Dr Denise Risch

Marine Mammal Ecologist

I am a marine mammal ecologist interested in the study of underwater sounds and aquatic soundscapes.

I use passive acoustic monitoring to investigate how marine species use and are impacted by sounds and am interested in the development of acoustic methods to study species distribution and diversity as a tool for conservation.

Contact details:

I study aquatic soundscapes and am interested in developing acoustics as a tool for marine conservation.

I am interested in the use of long-term passive acoustic monitoring for obtaining a better understanding of species presence and movements and infer possible causes for change.

I am also interested in assessing and understanding the impacts of anthropogenic noise on the marine environment. Part of my current research involves quantifying ambient and device generated underwater noise relevant to and for the assessment of environmental impacts of the marine renewables industry.


Current research projects

Collaborative Oceanography and Monitoring for Protected Areas and Species (COMPASS): The COMPASS project links hydrodynamic modelling and monitoring efforts in Irish and Scottish waters to understand population connectivity and build capacity for effective management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Within the project I will be involved with developing long-term monitoring strategies for highly mobile protected species such as marine mammals, as well as ambient noise assessments. Funded by EU SEUPB INTERREG VA Programme. 2017-21

MeyGen Noise


Selected past projects

Environmental Impacts of Noise, Vibrations and Electromagnetic Emissions from Marine Renewable Energy (MaRVEN). Funded by the European Commission. 2013-15

Marine Energy Research Innovation and Knowledge Accelerator (MERIKA). Funded by EU FP7 (REGPOT) Programme. 2014-17

Influence of lower frequency ADDs on cetaceans in Scottish coastal waters (LEAP): This project aimed to establish the effects of the use of lower frequency acoustic signals delivered by a new generation of 'cetacean friendly' ADD devices on harbour porpoises in the context of Scottish coastal waters aquaculture sites. Funded by SARF. 2016-17

Peer-reviewed publications

Van Geel NCF, Risch D, Benjamins S, Brook T, Culloch RM, Edwards EWJ, Stevens C and Wilson B (2022) Monitoring cetacean occurrence and variability in ambient sound in Scottish offshore waters. Frontiers in Remote Sensing 3: 934681. https://doi.org/10.3389/frsen.2022.934681
Ryan C, Calderan S, Allison C, Leaper R & Risch D (2022) Historical occurrence of whales in Scottish Waters inferred from whaling records. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1002/aqc.3873 
Van Geel NCF, Risch D, and Wittich A (2022) A brief overview of current approaches for underwater sound analysis and reporting. Marine Pollution Bulletin 178: 113610; https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2022.113610 
Marotte E, Wright AJ, Breeze H, Wingfield J, Matthews LP, Risch D, Merchant ND, Barclay D, Evers C, Lawson J, Lesage V, Moors-Murphy H, Nolet V, Theriault JA (2022) Recommended metrics for quantifying underwater noise impacts on North Atlantic right whales. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 175, 113361 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2022.113361 
Serpetti N, Benjamins S, Brain S, Collu M, Harvey BJ, Heymans JJ, Hughes A, Risch D, Rosinski S, Wilson B (2021) Modelling small scale impacts of Multi-Purpose Platforms: an ecosystem approach. Frontiers in Marine Science 8:778; doi: 10.3389/fmars.2021.694013
De Clippele LH, Risch D (2021) Measuring sound at a cold-water coral reef to assess the impact of COVID-19 on noise pollution. Frontiers in Marine Science 8:712; doi: 10.3389/fmars.2021.674702
Vickers W, Milner B, Risch D, Lee R (2021) Robust North Atlantic right whale detection using deep learning models for denoising. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 149: 3797-3812; doi: 10.1121/10.0005128
Findlay CR, Aleynik D, Farcas A, Merchant ND, Risch D, Wilson B (2021) Auditory impairment from acoustic seal deterrents predicted for harbour porpoises in a marine protected area. J Appl Ecol 00: 1– 12; doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.13910
Risch D, Calderan S, Leaper R, Weilgart L, and Werner S (2021) Current Knowledge Already Justifies Noise Reduction. Trends in Ecology & Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2020.12.010
Cauchy P, Heywood KJ, Risch D, Merchant ND, Queste BY, Testor P (2020) Sperm whale presence observed using passive acoustic monitoring from gliders of opportunity. Endangered Species Research, 42: 133-149

Davis GE,  Baumgartner MF, Corkeron PJ,  Bell J, Berchok C, Bonnell JM, Bort Thornton J, Brault S, Buchanan GA, Cholewiak D, Clark CW, Delarue C, Hatch L, Klinck H, Kraus S, Martin B, Mellinger DK, Moors‐Murphy H, Nieukirk S, Nowacek DP, Parks S, Parry D, Pegg N, Read AJ, Rice AN, Risch D, Scott A, Soldevilla MS, Stafford K, Stanistreet JE, Summers E, Todd S. Van Parijs SM (2020) Exploring movement patterns and changing distributions of baleen whales in the western North Atlantic using a decade of passive acoustic data. Global Change Biologyhttps://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15191

Risch D, van Geel N, Gillespie D, Wilson B (2020) Characterisation of underwater operational sound of a tidal stream turbine. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 147 (4): 2547-2555 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1121/10.0001124 

Risch D, Norris T, Curnock M, Friedlaender A (2019) Common and Antarctic Minke Whales: Conservation Status and Future Research Directions. Frontiers in Marine Science Vol 6, 247 DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00247 

Risch D, Wilson SC, Hoogerwerf M, van Geel NCF, Edwards EWJ and Brookes KL (2019) Seasonal and diel acoustic presence of North Atlantic minke whales in the North Sea. Scientific Reports 9: 3571 (11 pp). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-39752-8

Findlay, C.R., Ripple, H.D., Coomber, F., Froud, K., Harries, O. van Geel, N.C.F., Calderan, S.V., Benjamins, S., Risch, D., Wilson, B. (2018). Mapping widespread and increasing underwater noise pollution from acoustic deterrent devices. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 135. pp 1042-1050. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2018.08.042 

Cholewiak D, Clark CW, Ponirakis D, Frankel A, Hatch LT, Risch D, Stanistreet J, Thompson M, Vu E, Van Parijs SM (2018) Communicating amidst the noise: modeling the aggregate effect of ambient noise and multiple vessel types on the communication space of baleen whales in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Endangered Species Research, 36, 59-75.

Davis GE, Baumgartner MF, Bonnell JM, Bell J, Berchok C, Thornton JB, Brault S, Buchanan G, Charif RA, Cholewiak D, Clark CW, Corkeron P, Delarue J, Dudzinski K, Hatch L, Hildebrand J, Hodge L, Klinck H, Kraus S, Marting B, Mellinger DK, Moors-Murphy H, Nieukirk S, Nowacek DP, Parks S, Read AJ, Rice AN, Risch D, Široviç A, Soldevilla MS, Stafford K, Stanistreet JE, Summers E, Todd S, Warde A, Van Parijs S (2017) Long-term passive acoustic recordings track the changing distribution of North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) from 2004 to 2014. Scientific Reports, 7 (1), p.13460.

Roch MA, Batchelor H, Baumann-Pickering S, Berchok CL, Cholewiak D, Fujioka E, Garland EC, Herbert S, Hildebrand JA, Oleson EM, Van Parijs SM, Risch D, Sirovic A, Soldevilla MS (2015) Management of acoustic metadata for bioacoustics, Ecological Informatics 31: 122-136; doi: 10.1016/j.ecoinf.2015.12.002

Van Parijs S, Baumgartner M, Cholewiak D, Davis G, Gedamke J, Gerlach D, Haver S, Hatch J, Hatch L, Hotchkin C, Izzi A, Klinck H, Matzen E, Risch D, Silber G, Thompson M (2015) NEPAN: A US Northeast Passive Acoustic Sensing Network for Monitoring, Reducing Threats and the Conservation of Marine Animals. Marine Technology Society Journal 49(2): 70-86; doi: 10.4031/MTSJ.49.2.16

Risch D, Castellote M, Clark CW, Davis GE, Dugan PJ, Hodge LEW, Kumar A, Lucke K, Mellinger DK, Nieukirk SL, Popescu M, Ramp C, Read AJ, Rice AN, Silva MA, Siebert U, Stafford K, Van Parijs SM (2014) Seasonal migrations of North Atlantic minke whales: novel insights from large-scale passive acoustic monitoring networks. Movement Ecology 2: 24; doi: 10.1186/s40462-014-0024-3

Risch D, Corkeron PJ, Ellison WT, Van Parijs SM (2014) Formal Comment to Gong et al.: Ecosystem Scale Acoustic Sensing Reveals Humpback Whale Behavior Synchronous with Herring Spawning Processes and Re-Evaluation Finds No Effect of Sonar on Humpback Song Occurrence in the Gulf of Maine in Fall 2006. PLoS ONE 9(10): e109225; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0109225

Risch D, Gales NJ, Gedamke J, Kindermann L, Nowacek DP, Read AJ, Siebert U, Van Opzeeland IC, Van Parijs SM & Friedlaender AM (2014) Mysterious bioduck signal attributed to the Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis). Biology Letters: 10(4); doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2014.0175.

Risch D, Siebert U & Van Parijs SM (2014) Individual calling behaviour and movement of North Atlantic minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). Behaviour 151: 1335-1360; doi: 10.1163/1568539X-00003187

Risch D, Clark CW, Dugan P, Popescu M, Siebert U, Van Parijs SM (2013) Acoustic ecology of minke whales in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Marine Ecology Progress Series 489: 279-295; doi: 10.3354/meps10426.

Stanistreet J, Risch D, Van Parijs SM (2013) Passive Acoustic Tracking of Singing Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) on a Northwest Atlantic Feeding Ground. PloS ONE 8(4): e61263. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061263

Hernandez KM, Risch D, Cholewiak DM, Dean MJ, Hatch LT, Hoffman WS, Rice AN, Zemeckis D & Van Parijs SM (2013) Developing passive acoustic monitoring for Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua) management and consevation. ICES Journal of Marine Science 70(3): 628-635; doi:10.1093/ices/jms/fst003

Mussoline SE, Risch D, Hatch LT, Weinrich MT, Wiley DN, Thompson MA, Corkeron PJ & Van Parijs SM (2012) Seasonal and diel variation of the North Atlantic right whale upcall: implications for management and conservation in the Northwestern Atlantic Ocean. Endangered Species Research 17: 17-26

Vu, ET, Risch D, Clark CW, Gaylord S, Hatch LT, Thompson MA, Tougaard J, Wiley DN & Van Parijs SM (2012) Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) song occurrs extensively on feeding grounds in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Aquatic Biology 14: 175-183

Risch D, Corkeron PJ, Ellison WT, Van Parijs SM (2012) Changes in Humpback Whale Song Occurrence in Response to an Acoustic Source 200 km Away. PLoS ONE 7(1): e29741. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029741

Van Parijs SM, Clark CW, Sousa-Lima RS, Parks SE, Rankin S, Risch D, Van Opzeeland IC (2009) Management and research applications of real-time and archival passive acoustic sensors over varying temporal and spatial scales. Marine Ecology Progress Series 395: 21-36

Van Opzeeland IC, Corkeron PJ, Risch D, Stenson GB, Van Parijs, SM (2009) Geographic variation in vocalizations of pups and mother-pup behaviour of harp seals, Pagophilus groenlandicus. Aquatic Biology 6: 109-120

Risch D, Clark CW, Corkeron PJ, Elepfandt A, Kovacs KM, Lydersen C, Stirling I & Van Parijs SM (2007) Vocalizations of male bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus): classification and geographical variation. Animal Behaviour 73: 747-762

Gilles A, Risch D, Scheidat M, Siebert U (2006). Erfassung von Meeressäugetieren und Seevögeln in der deutschen AWZ von Nord- und Ostsee (EMSON). Teilvorhaben: Er-fassung von Meeressäugetieren. Endbericht für das Bundesamt für Naturschutz. F+E Vorhaben FKZ: 802 85 250, 92 pp. 

Gilles A, Siebert U, Scheidat M, Lehnert K, Risch D, Kaschner K, Westerberg U (2005). Erfassung der Dichte und Verteilungsmuster von Schweinswalen (Phocoena phocoena) in der deutschen Nord- und Ostsee. MINOS 2 - Weiterführende Arbeiten an Seevögeln und Meeressäugern zur Bewertung von Offshore - Windkraftanlagen (MINOS plus). 2. Zwischenbericht für das Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit FKZ 0329946 B. Teilprojekt 2, 18 pp. 


Other publications 

Risch D, Belin A, Entrup N, Leaper R, Panella E, Taylor B, Weilgart L, Werner S, Ziebarth N (2020) Underwater Noise – The neglected threat to marine life. 14 pp. https://www.bund.net/meere/unterwasserlaerm/

Risch D, van Geel N (2019) Review of Approaches for Underwater Noise Analysis & Reporting. SRSL report 03135; issue 04. 68 pages

Tett P, Benjamins S, Black KD, Coulson M, Davidson K, Fernandes T, Fox C, Hart M, Hicks N, Hughes A, Hunter D-C, Nickell T, Risch D, Tocher D, Vare L, Vespoor E, Wilding T, Wilson B, Wittich A (2018) Review of the environmental impacts of salmon farming in Scotland. Report for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee. The Scottish Parliament, 196 pp.

Risch D, Wilson B, Lepper P. 2017. Acoustic Assessment of SIMRAD EK60 High Frequency Echo Sounder Signals (120 & 200 kHz) in the Context of Marine Mammal Monitoring. Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Vol 8 No 13, 24pp. DOI: 10.7489/1978-1

Risch D & Susan Parks (2017) Biodiversity Assessment and Environmental Monitoring in Freshwater and Marine Biomes using Ecoacoustics. Chapter 9, p145-168 in Ecoacoustics: The Ecological Role of Sounds; 352 pp. edited by Almo Farina & Stuart H. Gage. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Risch D & de Haan D (2016) Humpback and minke whale acoustic presence with reference to fish sounds and ambient noise levels at Saba Bank, Caribbean Windward Dutch Islands. IMARES Rapport C067/16. 22 pp.

Thomsen F, Gill A, Kosecka M, Andersson M, Andre M, Degraer S, Folegot T, Gabriel J, Judd A, Neumann T, Norro A, Risch D, Sigray P, Wood D, Wilson B (2015) MaRVEN – Environmental Impacts of Noise, Vibrations and Electromagnetic Emissions from Marine Renewable Energy. RTD-K3-2012-MRE. Final study report. 68 pp.

Rankin S, Swift R, Risch D, Taylor B, Rojas-Bracho L, Jaramillo-Legorreta A, Gordon J, Akamatsu T, Kimura S (2009) Vaquita Expedition 2008: Preliminary Results from a towed hydrophone survey of Vaquita from the Vaquita Express in the Upper Gulf of California. Report to the Pacific Life Foundation, 37 pp.

Scheidat M, Gilles A, Herr H, Risch D, Siebert U (2007) Monitoring der Abundanz von Schweinswalen und anderen Kleinwalen in deutschen Gewässern. Endbericht an das Bundesministerium für Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Verbraucherschutz. FP Nr.: 03HS059, 40 pp.

Consultancy and industry experience

Dr Denise Risch is a marine mammal ecologist with experience in underwater acoustics.

Over the past 2 years she has been involved in several projects reviewing and studying environmental impacts of marine renewable projects. Her expertise is in providing quantitative perspectives on ambient and device-generated underwater noise and assess noise impacts on marine species.


Accessing consultancy services from SAMS

SAMS consultancy work is delivered through its wholly owned commercial subsidiary, SAMS Research Services Ltd. (SRSL). SRSL operates a comprehensive Quality Management System (QMS) that is accredited to ISO9001:2008 standard, guaranteeing that all projects deliver the best possible service to our customers. All SRSL projects are planned by a professional programme manager who oversees a team of dedicated project managers, all of whom are focussed specifically on client delivery, and have scientific experience and technical expertise in fields relevant to their assigned projects.

For further information concerning commercial enterprise opportunities at SAMS, please contact SRSL by email (info@srsl.com) or phone +44 (0) 1631 559 470.


Marine Science BSc: Lecturing on 'Marine Conservation' 3rd year module

Marine Science BSc: Supervisor - 'Literature Review' 3rd year module


Current research students

Pierre Cauchy: Sounds in the sea: how can we listen from ocean gliders? PhD registered at the University of East Anglia. 2016-19

Charlotte Findlay: Propagation of underwater noise from Scottish fish farms. PhD registered at the University of the Highlands and Islands. 2017-20

Ana Couto: Understanding High Energy Marine Environments: Predicting the drivers of animal behaviour and how to best monitor interactions with marine renewable development. PhD registered at the University of Aberdeen. 2017-20

William Vickers: Marine Mammal Detection Using Autonomous Surface Vehicles. PhD registered at the University of East Anglia. 2017-20

Texa Sim: Recruiting factors affecting the occurrence and behaviour of harbour porpoises around Scottish fish farms. PhD registered at the University of the Highlands and Islands. 2017-20

Monika Kosecka: Passive acoustic monitoring and automated detection of gadoid fish species in marine renewable development areas. Interreg Bryden Centre PhD registered at the University of the Highlands and Islands. 2018-21. Director of Studies


Alumni students

Bethany J Harvey: Exploring impacts of noise from shipping and acoustic deterrent devices on cetaceans on the west coast of Scotland using an ecosystem modelling approach. MSc project at the University of St Andrews. 2018

Samuel Wilson: Acoustic detection of minke whales in the Moray Firth, Scotland. MSc project at the University of St Andrews. 2017 

Charlotte Findlay: The relative use of different types of CAADs used in fish farms along the west coast of Scotland. MSc project at the University of St Andrews. 2016

Hayden Ripple: Spatiotemporal patterns in CAAD usage off the west coast of Scotland. MSc project at the University of St Andrews. 2016

Professional activities

Treasurer of the International Society of Ecoacoustics (ISE) (2014-present)

Member of the Society of Marine Mammology

Member of the European Cetacean Society


Research expeditions

Visual and acoustic marine mammal survey, Mediterranean Sea, ACCOBAMS Survey Initiative (ASI) (2018)

Helicopter survey for marine mammals, RV Polarstern, Antarctica (2011)

Visual and acoustic marine mammal survey, Gulf of Maine, USA, NOAA / NEFSC (2007, 2009, 2012)

Passive acoustic Vaquita survey, Gulf of Mexico, NOAA / SWFSC (2008)

SCANS II, Baltic Sea (2005)


Media coverage

2015: BBC Radio 4 (Costing the Earth) - Sounds of the Seas

2014: BBC - Antarctic minke whale research

2014: NPR - Antarctic minke whale research

Employment history

2017-present: Postdoctoral Research Associate - Marine Bioacoustics. SAMS

2014-17: Postdoctoral Research Associate - Underwater Acoustics. SAMS

2007-14: Senior Passive Acoustic Analyst. NOAA / NEFSC Protected Species Branch. USA

2006-07: Biologist. Princetown Centre for Coastal Studies. USA

2004-05: Biologist. Research & Technology Centre (FTZ); University of Kiel. Germany



2013: PhD Zoology 'A multi-species approach for studying baleen whale acoustic ecology with focus on minke whales and reference to anthropogenic noise.' University of Kiel. Germany

2004: MSc Zoology / Ethology 'Geographical and temporal variation in the vocal behaviour of bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus).’ Humboldt University of Berlin. Germany

2000: BSc Biological Sciences. University of Kiel, Germany