University of St Andrews
Sea Mammal Research Unit

SMRU News Centre

item 744
[27-11-2011 to 31-01-2012]

News Item:
SMRU Awarded Queen's Anniversary Prize

The University of St Andrews has been awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize in recognition of the work of a world-leading research unit which is helping to further understanding and protection of the oceans.

The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St Andrews is among the winners in the Diamond Jubilee Round of The Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education.

The Anniversary Prizes, which recognise excellence in higher education and research, were announced at a reception at St James Palace, London, on Thursday 24 November 2011.

The Sea Mammal Research Unit has become a world leader in applied research promoting best practice in the health and governance of the ocean environment.  Based at the East Sands, St Andrews, the Unit is part of the University’s School of Biology and Scottish Oceans Institute. It operates from the tropics to the poles and maintains a particular focus on the UK’s seas.  Its academic staff and graduate team specialise in research on marine mammals - primarily seals, whales and dolphins – using innovative monitoring techniques.

The sea mammals which SMRU monitor provide a unique and sensitive early warning system to track and measure a range of factors concerned with the sustainability of human exploitation of the seas. 

With the scale and nature of industrial exploitation of the oceans rapidly developing, there is increasing demand for and impact of SMRU’s services, and its contribution to national policies.

Professor Ian Boyd, Director of the Unit, and University Chancellor Sir Menzies Campbell, were at St James Palace to hear the announcement. Professor Boyd said:

“Marine mammals are a bit like the canary in the cage. If we know how to read their behaviour and populations we can minimise the effect of our resource exploitation on the ocean. Although we need to exploit the ocean we also need to find ways of doing this sustainably. Marine mammals have a capacity to tell us when we are reaching the limits.

“My colleagues and I are delighted that our institution has been recognised in this way. It is truly a privilege to work with such magnificent animals and to have the job of translating their importance into information that the public can use. We also recognise that the institute is a hub in a global network of scientists and collaborators who share our passion for understanding these enigmatic creatures.”

Full Press Release

More about the Queen's Anniversary Prizes

contact: Prof Ian Boyd


SMRU News Archive:



Upcoming Events
  • CBD Seminar Series: Negative social information, mate-choice copying and species diversity
    speaker: Dr Susana Verala (University of Aveiro, Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies)

    building: Harold Mitchell
    room: Dyers Brae Seminar Room
    see also: additional details
    host/contact: Dr Maria Dornelas

    Numerous field and laboratory experiments have shown that many species have the capacity for social learning, including mate-choice decisions that can be influenced by witnessing the mating decisions of others. This phenomenon, known as mate-choice copying, is a type of non-genetic information than can increase behavioural plasticity and cause genetic changes across generations.
    The impact of mate-choice copying to species evolutionary changes is still controversial, however, with theory predicting faster evolution and mathematical models finding frequency dependent effects that may cancel out the fixation of an allele via the process of copying.
    Here I will present a new numerical model of mate-choice copying that follows the population genetics tradition, consisting in tracking allele frequencies in a population over time under scenarios with and without copying. In contrast to previous evolutionary models, my co-authors and I considered both positive and negative social information because many mating systems are driven by males in pursuit of a mate, and female refusal of copulation may provide negative social information.
    The inclusion of negative social information to mate-choice copying helps the spread of a novel trait, thus contributing to species diversification, even if female innate mate-choice preference is biased towards the common male-type. I will argue that the presence or absence of copying might simply mirror the associated cost-benefit relationship of the mating system of a given species, and suggest how to test this prediction.
    All Welcome!

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  • SOI seminar: Using data-driven models to explore sea louse infestations on wild and farmed salmon
    speaker: Prof Crawford Revie and Dr Maya Groner (University of Prince Edward Island, Canada)

    building: SOI
    room: Gatty Lecture Theatre
    see also: additional details
    host/contact: Dr Dave Ferrier


    The relationships in any ecological system are affected by many, often interacting, factors and this is certainly true of farmed and wild salmon hosts, and the sea louse species which are amongst the most important of their natural parasites. In particular L. salmonis have been the most significant health threat to Atlantic salmon farming for the past two decades, while the impact of spill-over from these concentrated loci of infestation to wild populations has been a concern in many regions. These health threats and concerns have led to the collection of large data sets some spanning many years, and a range of questions arise as to the best way to model and interpret the relationship that may be present in such data. This talk will present a range of statistical and mathematical modelling approaches that the presenters have explored over the past decade address these challenges.  



    Dr. Crawford Revie

    Crawford holds the Canada Research Chair in Epi-Informatics at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island, Canada. The main focus of his research involves novel methods to extract and organize knowledge that exists in large/complex epidemiological data sets. He has extensive experience in designing and delivering distributed database solutions in the domains of human and veterinary health. He leads a team of researchers who use epi-informatics approaches to tackle a range of tasks; from the development of web-based fish health databases, through network modelling of zoonotic pathogen spread, to the application of mobile phones in assisting animal health assistants in sub-Saharan Africa.


    Dr. Maya Groner

    Maya is a postdoctoral fellow at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island. Maya's research focuses on ecological and evolutionary consequences of infectious disease in aquatic systems including sea louse parasites of salmon, wasting disease in seagrasses and chytridiomycosis in amphibians. Her research employs a range of approaches, from field surveys, to experiments, to theoretical models. Dr. Groner is also a member of the National Science Foundation supported Research Coordination Network on the Ecology of Infectious Marine Diseases.


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  • SOI seminar: Comparative diving eco-physiology: a tool to assess environmental change
    speaker: Dr Andreas Fahlman (Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, USA)

    building: SOI
    room: Gatty Lecture Theatre
    see also: additional details
    host/contact: Dr Sascha Hooker

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  • BSRC Seminar Series: Fragment-based drug discovery- a decade of thinking small
    speaker: Dr Harren Jhoti (Astex Pharmaceuticals)

    building: BMS
    room: Lecture Theatre
    see also: additional details
    host/contact: Prof Jim Naismith

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  • SOI seminar: Toothed whales and tooth fish: depredation by marine mammals on fisheries around the Southern Ocean Islands of Kerguelen and Crozet
    speaker: Christope Guine (Centre d'Études Biologiques de Chizé (CEBC))

    building: SOI
    room: Gatty Lecture Theatre
    see also: additional details

    He will be discussing the depredation by sperm whales and killer whales on fisheries in the Crozet  and Kerguelen area that he and Paul Tixier have been doing over the last 10 years.

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