Dr Douglas Gillespie


tel: 01334 462663
email: dg50@st-andrews.ac.uk
room:  (SOI)
Scottish Oceans Institute
East Sands
University of St Andrews
St Andrews
KY16 8LB

General Information

Back in the 1980’s available computers were not powerful enough to process acoustic data in real time. However, with the increased power available since the mid 90’s, it is now possible to develop software that will detect and classify sounds in real time on affordable PC’s.

As computers become ever more powerful, we have been able to develop more sophisticated detectors for more and more species, increasing the range of frequencies we can work at and the number of channels of data that can be processed. Now that we no longer hunger for more processing power, the trend in affordable computing has been for smaller and lower power devices. Indeed, most of us carry a mobile phone containing a processor that is more than capable of carrying out serious amounts of real-time data processing. Much of my current research therefore involves the development of detection systems that can run on low power devices mounted on moored buoys and autonomous vehicles such as submarine gliders. As well as the challenge of making useful detections on a limited power budget, we are also addressing the problem of how to interpret this type of data: for instance, if I hear 10,000 echolocation clicks from my glider, how many animals are there ?

Research Overview

Passive Acoustics

Passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) is an effective way of detecting many species of cetacean and has an important role in abundance surveys and in detecting cetaceans in the vicinity of certain human activities which may cause harm, such as seismic surveys, military sonar exercises and even shipping.

Passive acoustic detection of beaked whales

Beaked whales are one of the least known marine mammal species due to their offshore habitat and deep diving behaviour. We are investigating the use of passive acoustics as a means of detecting beaked whales using towed hydrophones close to the surface. Several beaked whale species are known to produce narrow band high frequency clicks during deep foraging dives. Many beaked whale species have not yet been recorded.

The four main focuses of our research are

  1. To assess how efficiently beaked whale can be detected.
  2. To develop software which can automatically detect beaked whale clicks and tell them apart from other species.
  3. To try to record the sounds of previously unrecorded beaked whale species.
  4. To test the effectiveness of passive acoustic monitoring in developing habitat use models for beaked whales.


PAMGUARD is open source software for the detection and localisation of marine mammal vocalisations. It is optimised for real time use in the field and has applications both in abundance survey and in mitigation monitoring.  I manage the PAMGUARD project and wrote both the core structure of the PAMGUARD and many of the detection, localisation and mapping modules within the software.



Recent Publications

MacAulay, JDJ, Gordon, JCD, Gillespie, DM, Malinka, CE & Northridge, SP 2017, 'Passive acoustic methods for fine-scale tracking of harbour porpoises in tidal rapids' Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, vol 141, no. 2, pp. 1120-1132. DOI: 10.1121/1.4976077
Sparling, CE, Gillespie, DM, Hastie, GD, Gordon, JCD, MacAulay, JDJ, Malinka, CE, Wu, G-M & McConnell, BJ 2016, Scottish Government Demonstration Strategy: Trialing methods for tracking the fine scale underwater movements of marine mammals in areas of marine renewable energy development. vol. 7, 14 edn, Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science.
MacAulay, JDJ, Gordon, JCD, Gillespie, DM, Malinka, CE, Johnson, M & Northridge, SP 2015, Tracking harbor porpoises in tidal rapids:: A low cost autonomous platform to track the movement of harbor porpoises in tidal rapids. NERC.
Gillespie, DM PAMGuard Beta release 1.14.00.
Stevenson, BC, Borchers, DL, Altwegg, R, Swift, RJ, Gillespie, DM & Measey, GJ 2015, 'A general framework for animal density estimation from acoustic detections across a fixed microphone array' Methods in Ecology and Evolution, vol 6, no. 1, pp. 38-48. DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12291
Suberg, L, Wynn, RB, Kooij, JVD, Fernand, L, Fielding, S, Guihen, D, Gillespie, D, Johnson, M, Gkikopoulou, KC, Allan, IJ, Vrana, B, Miller, PI, Smeed, D & Jones, AR 2014, 'Assessing the potential of autonomous submarine gliders for ecosystem monitoring across multiple trophic levels (plankton to cetaceans) and pollutants in shallow shelf seas' Methods in Oceanography, vol 10, pp. 70-89. DOI: 10.1016/j.mio.2014.06.002
Hammond, PS, Gillespie, DM, Lovell, P, Samarra, FIP, Swift, RJ, Macleod, K, Tasker, ML, Berggren, P, Borchers, DL, Burt, ML, Paxton, CGM, Canadas, A, Desportes, G, Donovan, GP, Gilles, A, Lehnert, K, Siebert, U, Gordon, JCD, Leaper, R, Leopold, M, Scheidat, M, Oien, N, Ridoux, V, Rogan, E, Skov, H, Teilmann, J, Van Canneyt, O & Vazquez, JA 2014, 'Large scale surveys for cetaceans: line transect assumptions, reliability of abundance estimates and improving survey efficiency – A response to MacLeod' Biological Conservation, vol 170, pp. 338-339. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2014.01.016
Hastie, GD, Gillespie, DM, Gordon, JCD, MacAulay, JDJ, McConnell, BJ & Sparling, CE 2014, Tracking technologies for quantifying marine mammal interactions with tidal turbines: pitfalls and possibilities. in M Shields & A Payne (eds), Marine Renewable Energy Technology and Environmental Interactions. Humanity and the Sea, Springer Science and Business Media, Dordrecht. DOI: 10.1007/978-94-017-8002-5_10
Caillat, MA, Thomas, L & Gillespie, DM 2013, 'The effects of acoustic misclassification on cetacean species abundance estimation' Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, vol 134, no. 3, pp. 2469–2476. DOI: 10.1121/1.4816569
Gillespie, D, Caillat, M, Gordon, J & White, P 2013, 'Automatic detection and classification of odontocete whistles' Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, vol 134, no. 3, pp. 2427-2437. DOI: 10.1121/1.4816555
Hammond, PS, Macleod, K, Berggren, P, Borchers, DL, Burt, ML, Cañadas, A, Desportes, G, Donovan, GP, Gilles, A, Gillespie, DM, Gordon, JCD, Hiby, L, Kuklik, I, Leaper, R, Lehnert, K, Leopold, M, Lovell, P, Øien, N, Paxton, CGM, Ridoux, V, Rogan, E, Samarra, FIP, Scheidat, M, Sequeira, M, Siebert, U, Skov, H, Swift, RJ, Tasker, M, Teilmann, J, Van Canneyt, O & Vázquez, JA 2013, 'Cetacean abundance and distribution in European Atlantic shelf waters to inform conservation and management' Biological Conservation, vol 164, pp. 107-122. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2013.04.010
McConnell, BJ, Gillespie, DM, Gordon, JCD, Hastie, GD, Johnson, M & MacAulay, JDJ 2013, Methods for tracking fine scale underwater movements of marine mammals around marine tidal devices: Report to Scottish Government Marine Mammal Scientific Support Research Programme MMSS/001/11. Scottish Government, Edinburgh.
Sveegaad, S, Teilmann, J, Berggren, P, Mouritsen, K, Gillespie, DM & Tougaard, J 2011, 'Acoustic surveys confirm the high-density areas of harbour porpoises found by satellite tracking' ICES Journal of Marine Science, vol 68, no. 5, pp. 929-936.
Yack, TM, Barlow, J, Roch, MA, Klinck, H, Martin, S, Mellinger, DK & Gillespie, D 2010, 'Comparison of beaked whale detection algorithms' Applied Acoustics , vol 71, no. 11, pp. 1043-1049. DOI: 10.1016/j.apacoust.2010.04.010
Leaper, R, Burt, ML, Gillespie, DM & Macleod, K 2010, 'Comparisons of measured and estimated distances and angles from sightings surveys' Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, vol 11, no. 3, pp. 229-237.
Gillespie, DM, Leaper, R, Gordon, JCD & Macleod, K 2010, 'An integrated data collection system for line transect surveys' Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, vol 11, no. 3, pp. 217.
Lacey, C, Leaper, R, Moscrop, A, Gillespie, DM, McLanaghan, R & Brown, S 2010, 'Photo-grammetric measurements of swimming speed and body length of basking sharks observed around the Hebrides, Scotland' Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, vol 90, no. 2, pp. 361-366. DOI: 10.1017/S0025315409000769
Northridge, S, Gordon, J, Booth, C, Calderan, S, Cargill, A, Coram, AJ, Gillespie, DM, Lonergan, M & Webb, A Assessment of the impacts and utility of acoustic deterrent devices.
Gillespie, DM, Dunn, CA, Gordon, JCD, Claridge, D, Embling, C & Boyd, IL 2009, 'Field Recordings of Gervais’ Beaked whales Mesoplodon europaeus from the Bahamas' Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, vol 125, no. 5, pp. 3428-3433. DOI: 10.1121/1.3110832
Gillespie, DM, Gordon, J, McHugh, R, Mclaren, D, Mellinger, D, Redmond, P, Thode, A, Trinder, P & Deng, XY 2008, 'PAMGUARD: Semiautomated, open source software for real-time acoustic detection and localisation of cetaceans'.
Gillespie, DM & Caillat, M 2008, 'Statistical Classification of Odontocete Clicks' Canadian Acoustics, vol 36, no. 1, pp. 20-26.
Boisseau, O, Matthews, J, Gillespie, DM, Lacey, C, Moscrop, A & El Ouamari, N 2007, 'A visual and acoustic survey for harbour porpoises off North-West Africa: further evidence of a discrete population' African Journal of Marine Science, vol 29, no. 3, pp. 403-410. DOI: 10.2989/AJMS.2007.
Lewis, T, Gillespie, DM, Lacey, C, Matthews, J, Danbolt, M, Leaper, R, McLanaghan, R & Moscrop, A 2007, 'Sperm whale abundance estimates from acoustic surveys of the Ionian Sea and Straits of Sicily in 2003' Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, vol 87, no. 1, pp. 353-357. DOI: 10.1017/S0025315407054896
Clark, CW, Gillespie, DM, Nowacek, DP & Parks, SE 2007, Listening to Their World: Acoustics for Monitoring and Protecting Right Whales in an Urbanized Ocean. in S Kraus & RM Rolland (eds), The urban whale: North Atlantic right whales at the crossroads . Harvard University Press, pp. 333-357.
Adam, O, Motsch, J-F, Desharnais, F, DiMarzio, N, Gillespie, D & Gisiner, RC 2006, 'Overview of the 2005 workshop on detection and localization of marine mammals using passive acoustics' Applied Acoustics , vol 67, pp. 1061-1070. DOI: 10.1016/j.apacoust.2006.05.013
Gillespie, DM, Berggren, P, Brown, S, Kuklik, I, Lacey, C, Lewis, T, Matthews, J, McLanaghan, R, Moscrop, A & Tregenza, N 2005, 'Relative abundance of harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) from acoustic and visual surveys of the Baltic Sea and adjacent waters during 2001 and 2002' Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, vol 7, no. 1, pp. 51.
Gillespie, DM 2004, 'Detection and classification of right whale calls using an ‘edge’ detector operating on a smoothed spectrogram' Canadian Acoustics, vol 32, no. 2, pp. 39-47.
Gordon, JCD, Gillespie, D, Potter, J, Frantzis, A, Simmonds, MP, Swift, R & Thompson, D 2003, 'A review of the effects of seismic surveys on marine mammals' Marine Technology Society Journal, vol 37, no. 4, pp. 16-34. DOI: 10.4031/002533203787536998
Gillespie, DM & Chappell, O 2002, 'An automatic system for detecting and classifying the vocalisations of harbour porpoises' Bioacoustics, vol 13, no. 1, pp. 37-61.
Gillespie, DM & Leaper, R 2001, Report of the Workshop on Right Whale Acoustics: Practical Applications in Conservation. Unknown Publisher.
Matthews, JN, Brown, S, Gillespie, DM, Johnson, M, McLanaghan, R, Moscrop, A, Nowacek, D, Leaper, R, Lewis, T & Tyack, PL 2001, 'Vocalisation rates of the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis)' Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, vol 3, no. 3, pp. 271-282.
Leaper, R, Gillespie, DM & Papastavrou, V 2000, 'Results of passive acoustic surveys for odontocetes in the Southern Ocean' Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, vol 2, no. 3, pp. 187-196.
Gillespie, DM 1997, 'An acoustic survey for sperm whales in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary conducted from the RSV Aurora Australis' pp. 897-907.

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