Dr Clare Embling

Dr Clare Embling

Associate Professor of Marine Ecology

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

Clare 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 a lecturer in marine ecology, and programme leader for the BSc Marine Biology & 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 & of marine renewable energy devices).

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

Twitter: @ClareEmbling


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)

Teaching interests

I am programme leader for the BSc Marine Biology & 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)

I also supervise around 8 undergraduate student projects, and 2 masters student projects a year.
Current MRes/MSc students:
Joanna Harris (Habitat use of reef manta rays, Mobula afredi, in the Chagos Archipelago MPA)
Katie Walsh (Localisation and abundance of sperm whales from passive acoustics)
Veronica Steinheimer (Can baleen whales keep up with plankton regime shifts?)
William Tingle (Modelling the effect of ship strikes on fin whale distribution in the Bay of Biscay)

Past MRes/MSc students:
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 interests

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

(i) understanding the mechanisms linking oceanography with marine vertebrate (marine mammal, seabird & fish) distributions & 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 renewable energy devices and marine noise on marine vertebrate distributions & 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 (fish & cetacean).

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

Grants & contracts

2019-2021; co-PI Garfield Weston Foundation (£1m): 'Conservationstrategies 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

2018-ongoing; PI Cefas (£5K): 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

Robbins JR, Babey L & Embling CB 2020 'Citizen science in the marine environment: estimating common dolphin densities in the north-east Atlantic' PeerJ 8, e8335-e8335 , DOI
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 PEARL
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
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 25, (1) 5-8 Author Site , DOI
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 & Evolution 33, (10) 790-802 , DOI
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 PEARL
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 PEARL
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 , DOI PEARL
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 PEARL
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 PEARL
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 , DOI PEARL
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 PEARL
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 PEARL
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 , 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, , 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' Journal of The Royal Society Interface 11, (100) 20140679-20140679 , 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 PEARL
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
Trigg LE, Chen F, Shapiro GI, Ingram S & Embling C Trigg LE, Chen F, Shapiro GI, Ingram S & Embling C 0 'An adaptive grid to improve the efficiency and accuracy of modelling underwater noise from shipping ,' 01/01/190001/01/1900

Reports & invited lectures

Robbins, J.R., & Embling, C.B. (2017) Relative abundance of common dolphins in the English Channel, Celtic Sea & Bay of Biscay. Report to ORCA.

Griffiths, J. & Embling, C.B. (2016) The state of Europe's whales & dolphins: distribution and range of cetaceans in Northeast Atlantic waters 2006-2015. Report to ORCA.

Embling, C.B., Piechaud, N. (2016) Assessment of wider Scottish Shorewatch sites for monitoring cetacean populations around Scotland. Report to WDC.

Embling, C.B., Piechaud, N. (2015) Determining indices for monitoring long-term trends in cetacean distribution and relative abundance from ferry data. Report to ORCA.

Embling, C.B.,Wilson, B., Benjamins, S., Pikesley, S., Thompson, P., Graham, I., Cheney, B., Brookes, K.L., Godley, B.J., & Witt, M.J. (2015) Use of static acoustic monitoring (PAM) for monitoring cetaceans at marine renewable energy installations (MREIs). NERC-MREKE Guidance document for Marine Scotland.

Embling, C.B., Doherty, P.D., Garrett, J., Godley, B.J., & Witt, M.J. (2013) Chapter 2: Noise emissions to water. In: Marine emissions to water: impact on marine life & potential future regulations. (Eds: Fileman, T., & Vance, T.) Report to Rolls Royce.

Truebano, M., Embling, C.B., Witt, M., Godley, B., & Attrill, M. (2013) Chapter 2: The potential impacts of marine renewable energy on marine mammals. In: Marine Renewables, Biodiversity & Fisheries (Ed: Attrill, M.). Friends of the Earth briefing paper.

Conley, D., Magagna, D., Greaves, D., Aires, E., Chambel Leitao, J., Witt, M., Embling, C.B., Godley, B.J., Bicknell, A., Saulnier, J.-B., Simas, T., O'Hagen, A. M., O'Callaghan, J., Holmes, B., Sundberg, J., Torre-Enciso, Y., & Marina, D. (2013) Report on the analysis of the Environmental Assessment Experience for wave energy. SOWFIA Deliverable 3.5 - work package 3 final report.

Magagna, D., Greaves, D., Conley, D., Chambel Leitao, J., Aires, E., Embling. C.B., Godley, B.J., Witt, M.J., Simas, T., Saulnier, J.B., Mouslim, H., O'Callaghan, J., O'Hagan, A.M., Holmes, B., Torre-Enciso, Y., & Sundberg, J. (2012) Development of a Data Management Platform for the integration of European wave energy impact assessment datasets. 4th International Conference on Ocean Energy, Dublin.

Hammond, P.S., Northridge, S.P., Thompson, D., Gordon, J.C.D., Hall, A.J., Duck, C.D., Aarts, G., Cunningham, L., Embling, C.B., & Matthiopoulos, J. (2006) Background information on marine mammals for Strategic Environmental Assessment 7. Report to Geotek.

Other academic activities

Outreach activities:
* 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 & 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/