Dr Saana Isojunno
Research Fellow

source: symbiosis

Research Overview:

I’m a behavioural ecologist with a keen interest in energetics and exercise. I use on-animal sensors and time series models to quantify activity states, time budgets and proxy locomotion costs of free-ranging animals. I’m particularly interested in the drivers of individual responsiveness and vulnerability to environmental uncertainty and anthropogenic disturbance (conservation behaviour).

For my PhD and postdoctoral research so far I’ve focused on how and why cetaceans respond to whale-watching and navy sonar, using bioacoustics and biologging as tools. I’m currently working in Prof Patrick Miller’s lab as the named postdoc under two projects:

"Interpreting the biological significance of behavior associated with 3S experimental sonar exposures". For this project, I estimated activity-time budgets to contrast the magnitude of foraging time trade-offs under simulated predation risk (playback of mammal-eating killer whale sounds) and exposure to anthropogenic noise (1-2kHz navy sonar) in a comparative study across four different cetacean species. The state-switching model development was funded by the Mocha project (PIs Catriona Harris and Len Thomas) which aimed to showcase hidden Markov models as a method to integrate multiple streams of sparse time series data in behavioural response studies. I’m also investigating whether respiratory behaviour detected from onboard tag sensors can be linked to diving behaviour and indicate any energetic or physiological cost of behavioural responses to sound exposures.

"3S3 – Behavioural responses of sperm whales to naval sonar – Comparing responses to continuous active sonar (CAS) and pulsed active sonar (PAS), and disentangling received level from range as the response driver". I will lead two core deliverables for this project: contrast activity time trade-offs and response duration to CAS vs PAS exposures, and test hypotheses about masking of terminal echolocation sounds (buzzes).

On the field, I have worked with a range of cetacean species (harbour porpoise, sperm whale, pilot whale, northern bottlenose and humpback whale). My roles have included survey design, tagging (ARTS and cantilever pole), and working as a DTAG and acoustic technician.

In the future, I hope to integrate more individual-level traits (e.g. age-sex) and ecophysiology in my research to better understand individual and species behavioural plasticity to cope with anthropogenic stressors. For example, I was very excited to be a part of a team to estimate body density as a proxy for body condition from accelerometer data of  gliding beaked whales. I developed models in a hierarchical Bayesian framework to simultaneously estimate tissue vs. air density using expected hydrodynamic relationships between acceleration, drag and buoyancy forces (Miller et al., 2016).

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch  – I would be especially interested in ideas for collaborations across disciplines.


Recent publications

16  (of 16 published available) for si66. (source: University of St Andrews PURE)
Please click title of any item for full details.

2018 (12/7)
Body density of humpback whales (Megaptera novaengliae) in feeding aggregations estimated from hydrodynamic gliding performance
Tomoko Narazaki, Saana Isojunno, Douglas P. Nowacek, Ari S. Friedlaender, Christian Ramp, Sophie Caroline Smout, Kagari Aoki, Volker Bernt Deecke, Katsufumi Sato, Patrick Miller 
2017 (31/3)
Scientific Reports
Hidden Markov models reveal complexity in the diving behaviour of short-finned pilot whales
Saana Isojunno, Dina Sadykova, Matthew Bowers, Douglas P. Nowacek, Andrew J Read 
Keywords: General
2017 (18/10)
Journal of Experimental Biology
vol.220 pp.3802-3811
2017 (12)
Individual, ecological, and anthropogenic influences on activity budgets of long-finned pilot whales
Saana Isojunno, Dinara Sadykova, Stacy Lynn De Ruiter, Charlotte Curé, Fleur Visser, Len Thomas, Patrick Miller, Catriona M Harris 
Keywords: Anthropogenic noise, Activity synchrony, Benthic habitat, Deep diving mammal, DTAG, Ethogram, Globicephala melas, Hidden Markov model, Naval sonar
2017 (12)
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Vocal foragers and silent crowds
Fleur Visser, Annebelle C.M. Kok, Machiel G. Oudejans, Lindesay Alexandra Sarah Scott-Hayward, Stacy Lynn De Ruiter, Ana Catarina De Carvalho Alves, Ricardo Nuno Antunes, Saana Isojunno, Graham J. Pierce, Hans Slabbekoorn, Jef Huisman, Patrick Miller 
Keywords: Acoustic tags, Animal communication, Call, Foraging, Pilot whale, Social behaviourEcology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics, Animal Science and Zoology
2016 (6/10)
Endangered Species Research
vol.31 pp.89-102
Biological significance of sperm whale responses to sonar: comparison with anti-predator responses
Charlotte Curé, Saana Isojunno, Fleur Visser, Paul Wensveen, Lise D. Sivle, Petter H. Kvadsheim, Frans-Peter A. Lam, Patrick Miller 
Keywords: Sperm whales, Behavioral responses, Naval sonar, Anti-predator responses, Anthropogenic disturbance
2016 (17/8)
Journal of Experimental Biology
vol.219 pp.2458-2468
2016 (12)
Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics
(Review article)
From physiology to policy
Natacha Aguilar de Soto, Sascha Kate Hooker, Saana Isojunno, Mark Johnson, Patrick Miller, Peter Lloyd Tyack, Paul Wensveen, Carl Robert Donovan, Catriona M Harris, Danielle Harris, Laura Helen Marshall, Cornelia Sabrina Oedekoven, Rocio Prieto, Len Thomas 
2016 (8/2)
Ecological Applications
vol.26 pp.77-93
2015 (22/4)
Marine Ecology Progress Series
vol.526 pp.267-282
Predator sound playbacks reveal strong avoidance responses in a fight strategist baleen whale
Charlotte Cure, Lise Doksaeter-Sivle, Fleur Visser, Paul Wensveen, Saana Isojunno, Catriona M Harris, Petter Kvadsheim, Frans-Peter Lam, Patrick Miller 
Keywords: Anti-predator strategy, Predator sound playbacks, Multi-sensor tag, Behavioural responses, Horizontal avoidance, Baleen whale, Humpback whale
2015 (19/11)
Aquatic Mammals
vol.41 pp.469-502
Severity of expert-identified behavioural responses of humpback whale, minke whale, and northern bottlenose whale to naval sonar
Lise D. Sivle, Petter H. Kvadsheim, Charlotte Cure, Saana Isojunno, Paul Wensveen, Frans-Peter A. Lam, Fleur Visser, Lars Kleivane, Peter Lloyd Tyack, Catriona M Harris, Patrick Miller 
Keywords: Behavioural response, Naval sonar, Severity scoring, Humpback whale, Mega, minke whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Northern bottlenose whale, Hyperoodon ampullatus, controlled exposure experiment, arctic biology
2012 (23/2)
Marine Ecology Progress Series
vol.448 pp.155-170

Contact Details:

Dr Saana Isojunno
Scottish Oceans Institute
East Sands
University of St Andrews
St Andrews
KY16 8LB




Sea Mammal Research Unit
School of Biology
Scottish Oceans Institute

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