Ailsa Hall is the Director of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews (since 2012 and prior to that she was Deputy Director). The Sea Mammal Research Unit are a taxon‐based interdisciplinary research group with a mixture of academic staff, researchers (many of whom are involved in evidence‐based science for applied and policy research) and support staff. They are responsible for UKRI's statutory duties to provide advice to government on marine mammal issues and receive National Capability funding to fulfil this duty. They also support other stakeholders involved in marine mammal conservation such as Natural England, SNH, JNCC etc. As such, Ailsa works at the interface between discovery and policy‐related science. The unit is about 50 staff in total including academics, contract staff, post‐doctoral researchers and PhD students and she is responsible for the financial and staff management as well as the infrastructure support and overall management of the Unit's facilities, including the Home Office Licenced Captive seal facility and supporting the SMRU Instrumentation Group and Sound and Movement Tags group. The group also receive funding for marine mammal research in support of Scottish government policy issues which Ailsa has overall responsibility for. The group also have a consultancy, SMRU Consulting and Ailsa contributes to its strategy and direction through the group's Board meetings. As part of the School of Biology the group supports an MSc in Marine Mammal Research allowing Ailsa to lecture and supervise students each year including undergraduates.
Ailsa also has her own research group and interests in disease and toxicology and supervises PhD students. She is currently particularly interested in the cumulative effects of different stressors, particularly disease‐causing agents such as pathogens and toxins.
Ailsa is Chair of the International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee's sub‐committee on Environmental Concerns and Chair of the Expert Panel for Marine Mammal Research in relation to the impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on cetaceans in the Gulf of Mexico. Ailsa is also a member of the Steering Group for the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme.