Mrs Esther Jones

Research Fellow

tel: 01334 462663 / 461829
room: 1.19  (SOI)
Scottish Oceans Institute
East Sands
University of St Andrews
St Andrews
KY16 8LB

General Information

My research interests are to investigate how animals use their environment. Current projects focus on grey and harbour seals around the UK, and the use of spatial models to characterise their distribution and habitat use. 


Seal usage maps

The project characterises the marine distribution of grey and harbour seals around the UK at a population level, with associated levels of uncertainty. Density estimation was used and over 20 years of telemetry and survey count data were aggregated to produce GIS maps. As well as academic research, the maps are now used for spatial planning in Environmental Impacts Assessments, and when identifying areas for marine protection. The maps are available to download on Marine Scotland Interactive:

They have also contributed to marine renewable development EIAs:

Moray Firth

Forth and Tay


SCOS paper

Briefing paper 12/05. Marine distribution of grey & harbour seals around the UK. Jones, E. L., McConnell, B.J, Duck, C.D., Morris, C.D., Hammond, P.S., Russell, D.J.F. & Matthiopoulos, J.

Keywords: spatial partitioning, propagating uncertainty, kalman filter, kernel smoothing, GLM, GAM, telemetry satellite tags, aerial survey data.


Seal habitat preference

Habitat preference can be modelled as a function of space use, accessibility, and competition, combined with environmental covariates to describe why animals use geographic space in a certain way. However, animals response to their environment changes throughout space (i.e. the relationship is non-linear), and this is not usually taken into account. Dependant on the spatial scale, model predictions can be affected unless they capture diverse environmental conditions. The project uses 20 years of telemetry data to identify determinants of core seal habitat, delineated geographically around the UK. Models were built using data-rich regions to provide robust predictions to data-sparse and unobserved areas, providing continuous habitat preference maps, determining how grey and harbour seal responses to their environment vary by scale and magnitude.

Keywords: resource selection function, generalised functional response, control point, GLMM.


Seal-shipping interactions

The project will provide a high-level overview of the coincidence of shipping and seal activity, to inform where future monitoring and experimental resources will be most effective. Density estimation techniques will map shipping traffic, which can be compared to seal usage maps in determining areas of potential overlap.

Keywords: spatial comparison.


Recent Publications

Jones, EL, Sparling, CE, McConnell, BJ, Morris, C & Smout, SC 2017, 'Fine-scale harbour seal usage for informed marine spatial planning' Scientific Reports, vol 7, 11581. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-11174-4
Hanson, NN, Jones, EL & Harris, R 2017, 'Multi-decadal and ontogenetic trophic shifts inferred from stable isotope ratios of pinniped teeth' Oikos, vol Early View. DOI: 10.1111/oik.04441
Jones, EL, Hastie, GD, Smout, S, Onoufriou, J, Merchant, ND, Brookes, KL & Thompson, D 2017, 'Seals and shipping: quantifying population risk and individual exposure to vessel noise' Journal of Applied Ecology, vol Early View. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12911
Jones, EL, Smout, SC, Russell, DJ, Pinn, E & McConnell, BJ 2017, Review of analytical approaches for identifying usage and foraging areas at sea for harbour seals. vol. 602, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough.
Jones, EL & Russell, DJ 2017, Updated grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) usage maps in the North Sea. vol. OESEA-15-65, Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Jones, EL, Smout, SC, Blight, CJ, Sparling, CE & McConnell, BJ 2016, Fine-scale harbour seal at-sea usage around Orkney and the North coast of Scotland. Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science, no. 27, vol. 7, Marine Scotland. DOI: 10.7489/1876-1
Russell, DJF, Hastie, GD, Thompson, D, Janik, VM, Hammond, PS, Scott-Hayward, LAS, Matthiopoulos, J, Jones, EL & McConnell, BJ 2016, 'Avoidance of wind farms by harbour seals is limited to pile driving activities' Journal of Applied Ecology, vol 53, no. 6, pp. 1642-1652. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12678
Jones, EL, Rendell, LE, Pirotta, E & Long, JA 2016, 'Novel application of a quantitative spatial comparison tool to species distribution data' Ecological Indicators, vol 70, pp. 67-76. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.05.051
Jones, EL, Morris, C, Smout, SC & McConnell, BJ 2016, Population scaling in 5 km x 5 km grey and harbour seal usage maps. Note to Scottish Government MMSS/002/15. Marine Scotland.
Onoufriou, J, Jones, EL, Hastie, GD & Thompson, D 2016, Investigations into the interactions between harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) and vessels in the inner Moray Firth. Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science, no. 24, vol. 74, Marine Scotland. DOI: 10.7489/1805-1
Russell, DJF, McClintock, BT, Matthiopoulos, J, Thompson, P, Thompson, D, Hammond, PS, Jones, EL, MacKenzie, M, Moss, S & McConnell, BJ 2015, 'Intrinsic and extrinsic drivers of activity budgets in sympatric grey and harbour seals' Oikos, vol 124, no. 11, pp. 1462-1472. DOI: 10.1111/oik.01810
Huon, M, Jones, EL, Matthiopoulos, J, McConnell, BJ, Caurant, F & Vincent, C 2015, 'Habitat selection of gray seals (Halichoerus grypus) in a marine protected area in France' Journal of Wildlife Management, vol 79, no. 7, pp. 1091-1100. DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.929
Jones, EL, McConnell, BJ, Smout, SC, Hammond, PS, Duck, CD, Morris, C, Thompson, D, Russell, DJF, Vincent, C, Cronin, M, Sharples, RJ & Matthiopoulos, J 2015, 'Patterns of space use in sympatric marine colonial predators reveals scales of spatial partitioning' Marine Ecology Progress Series, vol 534, pp. 235-249. DOI: 10.3354/meps11370
Jones, EL, Smout, SC & McConnell, BJ 2015, Review the extent of how new survey data affect usage estimates. Report to Marine Scotland MMSS/001/11 MR 5.1. Marine Scotland.
Jones, EL, Smout, SC, Morris, C & McConnell, BJ 2015, Determine data sparse regions. Report to Marine Scotland MMSS/001/11 MR 5.1. Marine Scotland.
Jones, EL, McConnell, BJ, Sparling, CE & Matthiopoulos, J 2015, Produce, publish and maintain seal usage maps with confidence intervals. Report to Marine Scotland MMSS/001/11 MR 5.1. Marine Scotland. DOI: 10.7489/1672-1
Jones, E, Onoufriou, J, Thompson, D & Smout, SC 2015, Examining the distribution of observed carcasses to identify biological and oceanographic patterns and distribution of potential causes to assess the patterns of risk associated with unexplained seal deaths. Report to Scottish Government, no. USD 4, University of St Andrews.
Jones, EL, Smout, SC & McConnell, BJ 2015, Determine environmental covariates for usage preference around the UK. Report to Marine Scotland MMSS/001/11 MR 5.1.6. Marine Scotland.
Aarts, G, Jones, EL, Brasseur, S, Rindorf, A, Smout, SC, Dickey-Collas, M, Wright, P, Russell, DJF, McConnell, BJ, Kirkwood, R, Matthiopoulos, J & Reijnders, P 2014, 'Prey habitat model outperforms prey data in explaining grey seal distribution' Paper presented at Annual Conferenec of the European Cetacean Society, La Rochelle, France, 4/04/05, .
Jones, EL & Matthiopoulos, J 2013, Hornsea Offshore Wind Farm Project One: Environmental Statement Volume 5 – Offshore Annexes. Smart Wind Limited.
Sparling, CE, Russell, DJF, Jones, EL, Grellier, K, Lonergan, M, McConnell, BJ, Matthiopoulos, J & Thompson, D 2012, Baseline Seal Information for the FTWODG Area. SMRUL-FDG-2012-0 to FTOWDG. SMRU Consulting.
Jones, EL, McConnell, BJ, Duck, CD, Morris, C, Hammond, PS & Russell, DJF 2012, Marine distribution of grey & harbour seals around the UK.: Special Committee on Seals (12/06). Sea Mammal Research Unit.
Jones, EL, McConnell, BJ, Duck, CD, Hammond, PS & Matthiopoulos, J 2012, 'Spatial distributions between UK grey & harbour seal populations' Paper presented at International Statistical Ecology Conference, Oslo, Norway, 3/07/12 - 6/07/12, .
Jones, EL & Matthiopoulos, J 2011, Grey seal usage maps for MORL/BOWL developments - Phase 2 delivery. SMRU Consulting.
Russell, DJF, Jones, EL, Matthiopoulos, J, Duck, CD, Morris, C & McConnell, BJ 2011, SMRU seal telemetry data holdings: Special Committee on Seals. Sea Mammal Research Unit.

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