Dr Douglas Gillespie

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 ?

source: symbiosis

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, offshore energy extraction and shipping.

Monitoring the Effects of Offshore Renewables

While offshore renewable energy has the potential to cut carbon emissions, the increased industrialisation of coastal areas may have a detrimental impact on some forms of marine life.

In particular, tidal turbines have the potential to injure or kill marine mammals should they be struck by moving turbine blades. Animals may be also be excluded from areas in which arrays of turbines have been installed.

We are using passive acoustics to study how small cetaceans (harbour porpoise and dolphins) behave in the immediate vicinity of tidal energy devices in order to answer the questions:

  1. Do animals approach operational turbines
  2. Is there any evidence of habitat exclusion
  3. Is there any evidence of fine scale avoidance behaviour in the immediate vicinity of turbine blades

We currently collect data from an operational turbine on the North Coast of Scotland from 12 hydrophones, each sampling at a high data rate of 500kHz. This monitoring program has now been operational for over one year using funds from the Scottish Government Marine Mammal Scientific Research Program.

PAMGuard Software

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.



20 (of 50 /dk/atira/pure/researchoutput/status/published available) for dg50 (source: University of St Andrews PURE)
Please click title of any item for full details

Deep neural networks for automated detection of marine mammal species Yu Shiu, Marie Roch, Erica Fleishman, Xiaobai Liu, Eva-Marie Nosal, Tyler Helble, Danielle Cholewiak, Douglas Michael Gillespie, Holger Klinck
Scientific Reports 2020 vol. 10
Passive acoustic methods for tracking the 3D movements of small cetaceans around marine structures Douglas Michael Gillespie, Laura Eve Palmer, Jamie Donald John MacAulay, Carol Elizabeth Sparling, Gordon Drummond Hastie
PLoS ONE 2020 vol. 15
A review of unmanned vehicles for the detection and monitoring of marine fauna Ursula K. Verfuss, Ana Sofia Aniceto, Danielle Harris, Douglas Michael Gillespie, Sophie Fielding, Guillermo Jiménez, Phil Johnston, Rachael R. Sinclair, Agnar Sivertsen, Stian A. Solbø, Rune Storvold, Martin Biuw, Roy Wyatt
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2019 vol. 140 pp. 17-29
Automated detection and tracking of marine mammals Gordon Drummond Hastie, Mick Wu, Simon Moss, Pauline Jepp, Jamie Donald John MacAulay, Arthur Lee, Carol Elizabeth Sparling, Clair Hilary Marie Evers, Douglas Michael Gillespie
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 2019 vol. 29 pp. 119-130
PAMGuard Beta Release 2.00.15 Douglas Michael Gillespie, Michael Oswald
Three-dimensional movements of harbour seals in a tidally energetic channel Gordon Drummond Hastie, Matthew Bivins, Alexander James Coram, Jonathan Charles David Gordon, Pauline Jepp, Jamie Donald John MacAulay, Carol Elizabeth Sparling, Douglas Michael Gillespie
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 2019 vol. 29 pp. 564-575
Time of arrival difference estimation for narrow band high frequency echolocation clicks Douglas Michael Gillespie, Jamie Donald John MacAulay
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 2019 vol. 146 pp. EL387-EL392
Abundance estimates for sperm whales in the Mediterranean Sea from acoustic line-transect survey Tim Lewis, Oliver Boisseau, Magnus Danbolt, Douglas Michael Gillespie, Claire Lacey, Russell Leaper, Justin Matthews, Richard McLanaghan, Anna Moscrop
Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 2018 vol. 18 pp. 103-117
Cetacean rapid assessment: an approach to fill knowledge gaps and target conservation across large data deficient areas Gillian Tracey Braulik, Magreth Kasuga, Anja Wittich, Jeremy J Kiszka, Jamie Donald John MacAulay, Douglas Michael Gillespie, Jonathan Charles David Gordon, Said Shaib Said, Philip Steven Hammond
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 2018 vol. 28 pp. 216-230
Comparing methods suitable for monitoring marine mammals in low visibility conditions during seismic surveys Ursula K. Verfuss, Douglas Michael Gillespie, Jonathan Charles David Gordon, Tiago A. Marques, Brianne Miller, Rachael Plunkett, James A. Theriault, Dominic John Tollit, Daniel P. Zitterbart, Philippe Hubert, Len Thomas
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2018 vol. 126 pp. 1-18
First in situ passive acoustic monitoring for marine mammals during operation of a tidal turbine in Ramsey Sound, Wales Chloe Elizabeth Malinka, Douglas Michael Gillespie, Jamie Donald John MacAulay, Ruth Joy, Carol Elizabeth Sparling
Marine Ecology Progress Series 2018 vol. 590 pp. 247-266
Review and evaluation of low visibility real-time monitoring techniques U. K. Verfuss, Douglas Michael Gillespie, Tiago A. Marques, B. Miller, J. Theriault
Acoustic monitoring to document the spatial distribution and hotspots of blast fishing in Tanzania Gillian Tracey Braulik, Anja Wittich, Jamie Donald John MacAulay, Magreth Kasuga, Jonathan Charles David Gordon, Tim Davenport, Douglas Michael Gillespie
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2017 vol. 125 pp. 360-366
Passive acoustic methods for fine-scale tracking of harbour porpoises in tidal rapids Jamie Donald John MacAulay, Jonathan Charles David Gordon, Douglas Michael Gillespie, Chloe Elizabeth Malinka, Simon Northridge
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 2017 vol. 141 pp. 1120-1132
Scottish Government Demonstration Strategy Carol Elizabeth Sparling, Douglas Michael Gillespie, Gordon Drummond Hastie, Jonathan Charles David Gordon, Jamie Donald John MacAulay, Chloe Elizabeth Malinka, Mick Wu, Bernie J McConnell
2016 vol. 7
Software for real-time localization of baleen whale calls using directional sonobuoys Brian S. Miller, S. Calderan, Douglas Michael Gillespie, Graham Weatherup, R. Leaper, Kym Collins, Michael C. Double
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 2016 vol. 139 pp. EL83-EL89
A general framework for animal density estimation from acoustic detections across a fixed microphone array Ben Stevenson, David Louis Borchers, R. Altwegg, Douglas Michael Gillespie, G.J. Measey
Methods in Ecology and Evolution 2015 vol. 6 pp. 38-48
PAMGuard Beta release 1.14.00 Douglas Michael Gillespie
Tracking harbor porpoises in tidal rapids: Jamie Donald John MacAulay, Jonathan Charles David Gordon, Douglas Michael Gillespie, Chloe Elizabeth Malinka, Mark Johnson, Simon Northridge
Assessing the potential of autonomous submarine gliders for ecosystem monitoring across multiple trophic levels (plankton to cetaceans) and pollutants in shallow shelf seas L. Suberg, R.B. Wynn, J.V.D. Kooij, L. Fernand, S. Fielding, D. Guihen, Douglas Michael Gillespie, Mark Johnson, Kalliopi Charitomeni Gkikopoulou, I.J. Allan, B. Vrana, P.I. Miller, D. Smeed, A.R. Jones
Methods in Oceanography 2014 vol. 10 pp. 70-89

Contact Details:

Dr Douglas Gillespie
Scottish Oceans Institute
East Sands
University of St Andrews
St Andrews
KY16 8LB

tel: 01334 462663


PAMGuard Software
Sea Mammal Research Unit
School of Biology
Scottish Oceans Institute

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