Dr. Ross Culloch, PhD 2012
I had the privilege of being Sean’s first (official) PhD student. Since completing my PhD in 2012, I went on to postdoc positions at the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) and University College Cork (UCC). In short, I’ve always been fascinated and interested in animal behaviour, something that the PhD, under Sean and Paddy’s (SMRU) supervision, allowed me to develop further. However, at postdoctoral level, ‘blue skies’ research is rarely a career option, meaning there is a need to apply skills learnt prior to, and during the PhD to ‘real world’ questions. For me, this has led to my research focusing more on potential impacts of anthropogenic activities on the marine environment.
My first postdoc aimed to identify the cause of ‘corkscrew’ seal deaths, initially thought to be caused by certain types of boat propellers. The post involved working with industry such as taking trips to VOITH in Germany to work with engineers to test the outcome of scale model ‘seal-propeller’ collisions. I also conducted behavioural observations during acoustic playback experiments at the SMRU captive facility and in situ at the Isle of May to test the potential for attraction to the sound of particular propellers. Since leaving this post, Dr. Bishop et al. have answered the mystery of the ‘corkscrew’ seal deaths!
I spend a lot of time working from home in my current post; it holds some benefits, like more time with the animals. However, in an office with only one chair, competition for seats can get fierce!
In my first postdoc at UCC, I managed a team of researchers monitoring the impact of construction activity on marine mammals at an offshore gas pipeline. This involved shore- and boat-based surveys and Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM). Again this role involved links with industry and, whilst fieldwork was a large part of the role, administrative tasks, such as managing budgets, report writing and people management were also significant aspects of the post. At present, I am working on RiCORE (Risk-based consenting for offshore renewables), a EU Horizon2020 funded project. My primary role is to investigate emerging pre-consent monitoring approaches across all key receptors (e.g. benthos, fish, seabirds, marine mammals), as well as reviewing the efficiencies of the approaches currently used. As a member of the Steering Group Committee, I work closely with team members from all five EU Member States in Portugal, Spain, France, Ireland and the UK to arrange regular expert workshops and to ensure that deliverables across the six Work Packages are competed on schedule.
Personally, I think transferable skills are vital to succeed in research; in my experience interdisciplinary, multi-faceted projects present the most realistic opportunity for funding research. These projects have the added benefit of addressing important questions that can improve our knowledge and best practices with regard to potential impacts, mitigation and monitoring of the marine environment.
If interested, you can find out more about my past and present research here.
Dr. Ross Culloch
MaREI Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy, Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork,
Haulbowline Road, Ringaskiddy, Cork,Ireland