Dr Debbie JF Russell

Dr Debbie JF Russell

Principal Research Fellow

Researcher profile

+44 (0)1334 46 7281


Research areas

Debbie is a quantitative marine ecologist with a particular interest in the interactions between marine predators and their natural versus anthropogenic environment. She is based at SMRU where the focus of her research can be split into two inter-linked components (1) Conduct, manage and communicate research that is required to inform sustainable management of UK seal populations, and to fulfil national and international conservation legislation (see SCOS) (2) Gain critical insight into emerging conservation and management issues through external funding for projects which provide understanding of the drivers of marine predator behaviour, distribution and population dynamics.  

Key research areas (see Group for more)

  • Estimation of seal abundance and trends on land, and drivers therein
  • Estimation of seal distribution at-sea, and drivers therein
  • Using a mixture of Bayesian and frequentist methods to analyse harbour and grey seal telemetry data to answer both pure and applied research questions.
  • Investigation of the impact of anthropogenic structures, their construction, operation and decommisioning, on marine predators. EcoSTAR project

Current Group

  • Post Docs

- Matt Carter (2018-), various projects including EcoSTAR

- Janneke Ransijn (2022-),  EcoSTAR project

  • PhD students

- Lauren Arkoosh, Seals as sentinels of antimicrobial resistance: mapping antimicrobial resistance genes in UK waters (based at University of Abertay)
- Izzy Langley, Inter-specific Interactions: investigating the role of grey seals in the harbour seal decline.

- Hannah Wyles, Climate Change and the seal community of the United Kingdom

- Maria Iruzuns Martins, Examining the human-predator interface of the North Sea


  • Post doc

- Claire Lacey, EcoSTAR project 

- James Grecian, Man-made structures and Apex Predators: Spatial interactions and overlap

  • PhD students

-  Katherine Whyte (2021),  Behavioural responses by seals to offshore energy activities

- J Chris McKnight (2018). Counting the Cost of Tagging: Quantifying and Reducing the Behavioural and Energetic Impacts of Tags in a Large Marine Vertebrate.

- Matt Carter (2018). From pup to predator: Ontogeny of foraging behaviour in grey seal pups

  • Masters

- Ines Khazar, Spatial bias in the diet of grey seals in the North Sea

- Philippa Harkness, Redefining Central Placed Foraging - analysis of extended surface periods during foraging trips on haul out behaviour of grey seals.

- Meg Withers, The Environmental Conditions Associated with Grey Seal Pup Production Variation in the UK

- Hannah Wyles, A novel method for classifying habitat use by grey seals using seabed geomorphology.
- Lauren Himmelreich, What can rehabilitation seals tell us about wild populations?
- Sara Young, Potential Effects of Captivity on Dive Behaviour and Movement Patterns of Juvenile Grey Seals
- Raquel Soley Calvet, Living among giants: Habitat modelling of Harbour porpoise in the Northern Gulf of St. Lawrence
- J Chris McKnight, Short-term effects of capture and tag attachment in common seals.

Teaching – current and past

  • 2nd year interdisciplinary module "Science Methods"
  • Marine Mammal Science Masters
  • Quantitative Methods for Ecology
  • Research Methods in Marine Mammal Science 

PhD supervision

  • Hannah Wyles
  • James Harris
  • Maria Clara Iruzun Martins
  • Mia Goldman
  • Izzy Langley

Selected publications


See more publications