Dr Emma Sheehan

Dr Emma Sheehan

Senior Research Fellow

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


I am a marine ecologist leading a research team, which studies human impact on marine ecosystems to inform environmental policy and management. I study benthic systems, which are potentially affected by marine protected areas, fisheries/offshore aquaculture, marine renewable energy and dredging.To detect changes in habitats and species assemblages over large spatial and temporal scales I have developed cost and time effective methods using high definition cameras that are relatively non-destructive and suitable for deployment from fishing vessels. 

Please refer to https://sheehanresearchgroup.com/ for the most up to date account of my team's research.


Professional membership

Roles on external bodies

- ICES Working Group on Marine Benthal and Renewable Energy Developments 

Research interests

For details about my research please refer to https://sheehanresearchgroup.com/

Research staff and projects

I manage a large diverse number of projects with the help of my research team which comprises PhD students, Post-docs and researchers. I also supervise a fleet of masters and honours students: 

For details of staff and projects please refer to our team website: https://sheehanresearchgroup.com/ 



Conferences and Symposia

1.     Using PERMANOVA: Falmouth Maerl Case-study. UK-Malaysia workshop. Penang. Malaysia 2016

2.     Aquatic Biodiversity and Ecosystems Conference, Liverpool, UK 2015

3.     PRIMARE, Exeter University Penryn campus, Cornwall, UK 2015

4.     PANACHE-VALMER Final conference Torquay, UK 2015

5.     South West Marine Ecosystems Plymouth, UK 2015

6.     Blue Foundation stakeholder meeting Lyme Regis, UK 2015

7.     ICES meeting Estonia, 2014

8.     10th International Temperate Reefs Symposium Perth, Australia 2014

9.     Renewable UK shared presentation with Mike Childs (Friends of the Earth) Birmingham, UK 2014

10. IMPAC, Marseille, France 2013

11. PANACHE, INTERREG conference Boulogne Sur Mer 2013

12. Seaton wildlife festival Seaton, UK 2013  

13. ISOPE Impacts of Marine Renewables Anchorage, Alaska. 2013

14. NERC workshop. Invited Birmingham, UK, 2010  

15. British Ecological Society annual meeting, (Invited) Birmingham, UK 2010.  

16. Oceans 2010 (Invited), Portland Oregon, USA. 2010
Devon Biodiversity Forum,
Council offices, Exeter, UK. 2009

17. International Network for Offshore Renewable Energy Symposium Ghent, Belgium 2009

18. Biodiversity Impacts of Marine Renewables, Wave Hub Exeter, UK 2009

19. Porcupine Marine Natural History Society, Plymouth, UK 2009

20. Marine Renewable Energy Workshop: (Invited). London, UK.

21. Marine Energy Workshop, UK ERC, (Invited) Edinburgh, UK.. 2009

22. International Conference for Marine Renewable Energy  Brest, France, 2008

23. Biodiversity Impacts of Marine Renewable Energy, Wave Hub. Plymouth, UK, 2008

24. International Scientific Meeting on Marine Renewable Energy and the Environment, London, UK, 2008  

25. The 18th Biennial Conference of the Estuarine Research Federation. Norfolk, Virginia, USA, 2005

26. Marine Postgraduate Workshop, School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor, Wales, UK 2003

27. 17th Biennial Conference of the Estuarine Research Foundation  Seattle, USA, 2003

28. Winter Meeting of the British Ecological Society, Birmingham, UK, 2001


Sheehan EV.  Motion in the ocean – paradigm shift in movement ecology requires “sedentary”organisms to be redefined. Journal of Animal Ecology. In press.

Bicknell AWJ, Sheehan EV, Godley BJ, Doherty PD, Witt MJ. Assessing the impactof introduced infrastructure at sea with cameras: a case study for spatialscale, time and statistical power. Marine Environmental Research. In press

2018 .

Sheehan EV, Cartwright AY, Witt MJ, Attrill MJ, Vural M, Holmes LA. Development of epibenthic assemblages on artificial habitat associated with marine renewable infrastructure. ICES Journal of Marine Science


Wilding TA, Gill AB, Boon A, Sheehan E, Dauvin JC, Pezy JP, O’Beirn F, Janas U, Rostin L, De Mesel I (2017) Turning off the DRIP (‘Data-rich, information-poor’)–rationalising monitoring with a focus on marine renewable energy developments and the benthos. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 74: 848-859. doi:10.1016/j.rser.2017.03.013

Sheehan EV, Rees A, Bridger D, Williams T, Hall-Spencer JM (2017) Strandings of NE Atlantic gorgonians. Biological Conservation 209: 482-487. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2017.03.020

Firth L, Thompson RC, Knights AM, Mieszkowska N, Moore PJ, O’Connor NE, Sheehan EV, Hawkins SJ (2017) Biodiversity and urbanisation: consequences of adaptation to global change. Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review, in press.

Heery EC, Bishop MJ, Critchley LP, Bugnot AB, Airoldi L, Mayer-Pinto M, Sheehan EV, Coleman RA, Loke LHL, Johnston EL, Komyakova V, Morris RL, Strain EMA, Naylor LA, Dafforn KA (2017) Identifying the consequences of ocean sprawl for sedimentary habitats. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology in press.doi:10.1016/j.jembe.2017.01.020


Sheehan EV, Cousens SL (2016) “Starballing”: a potential explanation for mass stranding. Marine Biodiversity 47: 617. doi:10.1007/s12526-016-0504-3

Bicknell AWJ, Godley BJ, Sheehan EV, Votier SC, Witt MJ (2016) Camera technology for monitoring marine biodiversity and human impact. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 14: 424-432. doi:10.1002/fee.1322

Sheehan EV, Vaz S, Pettifer E, Foster NL, Nancollas SJ, Cousens S, Holmes L, Facq JV, Germain G, Attrill MJ (2016) An experimental comparison of three Towed Underwater Video Systems using species metrics, benthic impact and performance. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 7: 843-852. doi:10.1111/2041-210X.12540

Jackson EJ, Cousens S, Bridger D, Nancollas SJ, Sheehan EV (2016) Conservation inaction in action for Essex seagrass meadows?. Regional Studies in Marine Science 8: 141-150 doi:10.1016/2016-210X.12540 

Wasson B, Sheehan EV (2016) The first records of Megalomma lanigera (Polychaeta: Sabellidae) from British waters. Cahiers de Biologie Marine 57: 281-283.


Sheehan EV, Bridger D, Cousens SL, Attrill MJ (2015) Resilience of dead maerl infaunal assemblages to experimental  habitat removal and replacement. Marine Ecology Progress Series 535:117-128. doi:10.3354/meps11400

Sheehan EV, Bridger D, Attrill MJ (2015) The ecosystem service value of living versus dead biogenic reef. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 154: 248-254. doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2014.12.042

Rodríguez-Rodríguez D, Rees S, Mannaerts G, Sciberras M, Piried C, Black G, Aulert C, Sheehan EV, Carrierb S, Attrill MJ (2015) Status of the marine protected area network across the English channel (La Manche): Cross-country similarities and differences in MPA designation, management and monitoring. Marine Policy 51: 536–546. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2014.09.021


Stevens TF, Sheehan, Gall SC, Fowell SC, Attrill MJ (2014) Monitoring benthic biodiversity restoration in Lyme Bay marine protected area: Design, sampling and analysis. Marine Policy 45: 310-317. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2013.09.006


Sheehan EV,  TF Stevens, SC Gall, SL Cousens, MJ Attrill (2013) Recovery of a Temperate Reef Assemblage in a Marine Protected Area following the Exclusion of Towed Demersal Fishing. PloS ONE 8: e83883. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083883

Sheehan EV, SL Cousens, SJ Nancollas, C Stauss, J Royle, MJ Attrill (2013) Drawing lines at the sand: Evidence for functional vs. visual reef boundaries in temperate Marine Protected Areas. Marine pollution bulletin 76: 194-202. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2013.09.004

Rees SE, Sheehan EV, Jackson EL, Gall SC, Cousens SL, Solandt JL, Boyer M, Attrill MJ (2013) A legal and ecological perspective of ‘site integrity’ to inform policy development and management of Special Areas of Conservation in Europe. Marine pollution bulletin 72:14-21. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2013.03.036

Sheehan EV, Gall SC, Cousens SC, Attrill MJ (2013) Epibenthic assessment of a renewable tidal energy site. The Scientific World Journal, Article 906180. doi:10.1155/2013/906180


Sheehan EV, Attrill MJ, Thompson RC, Coleman RA (2012) Changes in shorebird behaviour and distribution associated with an intertidal crab fishery. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 22: 683–694. doi:10.1002/aqc.2261


Sheehan EV, Stevens TF, Attrill MJ (2010) A quantitative, non-destructive methodology for habitat characterisation and benthic monitoring at offshore renewable energy developments. PLoS ONE 5: e14461. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014461

Sheehan EV, Coleman RA, Thompson RC and Attrill M.J (2010) Crab-tiling reduces the diversity of estuarine infauna. Marine Ecology Progress Series 411: 137-148. doi:10.3354/meps08668

Sheehan EV, Coleman RA, Attrill MJ , Thompson RC (2010) A quantitative assessment of the response of mobile estuarine fauna to crab-tiles during tidal immersion using remote underwater video cameras. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 387: 68-74. doi:10.1016/j.jembe.2010.02.008


Witt MJ, Sheehan EV, Bearhop S, Broderick AC, Conley DC, Cotterell SP, Crow E, Grecian WJ, Halsband C, Hodgson DJ, Hosegood P, Inger R, Miller PI, Sims DW, Thompson RC, Vanstaen K, Votier SC, Attrill MJ, Godley BJ (2009) Assessing wave energy effects on biodiversity: The Wave Hub experience. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 370: 502-529. doi:10.1098/rsta.2011.0265

Inger R , Attrill MJ, Bearhop S, Broderick AC, Grecian WJ, Hodgson DJ, Mills C, Sheehan EV, Votier SC, Witt MJ, Godley BJ (2009) Marine renewable energy: potential benefits to biodiversity. Journal of Applied Ecology. 46: 1145-1153. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2664.2009.01697.x


Sheehan EV, Thompson RC, Coleman RA, Attrill MJ (2008) Positive feedback fishery: Population consequences of ‘crab-tiling’ on the green crab Carcinus maenas. Journal of Sea Research 60: 255-261. doi:10.1016/j.seares.2008.09.002


Johnson ELG, Attrill MJ, Sheehan EV, Somerfield PJ (2007) Recovery of meiofauna communities following mudflat disturbance by trampling associated with crab-tiling. Marine Environmental Research 64: 409-416. doi:10.1016/j.marenvres.2007.03.002