Mrs Esther Jones

Mrs Esther Jones
Research Fellow


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.

source: symbiosis


Recent publications listed in research@st-andrews
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.
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, 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, .

Contact Details:

Mrs Esther Jones
Scottish Oceans Institute
East Sands
University of St Andrews
St Andrews
KY16 8LB

tel: 01334 462663 / 461829
room: 1.19



Centre for Research into Ecological & Environmental Modelling
Sea Mammal Research Unit
School of Biology
Scottish Oceans Institute

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The Secretary
Scottish Oceans Institute
Institiud Chuantan na h-Alba
Gatty Marine Laboratory
East Sands St Andrews
KY16 8LB

tel: +44 (0) 1334 463472
fax: +44 (0) 1334 463443