The SMASS team

Dr Andrew Brownlow

PhD MRCVS

Andrew has headed up the strandings team since 2009. As a veterinary pathologist he undertakes most of the post mortem examinations and has oversight for data collection, management and reporting. He has a background in veterinary epidemiology, provides scientific direction to the project and will likely be the face you see wielding a scalpel on our training and outreach courses.

 Andrew graduated as a vet from the University of Edinburgh in 2000 and completed a PhD in veterinary epidemiology in 2007. Andrew holds a lot of expertise in the field of wildlife disease and is interested in the cumulative effects of disease, physiology and environmental stressors on wild populations.

Nick Davison

MSc

Nick is the strandings coordinator, responsible for the collection of stranding reports and carcases for necropsy. He also carries out and assists with post-mortem examinations and contributes to the production of scientific and governmental publications and reports. Nick manages our volunteer network and will most likely be the person answering the phone when you report in a stranding. He is also a highly experienced bacteriologist, and performs determinative bacteriology on all cases that are necropsied. 

Nick brings a lot of expertise to the project, having previously worked on stranded marine mammals and as a microbiologist for the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in Cornwall for nearly 27 years.

Mariel ten Doeschate

MSc

Mariel joined the team in September 2014, after finishing her MSc in Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology from the University of Aberdeen. Before that she worked for the strandings networks in the Netherlands, which started her interest in strandings and their use for population monitoring. She is our resident data specialist and will be responsible for most of the graphs, charts and statistics we put in our reports. Mariel manages the database and sample archives and provides administrative and coordination support as well as assistance with the post-mortem examinations.

As of 2022 she will be reducing her hours on the SMASS programme, to work on her PhD project, which will focus on the development of new analytical approaches to the strandings dataset, to improve their use and value for marine mammal population level monitoring.

SMASS PhD students

Ellie MacLennan

Ellie initially joined the SMASS team in 2018 as coordinator of the Scottish Entanglement Alliance (SEA), and is now completing her PhD which focusses on gaining a better understanding of the scale, impact and potential mitigation of marine animal entanglement in the Scottish static gear fishery. As well as working closely with creel fishers, Ellie is using data held by SMASS to examine what post-mortem pathology can tell us about the nature, origin and chronicity of entanglement in cetaceans, and to assess the welfare impacts of these incidents to individual animals. 

Ellie has a BSc (Hons) in Conservation Biology from the University of Aberdeen, and an MSc in International Marine Environmental Consultancy from Newcastle University. 

Rachel Lennon

Rachel joined SMASS as part of her PhD in October 2022, after finishing an MSc in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation from the University of Exeter. She has a background in modelling anthropogenic impacts on marine animals and has volunteered with various marine mammal monitoring charities across the UK. Her research will focus on using pathology from the SMASS database to generate indices of health and to model the cumulative effects of multiple stressors on marine animals in Scotland. The goal of this work is to determine the potential of strandings data as a tool for monitoring marine mammal health.

Rachel is our resident social media expert and further helps SMASS with education and outreach projects, strandings coordination, and assistance with post mortems.

Anna Kebke

Anna started her IAPETUS-funded PhD with SMASS and Heriot – Watt University in 2022. She began her marine science education when she enrolled at Sweden’s only high school specializing in marine biology. Following this, she undertook her BSc in Marine Biology at the University of Aberdeen, during which she worked a variety of jobs ranging from a shrimp aquaculture farm to the Responsible Business team at Sky. After graduating, Anna joined Marine Scotland Science, investigating the impact of offshore wind development on marine mammals, seabirds and their prey. 

Anna’s research focuses on molecular and isotopic signatures of dolphins and whales, and how this information can be used to understand the foraging behaviour and life history of stranded animals. 

Supporting Staff Members

Claire Bowie

Claire started with SMASS in September 2023. She has a Zoology degree from the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg in South Africa. Following completion of her BSc, she travelled to the UK to fulfill her passion for travel, funded by honing her administrative skills.

She was introduced to SMASS when she assisted with the recovery of a stranded Sowerby’s beaked whale in 2021. She started volunteering with SMASS shortly after, and was one of the most essential people assisting with the necropsies and investigation into the long-finned pilot whale mass stranding event (MSE), on the Isle of Lewis in July 2023.

Claire will be coordinator for all things related to the pilot whale MSE. Her administrative skills, scientific background, go-get-them attitude and hands-on experience will further be utilised to assist and support the team more broadly with all SMASS related activities.

Dr Tessa Plint

Tessa is part of the on-going effort to understand the 2023 Isle of Lewis pilot whale mass stranding event (MSE). She uses tissue biogeochemical proxies (stable isotopes and fatty acids) to garner insight into the individual and collective foraging ecology and nutritional status of the animals involved in the MSE. 

 Tessa completed her PhD at Heriot-Watt University in 2023. She worked closely with SMASS throughout the PhD, studying beaked whales and dolphins in Scottish waters. Tessa has worked in stable isotope science for over a decade, both in research and analytical roles. She is fascinated by the power of biogeochemical proxies to provide insight into diet, habitat use, and behaviour of all living things, both modern and ancient.