Danielle Harris, Ph.D.
The focus of my research is estimating animal population sizes and distributions using acoustic data. I really enjoy working in such an interdisciplinary field, which combines biology, statistics and acoustics. The types of research questions that I work on include working out which statistical methods and survey designs might be most suitable for a given species, or adapting methods to use with different acoustic datasets. In particular, I’ve worked on several projects investigating how to make best use of data collected from existing recorders (sometimes where the survey was not specifically designed for animal monitoring) and also exploring the potential of new technologies for estimating animal densities and distributions. For example, I work with data from Ocean Bottom Seismometers, which can detect cetaceans in addition to earthquakes. I also work with recordings from hydrophones attached to ocean gliders, a type of underwater drone.
My PhD thesis (funded by the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory) focused on cetacean density estimation using sparsely distributed hydrophone arrays, where traditional animal density estimation methods often cannot be applied. Follow-on projects have included exploring further approaches for cost-effective and large scale density estimation, assessing the capability of a Waveglider for long term monitoring of both noise and marine mammals, delivery of IDEA (Introduction to Density Estimation using passive Acoustic data) training workshops and, most recently, developing a framework for ocean glider-based acoustic density estimation. These projects have been funded by the US Navy (both the Office of Naval Research and the Living Marine Resources Program) and the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
During my Masters, I was introduced to a variety of statistical skills and I was keen to apply these to conservation-linked research. My PhD provided me with the opportunity to do this at the University of St Andrews. While Scotland has provided the base for most of my studies, international collaboration has also played an important role throughout my career. I first visited the Bioacoustics Research Program as part of my PhD work and, in 2016 – 2017, I spent a year in the US, spending six months at both Oregon State University and Cornell. I am also a research fellow at the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling (CREEM) at the University St. Andrews as well as an Affiliate Faculty member at the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University.