Digging into anthropogenic vibrations: investigating the impacts of noise on the physiology and behaviour of benthic and infaunal invertebrates


The ACCE DTP is committed to recruiting extraordinary future scientists regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, faith or religious belief, pregnancy or maternity, parental or caring responsibilities or career pathway to date. We understand that a student’s potential can be shown in many ways and we strive to recruit students from all backgrounds, and support them on their scientific journey.

We have designed our application systems to identify candidates who are likely to be successful in research regardless of what opportunities may have been available to them prior to their application.

Various support and guidance on applying for an ACCE DTP studentship, including how to apply; what we’re looking for (including our assessment rubric); details of financial support, training, and placement opportunities available; and details of our recruitment process, can be found at https://accedtp.ac.uk, in the ‘prospective applicants’ tab.

Project overview


Underwater noise produced by human activities such as shipping, fishing, and offshore developments is a major environmental concern in the oceans. Many noise-producing operations, such as drilling and construction, directly contact the seabed and seashore producing ground-borne vibrations and potentially impact animals associated with the benthos. These impacts include stress, and the masking of signals and communication. Vibrations propagate long distances on the seafloor and seashore, and a large proportion of infaunal organisms, many of which are commercially/recreationally important, may be too small, or lack the mobility, to escape. Instead, these organisms will require appropriate behavioural changes mediated by physiological stress responses. In combination, these effects may result in disruption to benthic ecosystem functioning. Little is currently understood about the short and long-term impacts of anthropogenic noise and vibrations on these organisms and their ecosystem, or the mechanisms individuals utilise to cope.


  1. To ascertain vibrational ‘hearing’ sensitivities in laboratory and field conditions;
  2. To quantify physiological responses (dependent on study organism) to vibrational noise over short and long-term experiments;
  3. To determine behavioural responses to noise using standard ethological techniques;


As a new discipline “biotremology”, the study of vibrational wave use by animals, is highly novel. In particular, our understanding of vibrational use by marine organisms is highly limited, and there are few studies investigating physiological responses to vibrations. Seabed and seashore vibrations are currently unregulated, but are beginning to receive research interest and are likely to be the next ‘hot topic’ in marine bioacoustics.


Development of marine environments, including for renewable energy, whilst maintaining ecosystem health is a current hot topic with significant UKRI investment (e.g. ECOWind (specific focus on vibration in BOWIE), INSITE). Knowledge of how organisms within these ecosystems respond to development is critical to understanding impacts to ecosystem health.

Essential and Desirable Criteria


  • Good degree in biological or relevant physical science
  • Basic knowledge of benthic ecosystems including collection and maintenance of animals
  • Demonstrable oral and written presentation skills


  • Experience with animal aquarium systems
  • Experience using the materials necessary for a study in bioacoustics (digital recorder, microphones, speakers);
  • Basic knowledge of signal processing (use of acoustic software such as Raven, and specialist R packages such as Seewave);


How to Apply

Notes and details of how to apply are available here: https://accedtp.ac.uk/phd-opportunities/

All applicants to ACCE must complete the ACCE personal statement proforma. This is instead of a personal/supporting statement or cover letter. The proforma is designed to standardise this part of the application to minimise the difference between those who are given support and those who are not. Candidates should also submit a CV and the contact details of 2 referees.

Part-Time Study Options

All ACCE PhDs are available as part time or full time, with part time being a minimum of 50% of full time. Please discuss potential part time arrangements with the primary supervisor before applying to the programme.

Project CASE Status

This project is not a CASE project. While individual applicant quality is our overriding criterion for selection, the ACCE DTP has a commitment for 40% of all studentships to be CASE funded - as such, CASE projects may be favoured in shortlisting applicants when candidates are otherwise deemed to be equal or a consensus on student quality cannot be reached. This will only be done as a last resort for separating candidates.


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

NERC ACCE DTP programme starts from October 2024.
UKRI provide the following funding for 3.5 years:
• Stipend (2023/24 UKRI rate £18,622)
• Tuition Fees at UK fee rate (2023/24 rate £4,712)
• Research support and training grant (RTSG)
Note - UKRI funding only covers UK (Home) fees. The DTP partners have various schemes which allow international students to join the DTP but only be required to pay home fees. Home fees are already covered in the UKRI funding, meaning that successful international candidates do not need to find any additional funding for fees.



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2.Maskrey DK, Sneddon LU, Arnold KE, Wolfenden DCC, Thomson JS (2021) Temperature-driven changes in behavioural unpredictability and personality in the beadlet sea anemone, Actinia equina. Animal Behaviour: 181: 13-27.
3.Roberts, L., and Howard, D. (2022). Substrate-borne Vibrational Noise in the Anthropocene: From Land to Sea. In Hill, P.S.M., Mazzoni, V., Stritih-Peljhan, N., Virant-Doberlet, M., and Wessel, A. (Eds.) Biotremology: Physiology, Ecology, and Evolution. Springer Cham, pp. 123-155.
4.Popper, A.N., Hice-Dunton, L., Jenkins, E., Higgs, D.M., Krebs, J., Mooney, A., Rice, A., Roberts, L., Thomsen, F., Vigness-Raposa, K., Zeddies, D., and Williams, K.A. (2022) Offshore Wind Energy Development: Sound and Vibration Effects on Fishes and Aquatic Invertebrates. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 151: 205.