy test centres in Europe' International Journal of Marine Energy 14, 68-79 , DOI Open access
    Embling CB, Walters AEM & Dolman SJ (2015) 'How much effort is enough? The power of citizen science to monitor trends in coastal cetacean species' Global Ecology and Conservation 3, 867-877 Publisher Site , DOI
    Maclean IMD, Inger R, Benson D, Booth CG, Embling CB, Grecian WJ, Heymans JJ, Plummer KE, Shackshaft M & Sparling CE (2014) 'Resolving issues with environmental impact assessment of marine renewable energy installations' Frontiers in Marine Science 1, Publisher Site , DOI
    Scales KL, Miller PI, Embling CB, Ingram SN, Pirotta E & Votier SC (2014) 'Mesoscale fronts as foraging habitats: composite front mapping reveals oceanographic drivers of habitat use for a pelagic seabird' J R Soc Interface 11, (100) Author Site , DOI
    Jones AR, Hosegood P, Wynn RB, De Boer MN, Butler-Cowdry S & Embling CB (2014) 'Fine-scale hydrodynamics influence the spatio-temporal distribution of harbour porpoises at a coastal hotspot' PROGRESS IN OCEANOGRAPHY 128, 30-48 Author Site , DOI Open access
    Embling CB, Sharples J, Armstrong E, Palmer MR & Scott BE (2013) 'Fish behaviour in response to tidal variability and internal waves over a shelf sea bank' progress in Oceanography n/a, (n/a) , DOI
    Embling CB, Scott BA, Webb A, Palmer MR & Sharples J (2013) 'Fine scale bio-physical oceanographic characteristics predict the foraging occurrence of contrasting seabird species; gannet (Morus bassanus) and storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus)' Progress in Oceanography 117, 118-129
    Foote AD, Kaschner K, Schultze SE, Garilao C, Ho SYW, Post K, Higman T, Stokowska C, van der Es H & Embling CB (2013) 'Ancient DNA reveals that bowhead whale lineages survived Late Pleistocene climate change and habitat shifts' Nature Communications 4, , DOI
    Embling CB, Booth CG, Gordon J, Calderan SV & Hammond PS (2013) 'Habitat preferences of the harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena west of Scotland' Marine Ecology Progress Series 478, 273-285
    Embling CB, Illian J, Armstrong E, van der Kooij J, Sharples J, Camphuysen KCJ & Scott BE (2012) 'Investigating fine-scale spatio-temporal predator-prey patterns in dynamic marine ecosystems: a functional data analysis approach' Applied Ecology 49, (2) 481-492 , DOI
    Embling CB, Gillbrand PA, Gordon J, Shrimpton J, Stevick PT & Hammond PS (2010) 'Using habitat models to identify suitable sites for marine protected areas for harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena)' Biological Conservation 143, (2) 267-279 , DOI
    Gillespie D, Dunn C, Gordon J, Claridge D, Embling C & Boyd I (2009) 'Field recordings of Gervais' beaked whales Mesoplodon europaeus from the Bahamas' J Acoust Soc Am 125, (5) 3428-3433 Author Site , DOI
    Conference Papers
    Chen F, Trigg LE, Shapiro GI, Ingram SN & Embling CB (2017) 'An adaptive grid to improve the efficiency and accuracy of shipping noise modelling' An International Conference and Exhibition on Ocean Noise Issues. OCEANOISE-2017 Barcelona, Spain 5-/-0/20175-/-0/2017Open access
    Conley D, Magagna D, Greaves D, Aires E, Chambel Leitao J, Witt M, Embling C, Godley BJ, Bicknell A & Saulnier J-B (2013) SOWFIA Project - Work Package 3 Final Report. Plymouth Streamlining of Ocean Wave Farms Impact Assessment (SOWFIA) Project Publisher Site Open access
    Simas T, Magagna D, Bailey I, Conley D, Greaves D, O’Callaghan J, Marina D, Saulnier J-B, Sundberg J & Embling C (2013) SOWFIA Project - Work Package 4 Interim Report. Plymouth Streamlining of Ocean Wave Farms Impact Assessment (SOWFIA) Project Publisher Site Open access
    O’Callaghan J, O’Hagan AM, Holmes B, Muñoz Arjona E, Huertas Olivares C, Magagna D, Bailey I, Greaves D, Embling C & Witt M (2013) SOWFIA Project - Work Package 2 Final Report. Plymouth Streamlining of Ocean Wave Farms Impact Assessment (SOWFIA) Project Publisher Site Open access
    Magagna D, Greaves D, Conley D, Aires E, Chambel Leitao J, Witt M, Embling C, Godley BJ, Saulnier J-B & Mouslim H (2012) SOWFIA Project - Work Package 3 Interim Report. Plymouth Streamlining of Ocean Wave Farms Impact Assessment (SOWFIA) Project Publisher Site Open access
    Howell K, Embling C, Holt R & Stewart HA (2011) Using predictive modelling to map the distribution of selected habitats listed as MPA search features in Scottish waters. Joint Nature Conservation Committee Report
    Presentations and posters
    Trigg LE, Chen F, Shapiro GI, Ingram S & Embling C Trigg LE, Chen F, Shapiro GI, Ingram S & Embling C 'An adaptive grid to improve the efficiency and accuracy of modelling underwater noise from shipping ,' Open access
    Other Publications
    Robinson E, Hosegood P, Vlasenko V, Stashchuk N, Diaz C, Foster N, Harris J, Embling C & Howell K Ecosystem impacts due to thermocline depression by the 2019 extreme Indian Ocean Dipole event. Publisher Site , DOI


    Other academic activities

    Outreach activities:
    • IBM Family Science Africa & America (to ~200 school children around the world) 'Transforming Ocean Research with AI', March & October 2022.
    • Careers talk (Yr 10-13) 'Life as a marine biologist', Truro High School for Girls, June 2021.
    • School talk (Reception-Yr6) 'Marine research in the Indian Ocean', Sir Robert Geffery's School, Landrake, February 2020.
    • School activity (Yr1) 'Marine mammals and sounds of polar regions', Sir Robert Geffery's School, Landrake, March 2018.
    • Technology showcase, Plymouth University (25-26th January 2018) - stand & activities: 'guess the marine sound'; 'CSI marine mamal skull'.
    • National Marine Aquarium 'Sea the difference' event (1-16th April 2017) - stand & activities: 'guess the marine sound', 'CSI marine mammal skull', 'design a marine predator'; 
    • School activity morning (Yr 12) 'Magic of marine sound', Devonport High School for Girls, May 2016.
    • Pre-school activity morning: 'guess the marine sound'; CSI 'What is that skull?'; Pretend to be an echolocating porpoise game, Sir Robert Geffery Preschool, Landrake July 2015
    • School activity (Reception): 'guess the marine sound'; CSI 'What is that skull?', Sir Robert Geffery School, Landrake, July 2015
    • School activity day (Yr 6) including activities such as 'guess the marine sound'; 'guess the marine mammal' skull based activity; and 'what are seals eating' seal poo dissection. Bishop Cornish Primary School, Saltash 09/07/2014
    • Panellist on the RSPB 'State of Nature' at Big Green Week, Bristol 19/06/2013

    Supporting women/girls in science and academia:
    • Mentor for the University of Plymouth Women's network.
    • Workshop 'strategies for success' at Women in STEM conference, Plymouth University, Feb 2015


    Recent cruise blog for kids: http://discoverysoundsea.blogspot.com/
    Clare All At Sea blog: http://clareallatsea.blogspot.co.uk/
    Previous research project blog: http://cmarhab.blogspot.co.uk/