Dr Sascha Hooker

Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow
Department of Biology, University of St Andrews
Foraging strategies of marine mammals

Sascha Hooker

“Developing effective conservation strategies for endangered species depends on having a detailed understanding of how these species live their lives – how they breed, how they forage for food and where they live. It can however be very difficult to know how marine mammals interact with their environment due to the inaccessibility of marine ecosystems.

My research concerns the foraging and diving behaviour of marine predators and how this information can be used to support conservation planning in the ocean. I use advanced microelectronic dataloggers to improve our understanding of the ecology of marine mammals, and predator-attached cameras to look at the visual-field of predators while foraging underwater. Such cameras provide much-needed context for the interpretation of underwater movements of marine mammals.

The data gathered from this research allows us to glean information on foraging activity and to examine changes in foraging behaviour over time, which may be caused by factors such as variation in ocean climate. By gaining an understanding of what makes a good foraging site for marine mammals, we are then able to map the more productive ocean hotspots for these species and define boundaries to encompass them.

Protecting an area rather than just a single species may help in conserving the whole network of species depending on each other, and I hope that my research will ultimately form a vital tool in ocean conservation planning.”

Read more about Dr Sascha Hooker's work at University of St Andrews.