Miss  Isha
Profiles

Miss Isha

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

Biography

Biography

I am a PhD student with research interests involving the behavioural and spatial ecology of cetaceans, particularly in the Indian Ocean. I use a combination of methodologies including visual observations, bioacoustics, statistical modelling and GIS techniques to study cetacean populations. In a nutshell, I am curious about what cetaceans do, where they go, and why do they do so. The research questions I investigate are motivated by conservation issues, and I aim to use my research to inform effective conservation plans for marine ecosystems.

Qualifications

  • 2022 – Present: PhD Researcher, University of Plymouth, and Institute of Zoology, ZSL

  • 2018 – 2019: MSc in Marine Mammal Science, University of St Andrews

  • 2015 – 2018: BSc in Zoology and Biochemistry, St Xavier’s College – Autonomous, Mumbai


Research

Research

Research interests

My PhD project aims to: (1) estimate population abundance of cetacean species (whales and dolphins) in the Chagos Archipelago, and (2) determine hotspots of cetacean diversity and critical areas for individual species that can be used in conservation and management, along with oceanographic and physiographic drivers that influence habitat use within the archipelago, and the Wider Indian Ocean. This is being done using opportunistic sightings data from platform-of-opportunity surveys aboard a patrol vessel as well as acoustic data from an array of hydrophones. 

Cetaceans are charismatic megafauna that play a key role in marine ecosystems. However, many whale populations are still recovering from historic whaling while facing additional threats from fisheries bycatch, ship strikes, anthropogenic noise and ocean warming. The Chagos MPA is remote and largely sheltered from direct human impacts. This may make Chagos the last tropical refuge for cetaceans. Information about the cetacean biodiversity in the MPA is scarce. The Marine Mammal Protected Area Task Force (MMPATF) of IUCN identified Chagos archipelago as data deficient and requiring ‘enhanced effort for monitoring species of marine mammal’. The remoteness of the archipelago provides a rare opportunity for comparison with other regions in the Western Indian Ocean, especially given its protection from anthropogenic threats such as bycatch. This project will determine the importance of the Chagos Archipelago for cetaceans and whether this no-take MPA is one of the last tropical refuges for cetaceans in the Indian Ocean.