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Research Fellows Directory

Sascha Hooker

Dr Sascha Hooker

Research Fellow

Organisation

University of St Andrews

Research summary

Developing effective conservation strategies for endangered species depends on having a detailed understanding of how they live their lives – how they breed, how they forage for food and where they live. Knowing how marine mammals interact with their environment is particularly difficult, as we know very little about marine ecosystems because of their inaccessibility. I use advanced microelectronic dataloggers to improve our understanding of the ecology of marine mammals. My research concerns specifically the foraging and diving behaviour of marine predators and more generally how this can inform conservation planning in the ocean.

I use 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. Data provided by these allows us to glean information on foraging activity from archived datasets and potentially to examine changes in foraging behavior over time caused by factors such as ocean climate.

Understanding what makes a good foraging site for marine mammals helps us map the more productive ocean hotspots for these species. The fluid boundaries in the ocean mean that establishing boundaries for protected areas offshore is generally difficult, so formulating effective methods to do this will form a vital tool in marine conservation planning.

Information collected during dives from marine mammals can also provide insight into their physiological capabilities. This is particularly timely since it appears that changes in diving behavior caused by startle responses to anthropogenic sound are causing decompression sickness leading to death of some whale species. Understanding the range of normal diving behavior helps us to validate decompression models, and to understand the severity of change needed to cause such problems.

Grants awarded

Scheme: Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship

Dates: Apr 2003 - Oct 2010

Value: £200,819.63