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Ecology and Conservation

Dr Richard Sherley

Dr Richard Sherley

Senior Lecturer in Marine Vertebrate Ecology

 01326 371 896

 Environment and Sustainability Institute 01.27a


Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK


I am a Marine Ecologist and Conservation Biologist who studies human impacts on the oceans using long-term data on animal populations, technology-led approaches to study behaviour and powerful analytical techniques. The ultimate goal of my research is to guide conservation strategy and assist the development of ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management.


  • 2022 PGCert (Academic Practice), University of Exeter
  • 2010 PhD, University of Bristol
  • 2005 BSc (Hons) Psychology and Zoology, University of Bristol


  • 2022–present: Senior Lecturer, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall (UK)
  • 2020–2022: Lecturer, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall (UK)
  • 2019–2020: Pew marine fellow, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall (UK)
  • 2015–2018: Independent Research Fellow, Bristol Zoological Society, Bristol (UK)
  • 2011–2014: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Cape Town (South Africa)
  • 2005–2006: Editorial Assistant, Faculty of 1000 Medicine, London (UK)


Research group links

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Research interests

Some questions that exemplify my research interests are:

1. What drives population change of marine vertebrates?

2. What strategies will best achieve sustainable use of the oceans and allow recovery of marine vertebrates?

3. How to best account for the foraging needs of predators in fisheries management?

4. How can uncertainty and precaution be incorporated into marine conservation?

5. How can emerging technologies help to quantify the impact of research activities on animals and engage people in conservation?

Research grants

  • 2021 Bertarelli Foundation
    Birds without borders or isolated islands? Connectivity of Chagos seabirds
  • 2021 Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species
    Streamlining Ascension Island’s Marine Turtle Monitoring Programme For long-term sustainability.
  • 2020 Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute
    To conduct surveys of nesting seabirds in Scotland (MarPAMM project)
  • 2019 Pew Marine Fellows
    Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation

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Journal articles

Sherley RB, Underhill LG, Barham PJ (2024). Second bibliography of biodiversity research on Robben Island. Biodiversity Observations, 14, 44-49. Abstract.
Kressler MM, Dall SRX, Sherley RB (2023). A framework for studying ecological energy in the contemporary marine environment. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 80(6), 1580-1593. Abstract.
Votier SC, Sherley RB, Scales KL, Camphuysen K, Phillips RA (2023). An overview of the impacts of fishing on seabirds, including identifying future research directions. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 80(9), 2380-2392. Abstract.
Soriano-Redondo A, Inger R, Sherley RB, Rees EC, Abadi F, McElwaine G, Colhoun K, Einarsson O, Thorstensen S, Newth J, et al (2023). Demographic rates reveal the benefits of protected areas in a long-lived migratory bird. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 120(12), 2212035120-2212035120. Abstract.
Vanstreels RET, Parsons NJ, Sherley RB, Stander N, Strauss V, Kemper J, Waller L, Barham BJ, Ludynia K (2023). Factors determining the number of seabirds impacted by oil spills and the success of their rehabilitation: Lessons learned from Namibia and South Africa. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 188, 114708-114708.
Atkins K, Bearhop S, Bodey TW, Grecian WJ, Hamer K, Pereira JM, Meinertzhagen H, Mitchell C, Morgan G, Morgan L, et al (2023). Geolocator-tracking seabird migration and moult reveal large-scale, temperature-driven isoscapes in the NE Atlantic. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom, 37(9). Abstract.  Author URL.
Kuepfer A, Catry P, Bearhop S, Sherley RB, Bell O, Newton J, Brickle P, Arkhipkin A, Votier SC (2023). Inter-colony and inter-annual variation in discard use by albatross chicks revealed using isotopes and regurgitates. Marine Biology, 170(4). Abstract.
Sydeman WJ, Hunt GLJ, Pikitch EK, Parrish JK, Piatt JF, Boersma PD, Kaufman L, Anderson DW, Thompson SA, Sherley RB, et al (2022). African Penguins and Localized Fisheries Management: Response to Butterworth and Ross-Gillespie. ICES JOURNAL OF MARINE SCIENCE, 79(6), 1972-1978.  Author URL.
Crawford R, Sydeman W, Tom D, Thayer J, Sherley R, Shannon L, McInnes A, Makhado A, Hagen C, Furness R, et al (2022). Food limitation of seabirds in the Benguela ecosystem and management of their prey base. Namibian Journal of Environment, 6, 1-13.
Leith FW, Grigg JL, Barham BJ, Barham PJ, Ludynia K, McGeorge C, Mdluli A, Parsons NJ, Waller LJ, Sherley RB, et al (2022). Intercolony variation in reproductive skipping in the African penguin. Ecology and Evolution, 12(9). Abstract.
Carr P, Trevail AM, Koldewey HJ, Sherley RB, Wilkinson T, Wood H, Votier SC (2022). Marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in the Chagos Archipelago. Bird Conservation International, 33 Abstract.
Kuepfer A, Votier SC, Sherley RB, Ventura F, Matias R, Anderson O, Brickle P, Arkhipkin A, Catry P (2022). Prey-switching to fishery discards does not compensate for poor natural foraging conditions in breeding albatross. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 80(9), 2414-2426. Abstract.
Kuepfer A, Sherley RB, Brickle P, Arkhipkin A, Votier SC (2022). Strategic discarding reduces seabird numbers and contact rates with trawl fishery gears in the Southwest Atlantic. Biological Conservation, 266, 109462-109462.
Sherley RB, Barham BJ, Barham PJ, Campbell KJ, Crawford RJM, Grigg J, Horswill C, McInnes A, Morris TL, Pichegru L, et al (2021). Correction to ‘Bayesian inference reveals positive but subtle effects of experimental fishery closures on marine predator demographics'. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 288(1963).
Pacoureau N, Rigby CL, Kyne PM, Sherley RB, Winker H, Carlson JK, Fordham SV, Barreto R, Fernando D, Francis MP, et al (2021). Half a century of global decline in oceanic sharks and rays. Nature, 589(7843), 567-571.
Sydeman WJ, Schoeman DS, Thompson SA, Hoover BA, García-Reyes M, Daunt F, Agnew P, Anker-Nilssen T, Barbraud C, Barrett R, et al (2021). Hemispheric asymmetry in ocean change and the productivity of ecosystem sentinels. Science, 372(6545), 980-983. Abstract.
Omeyer LCM, Stokes KL, Beton D, Çiçek BA, Davey S, Fuller WJ, Godley BJ, Sherley RB, Snape RTE, Broderick AC, et al (2021). Investigating differences in population recovery rates of two sympatrically nesting sea turtle species. Animal Conservation, 24(5), 832-846. Abstract.
Clark BA, Cox SL, Atkins KM, Bearhop S, Bicknell AWJ, Bodey TW, Cleasby IR, Grecian WJ, Hamer KC, Loveday BR, et al (2021). Sexual segregation of gannet foraging over 11 years: movements vary but isotopic differences remain stable. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 661, 1-16.
Sydeman WJ, Hunt GL, Pikitch EK, Parrish JK, Piatt JF, Boersma PD, Kaufman L, Anderson DW, Thompson SA, Sherley RB, et al (2021). South Africa's experimental fisheries closures and recovery of the endangered African penguin. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 78(10), 3538-3543. Abstract.
Scheun J, Miller RJ, Ganswindt A, Waller LJ, Pichegru L, Sherley RB, Maneveldt GW (2021). Urofaecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations in African penguin (<i>Spheniscus demersus</i>) chick populations experiencing different levels of human disturbance. Conservation Physiology, 9(1). Abstract.
Proud R, Le Guen C, Sherley RB, Kato A, Ropert-Coudert Y, Ratcliffe N, Jarman S, Wyness A, Arnould JPY, Saunders RA, et al (2021). Using Predicted Patterns of 3D Prey Distribution to Map King Penguin Foraging Habitat. Frontiers in Marine Science, 8 Abstract.
Le Guen C, Suaria G, Sherley RB, Ryan PG, Aliani S, Boehme L, Brierley AS (2020). Microplastic study reveals the presence of natural and synthetic fibres in the diet of King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) foraging from South Georgia. Environment International, 134 Abstract.
Cook TR, Martin R, Roberts J, Häkkinen H, Botha P, Meyer C, Sparks E, Underhill LG, Ryan PG, Sherley RB, et al (2020). Parenting in a warming world: thermoregulatory responses to heat stress in an endangered seabird. Conservation Physiology, 8(1). Abstract.
Sherley RB, Ladd-Jones H, Garthe S, Stevenson O, Votier SC (2020). Scavenger communities and fisheries waste: North Sea discards support 3 million seabirds, 2 million fewer than in 1990. Fish and Fisheries, 21(1), 132-145. Abstract.
Sherley RB, Crawford RJM, de Blocq AD, Dyer BM, Geldenhuys D, Hagen C, Kemper J, Makhado AB, Pichegru L, Tom D, et al (2020). The conservation status and population decline of the African penguin deconstructed in space and time. Ecology and Evolution, 10(15). Abstract.
Lane JV, Jeavons R, Deakin Z, Sherley RB, Pollock CJ, Wanless RJ, Hamer KC (2020). Vulnerability of northern gannets to offshore wind farms; seasonal and sex-specific collision risk and demographic consequences. Marine Environmental Research, 162, 105196-105196.
Sherley RB, Winker H, Rigby CL, Kyne PM, Pollom R, Pacoureau N, Herman K, Carlson JK, Yin JS, Kindsvater HK, et al (2019). Estimating IUCN Red List population reduction: JARA—A decision‐support tool applied to pelagic sharks. Conservation Letters, 13(2). Abstract.
Crawford RJM, Sydeman WJ, Thompson SA, Sherley R, Makhado AB (2019). Food habits of an endangered seabird indicate recent poor forage fish availability. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 76, 1344-1352.
Dyer BM, Cooper J, Crawford RJM, Sherley RB, Somhlaba S, Cockcroft A, Upfold L, Makhado AB (2019). Geographical and temporal variation in the diet of Bank Cormorants Phalacrocorax neglectus in South Africa. Ostrich, 90(4), 373-390. Abstract.
Ropert-Coudert Y, Chiaradia A, Ainley D, Barbosa A, Boersma PD, Brasso R, Dewar M, Ellenberg U, García-Borboroglu P, Emmerson L, et al (2019). Happy feet in a hostile world? the future of penguins depends on proactive management of current and expected threats. Frontiers in Marine Science, 6(May). Abstract.
Campbell KJ, Steinfurth A, Underhill LG, Coetzee JC, Dyer BM, Ludynia K, Makhado AB, Merkle D, Rademan J, Upfold L, et al (2019). Local forage fish abundance influences foraging effort and offspring condition in an endangered marine predator. Journal of Applied Ecology, 56(7), 1751-1760. Abstract.
Deakin Z, Hamer KC, Sherley RB, Bearhop S, Bodey TW, Clark BL, James Grecian W, Gummery M, Lane J, Morgan G, et al (2019). Sex differences in migration and demography of a wide-ranging seabird, the Northern Gannet. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 622, 191-201. Abstract.
Gianuca D, Votier SC, Pardo D, Wood AG, Sherley RB, Ireland L, Choquet R, Pradel R, Townley S, Forcada J, et al (2019). Sex‐specific effects of fisheries and climate on the demography of sexually dimorphic seabirds. Journal of Animal Ecology, 88(9), 1366-1378. Abstract.
Sherley RB, Crawford RJM, Dyer BM, Kemper J, Makhado AB, Masotla M, Pichegru L, Pistorius PA, Roux JP, Ryan PG, et al (2019). The status and conservation of the Cape Gannet Morus capensis. Ostrich, 90(4), 335-346. Abstract.
Gaglio D, Sherley RB, Ryan PG, Cook TR (2018). A non-invasive approach to estimate the energetic requirements of an increasing seabird population in a perturbed marine ecosystem. Scientific Reports, 8(1). Abstract.
Sherley RB, Barham BJ, Barham PJ, Campbell KJ, Crawford RJM, Grigg J, Horswill C, McInnes A, Morris TL, Pichegru L, et al (2018). Bayesian inference reveals positive but subtle effects of experimental fishery closures on marine predator demographics. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 285(1871), 20172443-20172443. Abstract.
Gaglio D, Cook TR, McInnes A, Sherley RB, Ryan PG (2018). Foraging plasticity in seabirds: a non-invasive study of the diet of greater crested terns breeding in the Benguela region. PLoS ONE, 13(1). Abstract.
Gaglio D, Cook TR, Sherley RB, Ryan PG (2018). How many can you catch? Factors influencing the occurrence of multi-prey loading in provisioning Greater Crested Terns. Ostrich, 89(2), 145-149.
Payo-Payo A, Sanz-Aguilar A, Gaglio D, Sherley RB, Cook TR, Altwegg R, Ryan PG (2018). Survival estimates for the greater crested tern Thalasseus bergii in southern Africa. African Journal of Marine Science, 40(1), 43-50. Abstract.
Gaglio D, Sherley RB, Cook TR, Ryan PG, Flower T (2018). The costs of kleptoparasitism: a study of mixed-species seabird breeding colonies. Behavioral Ecology, 29(4), 939-947.
Sydeman WJ, Thompson SA, Anker-Nilssen T, Arimitsu M, Bennison A, Bertrand S, Boersch-Supan P, Boyd C, Bransome NC, Crawford RJM, et al (2017). Best practices for assessing forage fish fisheries-seabird resource competition. Fisheries Research, 194, 209-221. Abstract.
Morten JM, Parsons NJ, Schwitzer C, Holderied MW, Sherley RB (2017). Body condition as a quantitative tool to guide hand-rearing decisions in an endangered seabird. Animal Conservation, 20(5), 471-479. Abstract.
Sherley RB, Botha P, Underhill LG, Ryan PG, van Zyl D, Cockcroft AC, Crawford RJM, Dyer BM, Cook TR (2017). Defining ecologically relevant scales for spatial protection with long-term data on an endangered seabird and local prey availability. Conservation Biology, 31(6), 1312-1321. Abstract.
Gaglio D, Cook TR, Connan M, Ryan PG, Sherley RB (2017). Dietary studies in birds: testing a non-invasive method using digital photography in seabirds. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 8(2), 214-222. Abstract.
Gaglio D, Sherley R, Cook T (2017). Insects in the diet of the Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii bergii in Southern Africa. Marine Ornithology, 43, 131-132.
Sherley RB, Ludynia K, Dyer BM, Lamont T, Makhado AB, Roux J-P, Scales KL, Underhill LG, Votier SC (2017). Metapopulation Tracking Juvenile Penguins Reveals an Ecosystem-wide Ecological Trap. Current Biology, 27(4), 563-568.
Sherley RB (2017). PhD jobs: Revamp funding structures. Nature, 551(7681).
Brisson-Curadeau É, Bird D, Burke C, Fifield DA, Pace P, Sherley RB, Elliott KH (2017). Seabird species vary in behavioural response to drone census. Scientific Reports, 7(1). Abstract.
Votier SC, Sherley RB (2017). Seabirds. Current Biology, 27(11), R448-R450.
Crawford R, Ellenberg U, Frere E, Hagen C, Baird K, Brewin P, Crofts S, Glass J, Mattern T, Pompert J, et al (2017). Tangled and drowned: a global review of penguin bycatch in fisheries. Endangered Species Research, 34, 373-396.
Sherley RB, Barham BJ, Barham PJ, Leshoro TM, Underhill LG (2016). Artificial nests enhance the breeding productivity of African Penguins (<i>Spheniscus demersus</i>) on Robben Island, South Africa. Emu - Austral Ornithology, 112(2), 97-106.
Weller F, Sherley RB, Shannon LJ, Jarre A, Stewart T, Scott L, Altwegg R, Cecchini LA, Crawford RJM, Geldenhuys D, et al (2016). Penguins' perilous conservation status calls for complementary approach based on sound ecological principles: reply to Butterworth et al. (2015). Ecological Modelling, 337, 1-3.
Weller F, Sherley RB, Waller LJ, Ludynia K, Geldenhuys D, Shannon LJ, Jarre A (2016). System dynamics modelling of the Endangered African penguin populations on Dyer and Robben islands, South Africa. Ecological Modelling, 327, 44-56. Abstract.
Sherley RB, Winker H, Altwegg R, van der Lingen CD, Votier SC, Crawford RJM (2015). Bottom-up effects of a no-take zone on endangered penguin demographics. Biology Letters, 11(7), 20150237-20150237. Abstract.
Gaglio D, Cook TR, Sherley RB (2015). Egg morphology of Swift Terns in South Africa. Ostrich, 86(3), 287-289.
Weller F, Cecchini L-A, Shannon L, Sherley RB, Crawford RJM, Altwegg R, Scott L, Stewart T, Jarre A (2014). A system dynamics approach to modelling multiple drivers of the African penguin population on Robben Island, South Africa. Ecological Modelling, 277, 38-56.
Sherley RB, Abadi F, Ludynia K, Barham BJ, Clark AE, Altwegg R (2014). Age‐specific survival and movement among major African Penguin <i>Spheniscus demersus</i> colonies. Ibis, 156(4), 716-728. Abstract.
Sherley RB, Waller LJ, Strauss V, Geldenhuys D, Underhill LG, Parsons NJ (2014). Hand-Rearing, Release and Survival of African Penguin Chicks Abandoned Before Independence by Moulting Parents. PLoS ONE, 9(10), e110794-e110794.
Ludynia K, Waller LJ, Sherley RB, Abadi F, Galada Y, Geldenhuys D, Crawford RJM, Shannon LJ, Jarre A (2014). Processes influencing the population dynamics and conservation of African penguins on Dyer Island, South Africa. African Journal of Marine Science, 36(2), 253-267.
Sherley RB, Barham PJ, Barham BJ, Crawford RJM, Dyer BM, Leshoro TM, Makhado AB, Upfold L, Underhill LG (2013). Growth and decline of a penguin colony and the influence on nesting density and reproductive success. Population Ecology, 56(1), 119-128. Abstract.
Sherley RB, Underhill LG, Barham BJ, Barham PJ, Coetzee JC, Crawford RJM, Dyer BM, Leshoro TM, Upfold L (2013). Influence of local and regional prey availability on breeding performance of African penguins Spheniscus demersus. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 473, 291-301.
Bonato M, Evans MR, Hasselquist D, Sherley RB, Cloete SWP, Cherry MI (2013). Ostrich chick humoral immune responses and growth rate are predicted by parental immune responses and paternal colouration. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 67(12), 1891-1901.
Sherley RB, Ludynia K, Lamont T, Roux JP, Crawford RJM, Underhill LG (2013). The initial journey of an Endangered penguin: implications for seabird conservation. Endangered Species Research, 21(1), 89-95.
Sherley RB, Ludynia K, Underhill LG, Jones R, Kemper J (2011). Storms and heat limit the nest success of Bank Cormorants: implications of future climate change for a surface-nesting seabird in southern Africa. Journal of Ornithology, 153(2), 441-455.
Villiers MSD, Mecenero S, Sherley RB, Heinze E, Kieser J, Leshoro TM, Merbold L, Nordt A, Parsons NJ, Peter H-U, et al (2010). Introduced European Rabbits (<i>Oryctolagus cuniculus</i>) and Domestic Cats (<i>Felis catus</i>) on Robben Island: Population Trends and Management Recommendations. South African Journal of Wildlife Research, 40(2), 139-148.
Sherley RB, Burghardt T, Barham PJ, Campbell N, Cuthill IC (2010). Spotting the difference: towards fully-automated population monitoring of African penguins Spheniscus demersus. Endangered Species Research, 11, 101-111.
Underhill LG, Sherley RB, Dyer BM, Crawford RJM (2009). Interactions between snakes and seabirds on Robben, Schaapen and Meeuw Islands, Western Cape province, South Africa. OSTRICH, 80(2), 115-118.  Author URL.


Grigg JL, Sherley RB (2022). The Decline and Conservation Status of the African Penguin. In  (Ed) Imperiled: the Encyclopedia of Conservation, Elsevier, 8-18.
Provencher JF, Borrelle S, Sherley RB, Avery-Gomm S, Hodum P, Bond A, Major HL, McCoy KD, Crawford R, Merkel F, et al (2019). Seabirds. In  (Ed) World Seas: an Environmental Evaluation, Elsevier, 133-162.

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External Engagement and Impact


Pew Marine Conservation Fellowship, 2019–2023

Advice to Government, Parliament, devolved and English regional administrations, other national, international, regional or local agencies; advice to non-government organisations and to private practice

Seabird Technical Team Member, Top Predator Working Group,  Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Government of South Africa, 2020–present.

Island Closures Technical Team Member, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Government of South Africa, 2015–2016.

Population Reinforcement Working Group Chair, Department of Environmental Affairs, Government of South Africa, 2012–2015.

Scientific Observer, Small Pelagic Working Group, Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Government of South Africa, 2010–2021.

Editorial responsibilities

Associate Editor: Journal of Applied Ecology, 2023–present.

Associate Editor: Ostrich, Journal of African Ornithology, 2014–present.

Editor: Seabird, 2016–2018.

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Supervision / Group

Postdoctoral researchers

Postgraduate researchers


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Office Hours:

Term 2 (w/c 15 Jan to w/c 25 March 2024):

Wednesday 10–11h00

Thursday 11–12h00

Click here to book 15 minute slots with me during my office hours (either in person or on MS Teams). You don't need to email me first to check if it is okay to book a slot/slots, or afterwards to let me know that you have booked (I get an automatic email whenever someone books a slot).

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