Rachael Plunkett

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Rachael Plunkett 2017-08-15T13:17:48+00:00
Cormac Booth

Rachael Plunkett

Associate Scientist (Europe)


Rachael  is an Associate Scientist at SMRU Consulting Europe. She has two years’ background conducting visual marine mammal surveys from land and boats and now has three years experience in marine mammal consultancy where she has participated in a wide range of project work including: visual surveys, PAM, data analysis and marine mammal impact assessment.

Degrees and Education

  • 2011 University of St Andrews, MRes Marine Mammal Science. Distinction for the dissertation: Habitat use of the South Abaco Island bottlenose dolphin community.
  • 2010 Aberdeen University BSc Hons Marine Biology (1st Class)


Rachael has been working in the field of marine mammal science for six years. She has two years’ experience conducting visual marine mammal surveys where she investigated the behavioural impacts of swim-with-dolphin tourism in New Zealand then worked as a research assistant at the University of Aberdeen on the long term bottlenose dolphin photo-identification project. Since then, Rachael has rapidly gained expertise in marine mammal consultancy with SMRU Consulting and has experienced a wide range of project work:

  • Lead author for the marine mammal ES chapter for a novel floating wind development.
  • Baseline characterisation reports for offshore wind farms, tidal and offshore infrastructure projects.
  • Input into noise impact assessments, ES chapters and marine mammal monitoring protocols for offshore wind farms.
  • Analytical work including population trajectory modelling using PCoD.
  • Seal count and telemetry data analysis.
  • Main GIS specialist at SMRU Consulting Europe.
  • Trained in spatial modelling methods for correlated data and distance sampling.
  • Visual marine mammal survey projects including designing surveys and protocols, acting as survey coordinator and analysing and reporting data.
  • Involved in designing and implementing a novel photographic geo-referencing technique to obtain more accurate sighting location data during land based vantage point surveys
  • Experienced in identifying marine mammal species from digital still images obtained during aerial surveys.
  • Experience on various PAM projects conducting analysis of data for baseline site characterisation and underwater noise monitoring during construction works.

May 2013-Sept 2013 and May 2012-Oct 2012: Research Assistant, Aberdeen University Lighthouse Field Station

Research assistant on the long-term bottlenose dolphin photo-identification project. Further developed boat-based marine mammal observation skills and extensive practical experience in cetacean photo-ID work, both taking and grading pictures. Pro-actively participated in other research projects, such as land-based observations, harbour seal photo-identification studies and PAM studies in order to broaden my skills base.

Oct 2011-Dec 2011: Oiled Wildlife Responder, Maritime New Zealand

Contracted member of the oiled wildlife response unit following the grounding of the cargo ship Rena. Assisted vets in the general care of little blue penguins. Gained experience handling wild birds, preparing medication, analysing blood work, assisting in triage of contaminated birds and identifying species during post-mortem examinations.

Sept 2011-March 2012: Volunteer Research Assistant, Massey University, NZ

Field assistant on a PhD project investigating the effects of commercial tourism activities on bottlenose and common dolphin populations in the East Coast Bay of Plenty. Extensive experience driving boats around cetaceans and in all aspects of photo-identification techniques. Responsible for training inexperienced volunteers, promoting teamwork and liaising with tourism operators and the public developing excellent communication skills.

August 2010: Volunteer, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

March 2011: Volunteer, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

July 2010: Volunteer, Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit.

July 2008: Volunteer Research Assistant, Kenna Eco Diving.

2007-2010: Sales Assistant, Waterworld Aquatics.

2004-2007: Sales Assistant, Pets at Home.

Here are some example reports that Rachael has been involved in:


  • Plunkett, R. (2017). Seal Telemetry Data in Relation to the Hornsea 3 Project. Report Number SMRUC-RPS-2017-008, Submitted To RPS, March 2017 (Unpublished).
  • Sparling, C., Aonghais, C., Thompson, D., Smout, S., Tollit, D., Verfuss, U., Plunkett, R., Wood, J., Brookes, K., Bennet, F., Morris, C., Stringell, T. & Smith, K. (2017). Acceptable thresholds of change: how much is too much? A review of the population assessment of impacts on marine mammals. Submitted to NRW, April 2017.


  • Plunkett, R & Sparling, CE. Dounreay Trì Floating Wind Marine Mammal Environmental Statement. Report Number: SMRUC-HID-2016-003. Submitted To Hi-Def Aerial Surveying Limited, March 2016.
  • Sparling, C, E. & Plunkett, R. 2016. Appendix A To The Hornsea Project 1 MMMP: PTS Risk Assessment For Minke Whale And White-Beaked Dolphin. Report Number SMRUC-GOB-2016-002. February 2016.
  • Verfuss U. K., Aniceto, A. S., Biuw, M., Fielding, S. Gillespie, D., Harris, D., Jimenez, G., Johnston, P., Plunkett, R., Sivertsen, A., Solbø, A., Storvold, R. And Wyatt, R. 2016. Literature Review: Understanding The Current State Of Autonomous Technologies To Improve/Expand Observation And Detection Of Marine Species. Report Number SMRUC-OGP-2015-015 Provided To IOGP, February, 2016 (Unpublished).


  • Plunkett, R; Booth, CG. & Sparling, CE. (2015). Tidal Lagoon West Cumbria: Review Of Marine Mammal Baseline Information. SMRUC-TLP-2015-009, Submitted To Tidal Lagoon Power, December 2015 (Unpublished).
  • Plunkett, R., Booth, C., & Sparling, S. Tidal Lagoon West Cumbria: Recommendations For Marine Mammal Monitoring. SMRUC-TLP-2015-023, Submitted To Tidal Lagoon Power, December 2015 (Unpublished).
  • Verfuss UK, Gillespie D, Gordon J, Marques T, Miller B, Plunkett R, Theriault J, Tollit D, Zitterbart DP, Hubert P, & Thomas L. 2015. Low Visibility Real-Time Monitoring Techniques Review. Report Number SMRUM-OGP-2015-002 Provided To IOGP, November 2015 (Unpublished).
  • Sparling, C., Plunkett, R., Gordon, J. & Gotz, T. (2015). The Use Of Acoustic Deterrents For The Mitigation Of Injury To Marine Mammals During Pile Driving For Offshore Wind Farm Construction: Review And Gap Analysis. SMRUC-TCT-2015-006, Submitted To The Carbon Trust, June August 2015 (Unpublished).
  • Booth, C.G., Sparling, C.E., Plunkett, R., Scott-Hayward, L. & Rexstad, E. Collision Risk Simulation Modelling: Marine Mammals And Deep Green Device At Holyhead Deep. Report Number SMRUM-MIN-2015-005provided To Minesto UK Ltd, March 2015 (Unpublished).


  • Plunkett, R, Sparling, C. & Kidney, D. Anglesey Skerries Marine Mammal Monitoring: Land Based Vantage Point Survey trial. Report Number SMRUM-MCT-2014-012 Provided To MCT, November, 2014 (Unpublished).
  • Plunkett, R; Booth, C.G & Harwood, J. 2014. Summary Of The Round 1 Expert Elicitation Results. Report Code Smrum-Onr-2014-013, Submitted To The Office Of Naval Research – Marine Mammal & Biology Program, October 2014 (Unpublished).
  • Booth, C.G., Sparling, C.E., Scott-Hayward, L., Rexstad, E. & Plunkett, R. Collision Risk Simulation Modelling: Harbour Seals and Deep Green Device at Strangford Lough. Report number SMRUM-MIN-2014-011 provided to Minesto UK Ltd, September 2014 (unpublished).
  • Booth, C.G., Plunkett, R. & Verfuβ, U. K. Interim Marine Mammal And Noise Monitoring At Invergordon Report. Report Number SMRUL-AFF- 2014-003 Provided To Affric Ltd, May 2014 (Unpublished).


  • Plunkett, R. & Verfuss, U. South Stream Offshore Pipeline: Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan. Report Number 54.12.13.ERM Provided To ERM On Behalf Of South Stream Transport, December, 2013 (Unpublished).
  • The Carbon Trust (ORJIP ADD Phase 2)
  • Dudgeon Offshore Wind Ltd (ADD Mitigation & Pup Production)
  • Fugro Emu (Seal Telemetry and Count Data)
  • Marine Current Turbines (Skerries Vantage Point Surveys)
  • Minesto UK Ltd (Collision Risk Modelling)
  • Aquatera (Marine Energy Development Impact Assessment Tool)
  • Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors (Noise Level Monitoring)
  • ERM (Marine Mammal Monitoring)
  • Geomarine (Marine Mammal Monitoring)
  • APEM Ltd (Species Sensitivity Assessment)
  • Affric Ltd (Invergordon Marine Mammal Monitoring and Mitigation)
  • IOGP (PAMGuard Maintenance)

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