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Professor Ben Wilson


Principal Investigator in Mammalogy and Marine Renewables

Scientific interests

Fish / marine mammal predator-prey interface

Understanding how marine mammal predation has influenced the evolution, behaviour and abundance of marine fish (particularly herring, cod and salmon). And conversely, how fish behaviour and sensory biology shape marine mammal foraging and population processes (particularly bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoises and Steller sea lions). These studies have involved a variety of techniques including photo-identification, passive and active hydro-acoustics, telemetry and playbacks and been based in both the lab and the field.

Population ecology and conservation

The use of individual identification techniques (photo-identification) to quantify the population abundance, social and health parameters of animal populations, principally coastal cetaceans. My research applies these tools to help understand, and mitigate, the impacts of anthropogenic activities on wild populations.

Jumping dolphins in the Sound of Barra by Dr Ben Wilson SAMS


Environmental impacts of marine renewable energy technologies

Providing an understanding to the environmental interactions between marine renewable devices (wave, tide and wind) and marine fauna. Particularly the physical and acoustic interactions between marine vertebrates (fish, marine mammals and diving birds) and tidal-stream devices.  


At SAMS I am a member of the ...


Career / education


Research activities

SAMS Drifting Ears (by Dr Ben Wilson)Current research

  • Collision risks between vertebrates and marine renewable devices
  • Acoustic footrprints of marine renewable devices
  • Impact assessment methods
  • Coastal odontocete ecology


Past research projects

  • Scottish Bottlenose Dolphin Project: The abundance and distribution of dolphins in Scottish coastal waters  (2005-2008). Partners: University of Aberdeen Lighthouse Field Station, University of St Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, and SAMS. Funder: Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department




Selected publications
  • Transregional linkages in the north-eastern Atlantic - an `end-to-end' analysis of pelagic ecosystems. Fox, C, Harris, R, Sundby, S, Achterberg, E, Allen, J. I, Allen, J, Baker, A, Brussaard, CPD, Buckley, P, Cook, EJ., Dye, SR., Edwards, M, Fernand, L, Kershaw, P, Metcalfe, J, Osterhus, S, Potter, T, Sakshaug, E, Speirs, D, Stenevik, E, St. John, M, Thingstad, F & Wilson, B (2009) Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review 47: 1-76.
  • Climate change causing starvation in harbour porpoises? Thompson, PM, Ingram, S, Lonergan, M, Northridge, S, Hall, A, Wilson B (2007) Biology Letters 3: 533-535
  • Diving deep in a foraging hotspot: acoustic insights into bottlenose dolphin dive depths and feeding behaviour. Hastie, G. D., Wilson, B. and Thompson, P. M. (2006). Marine Biology 148(5): 1181-1188.
  • Quantifying the influence of sociality on population structure in bottlenose dolphins. Lusseau, D., Wilson, B., Hammond, P. S., Grellier, K., Durban, J. W., Parsons, K. M., Barton, T. R. and Thompson, P. M. (2006). Journal of Animal Ecology 75(1): 14-24.
  • Pacific herring hearing does not include ultrasound. Mann, D. A., Popper, A. N. and Wilson, B. (2005). Biology Letters 1(2): 158-161.
  • Functional mechanisms underlying cetacean distribution patterns: hotspots for bottlenose dolphins are linked to foraging. Hastie, G. D., Wilson, B., Wilson, L. J., Parsons, K. M. and Thompson, P. M. (2004). Marine Biology 144(2): 397-403.

For a full list of Ben Wilson's publications, please use the search box on the right.


external activities / measures of esteem



Students and teaching activities

Current postgraduate research students

  • Caroline Carter: Underwater acoustic interactions between emerging tidal-energy technologies and marine mammals (Funders: SNH/SEPA)
  • Nienke van Geel: Understanding Scottish bottlenose dolphin movement patterns: Can visual and acoustic cues be used to ensure that dolphins and construction of marine renewables don't coincide? (Funders: Harper Lacleod LLP and MASTS)


Previous postgraduate students

  • Lindsay Wilson: MPhil - Acoustic communication and mating in gadoid fish (2009)
  • Caroline Carter: MSc (with Distinction) - Marine mammals and offshore renewable energy devices (2008)
  • Isaac Forster: MSc - Analysis of seabird observation and satellite tracking data in the Falkland Islands to assess suitability for proposed Marine Important Bird Areas (2009)


BSc (Hons) Marine Science teaching

  • Module leader: Marine Zoology (year 3)
  • Lecturer: Marine Resources (year 2)
  • Lecturer: Fisheries Ecology (year 3)
  • Lecturer: Marine Conservation (year 3)
  • Lecturer: Behaviour and Biomechanics (year 4)
  • Lecturer: Polar Seas (year 4)
My contact details

Professor Ben Wilson SAMS UHI

Professor Ben Wilson
T: +44 (0)1631 559 346
F: +44 (0)1631 559 001
SAMS, Scottish Marine Institute
Oban, Argyll PA37 1QA, UK