The Harbour Seal Decline Project 2015-2024…what we have learned?

Charmaine Duthie
Monday 15 January 2024

The Harbour Seal Decline Project 2015-2024…what we have learned?Monica Arso CivilUniversity of St Andrews


Monica did her undergrad at the University of Barcelona and then moved to St Andrews in 2008 to do an MRes and a PhD at SMRU, after a short period working at SMRU Limited. The PhD focused on the ecology of bottlenose dolphins off the east coast of Scotland. Since then she has been working as a research fellow on two main projects around population dynamics and photoID, with most of her time spent on the harbour seal decline project which she is presenting today.

The number of harbour seals has been declining in parts of Scotland since around the year 2000, with some areas like the Tay estuary declining by 95%, and Orkney and the North coast by 85%, while areas on the west coast of Scotland have been generally increasing. The harbour seal decline project started in 2015 to investigate the causes of these declines in harbour seal numbers. Monica was involved in selected study sites in areas of contrasting population trajectories and set up data collection to estimate vital rates and look at differences in potential drivers of the decline. In her talk she’ll be summarising some of the main outputs from the project and lessons learned along the way.


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