Dr Natacha Aguilar de Soto

Visiting Scholar since end of Marie Slodowska Curie Fellowship (2015-2017). Ramon y Cajal fellow at University of La Laguna (Tenerife)

The Observatory 
tel. naguilar@ull.edu.es

My research has two main avenues: cetaceans (from foraging ecology to population and conservation biology) and impacts of underwater acoustic pollution on marine fauna. During project ECOSOUND I combined work at CREEM with continuing a long-term cetacean research line at the University of La Laguna (ULL), in the Canary Islands. Now I am Visiting Scholar at University of St Andrews, and work fulltime at ULL with a Ramón y Cajal fellowship. 


My work at CREEM was funded by the EU Horizon2020 project ECOSOUND, summarized below:



The Marie Slodowska Curie project ECOSOUND (May 2015-May 2017, Horizon 2020) targeted issues of underwater noise impacts on marine fauna, from invertebrates to marine mammals. The project included experimental work at sea and in the laboratory, analysis of a large dataset of biologging data of pilot and beaked whales and systematic literature reviews. Also, in synergy to the research activities planned initially in ECOSOUND, the fellow led six competitive research projects as PI. The results of the research were reported in 17 contributions to 8 international conferences and published in 9 peer-reviewed articles and 3 conference proceedings and book chapters. Also, the research based or contributed to two PhD and 7 MSc thesis supervised by the ECOSOUND fellow. Knowledge generated during the project was transferred to the governments of UK, New Zealand and Spain and to the UN family of agreements Convention of Migratory Species-ACCOBAMS-ASCOBANS, as well as to the International Whaling Commission and the International Maritime Organization, among other stakeholders. Outreach was achieved in the form of the participation of the fellow in three documentaries (two with large international divulgation by SKY channel and National Geographic Wild/ARTE) and numerous contributions to web-based and printed-press, radio and tv media. The fellow culminated ECOSOUND with the award of a long-term research and teaching position at the University of La Laguna, Canary Islands, Spain, where she will continue working on research subjects related to ECOSOUND and with international collaborators gained during this project.







Peer-reviewed papers, book chapters and conference proceedings:

  1. Aguilar, N., Martín, V., Silva, M. A., Edler, R., Reyes, C., Carrillo, M., Schiavi, A., Morales, T., García, B., Sánchez, A., García, N., Steiner, L., Scheer, M., Gocker, R., Walker, D., Villa, E., Szlama, P., Carroll, E. L. (2017) True´s beaked whale in Macaronesia. PeerJ. 10.7717/peerj.3059 This paper was selected by PeerJ to make an "author interview" available here: http://bit.ly/2pIXSlu
  2. Aguilar de Soto, N. & Kight, C. (2016). Physiological effects of noise. Ch. 8 in Solan, M. & Whiteley, N. (Eds) Stressors in the Marine Environment. Physiological and Ecological Responses and Societal Implications. Oxford University Press. 350 pp. https://global.oup.com/academic/product/stressors-in-the-marine-environment-9780198718826?cc=gb&lang=en&
  3. Aguilar de Soto, N. (2016). Peer-Reviewed Studies on the Effects of Anthropogenic Noise on Marine Invertebrates: From Scallop Larvae to Giant Squid. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4939-2981-8_3, http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-1-4939-2981-8_3
  4. Aguilar de Soto et al. (15 authors) (2016). From physiology to policy: A review of physiological noise effects on marine fauna with implications for mitigation. Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics (POMA). http://asa.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1121/2.0000299
  5. Ariza, A., Landeira, J.M., Escánez, A., Wienerroither, R.M., Aguilar, N., Røstad, A., Kaartvedt, S. & Hernández-León, S. (2016) Vertical distribution, composition and migratory patterns of acoustic scattering layers in the Canary Islands. Journal of Marine Systems.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmarsys.2016.01.004
  6. Fais A., Lewis T. P., Zitterbart D. P., Álvarez O. and Aguilar de Soto N. (2016) Are ship strikes sustainable for sperm whales in the Canary Islands? PLoS ONE 11(3): e0150660. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0150660. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0150660
  7. Fais A., Johnson M., Wilson M., Aguilar Soto N. & Madsen P.T. (2016) Echolocating sperm whales and their prey: Chasing and buzzing, but no big bangs. Scientific Reports. doi:10.1038/srep28562
  8. Martin Lopez, Aguilar de Soto, Miller, Johnson (2016) Tracking the kinematics of caudal-oscillatory swimming: a comparison of two on-animal sensing methods. Journal of Experimental Biology.219 (4) 2103-2109 doi: 10.1242/jeb.136242
  9. Marrero, J., Jensen, F., Laia, L., Aguilar de Soto, N. (2016) Different modes of acoustic communication in deep-diving short-finned pilot whales. Marine Mammal Science. http://doi.wiley.com/10.1111/mms.12344
  10. Martín, L.; Miller, P; Aguilar, N; Johnson, M. (2015) Gait switches and fast twitches: biomechanical strategies for long diving in beaked whales. Journal of Experimental Biology. 218, 1325-1338. Doi: 10.1242/jeb.106013


Participation in expert panels and workshops

i) Department of Conservation of New Zealand: “Technical Working Group Report on Recommendations for Biological Relevant Sound Levels”. (February 2016). Technical Working Group Members and Affiliations: Bob Gisiner (IAGC); Jakob Tougaard (Aarhus University); Sander von Benda-Beckmann (TNO); Russell Leaper (Aberdeen University); Rob McCauley (Curtin University); Rob Williams (St. Andrews University); Manuel Castellote (NOAA) ; Natacha Aguilar de Soto (St. Andrews University & La Laguna University).

ii) UK Department of Energy and Climate Change's offshore energy Strategic Environmental Assessment programme: “Beaked whales: a review of distribution and abundance in UK waters and new information on life history, diving behaviour and ecology, noise impacts, approaches to monitoring and options for mitigation”. (2017) Natacha Aguilar de Soto, Douglas Gillespie, Philip Hammond, Mark Johnson, Cristel Reyes, Peter Tyack. University of St. Andrews.

iii) Convention of Migratory Species (CMS).  CMS Family Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines for Noise-generating Offshore Industries: Implementation Report. UNEP/CMS/ScC-SC1/Doc.10.2.3/Rev.1. (April 2016)

iv) Working Group on Cetacean Ship Strike Prevention in the Canary Islands (on-going).



  • ECS (European Cetacean Society conference). Middlefart, Denmark. April 2017
  • Magrebian Congress on Aquatic Sciences. Fez. Marocco. December 2016
  • ECS (European Cetacean Society conference). Madeira, Portugal. March 2016
  • 4th Conference on the effects of noise on aquatic fauna. Dublin. June 2016.
  • Sea Mammals and Sonar Symposium. St. Andrews. UK. October 2015. Presentations available at www.tno.nl/smss
  • Spanish National Biodiversity Conference. Tenerife, Spain. May 2015.
  • OCEANOISE Conference. Catalunya, Spain, May 2015 http://oceanoise2015.com/
  • Mistic Seas (EU-funded project to identify indicators for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in Macaronesia). Meeting of expert group. Azores. March 2016  http://bit.ly/1Ti5qzz



  • IP. Assessing the resilience of beake whales to human impacts. Funded by the Office of Naval Research to ULL with partners from USA, Italy, Denmark and UK (University of St. Andrews). (2016-2019)
  • Co-IP. Heart rate logging in deep-diving cetaceans. A new tool for assessing disturbance. Funded by the Office of Naval Research to Moss Landing Laboratory (USA) with partners from USA, Spain (University of La Laguna) and UK (University of St. Andrews) (2016-2019)
  • Co-IP. Stimating beaked whale density from passive acoustic recorders. Funded by the Office of Naval Research to ULL and University of St. Andrews. (2016-2018)
  • IP. Canarias con la Mar: conservación de la pardela chica y el cachalote en Canarias. Funded by Fundación Biodiversidad-MAGRAMA to GIC-ULL. www.canariasconlamar.wordpress.com (2014-2015)
  • IP. Monitoreo de zifios en El Hierro. Funded by Fundación Biodiversidad-MAGRAMA to ULL. (2015-june 2016)
  • IP. Population Parametes of Beaked Whales. Funded by the Office of Naval Research to ULL. (2012-may 2015)


PhD and Master thesis supervised by the fellow


  • Jacobo Marrero. Acoustic communication of short finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus). ULL. February 2016. PhD cum laude with international mention.


  • Talía Morales. Seasonal distribution of cetaceans in the Canary Islands. Master in Marine Biodiversity. ULL. Defended in May 2015 (marks: 9.6 over 10)
  • Salvador Hernández. Cetacean distribution in the waters of Malta studied with visual and acoustic surveys. Master in Marine Biodiversity. ULL. Defended in May 2015 (marks: 9.2 over 10)
  • Jesús Alcazar. Acoustic behaviour of Blainville´s beaked whales. ULL. Defended in March 2016 (marks: 10 over 10, Special Honours Mention)
  • Anna Sánchez. Abundance and seasonal distribution of rough toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis) in El Hierro. ULL. June 2016. (marks: 9.5 over 10)
  • Cristina Reyes. Beaked whale population dynamics. Co-supervision with Prof. Phil Hammond. University of St Andrews. June 2017.
  • Adrián Hernández. Population abundance of humpback whales in Carlos III. Chile. ULL. May 2017. (marks: 9.8 over 10)
  • Daniel García. Acoustic estimation of abundance of beaked whales in the Canary Islands. ULL. May 2017. (marks: 9.9 over 10, proposed for Special Honours Mention)




Brasil, river dolphin research (Inia araguayanensis). August 2016

Beaked whale monitoring (genetics, photoID, passive acoustics). El Hierro. May 2015.

Experiments of noise on marine invertebrates from June 2016


In addition to the web page of the project, results of ECOSOUND were communicated to the public via specific web-based and traditional media news in numerous occassions. The publication of two peer-reviewed articles (Fais et al. 2016) and Aguilar de Soto et al. (2017) was particularly well received by the media. In addition to normal web, printed press and radio coverage, Fais et al. (2016) was covered in international blogs (http://www.hakaimagazine.com/article-short/death-thousand-ship-strikes). This was the case also with Aguilar de Soto et al. (2017) (see links to news at https://peerj.com/articles/3059/#links), which was chosen by the journal for an author interview (http://bit.ly/2pIXSlu). The paper included a video of the first underwater images of the rare True´s beaked whale (Mesoplodon mirus). This video was uploaded by the journal to YouTube and viewed more than 600,000 times. The scale of the news made that the author was interviewed for journals such as the Washington Post or the Times, and children international web natural history magazines.

An additional outreach was the contribution of sounds from beaked, pilot and sperm whales to the collection of animal vocalizations of the Spanish Museum of National Sciences:


The research on beaked whales of ECOSOUND was featured in two international documentaries, one performed and distributed by SKY Channel (see link below), and the other performed by the French company St Thomas Productions and distributed by National Geographic Wild and ARTE channels (this is to be released in August 2017).







Aguilar de Soto, N, Martín, V, Silva, M, Edler, R, Reyes, C, Carrillo, M, Schiavi, A, Morales, T, García-Ovide, B, Sanchez-Mora, A, Garcia-Tavero, N, Steiner, L, Scheer, M, Gockel, R, Walker, D, Villa, E, Szlama, P, Eriksson, IK, Tejedor, M, Perez-Gil, M, Quaresma, J, Bachara, W & Carroll, E 2017, 'True’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon mirus) in Macaronesia' PeerJ, vol 5, e3059. DOI: 10.7717/peerj.3059
Warren, VE, Marques, TA, Harris, D, Thomas, L, Tyack, PL, Aguilar de Soto, N, Hickmott, LS & Johnson, MP 2017, 'Spatio-temporal variation in click production rates of beaked whales: implications for passive acoustic density estimation' Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, vol 141, no. 3, pp. 1962-1974. DOI: 10.1121/1.4978439
Pérez, JM, Jensen, FH, Rojano-Doñate, L & Aguilar de Soto, N 2017, 'Different modes of acoustic communication in deep-diving short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus)' Marine Mammal Science, vol 33, no. 1, pp. 59-79. DOI: 10.1111/mms.12344
Aguilar De Soto, N, Gkikopoulou, K, Hooker, S, Isojunno, S, Johnson, M, Miller, P, Tyack, P, Wensveen, P, Donovan, C, Harris, CM, Harris, D, Marshall, L, Oedekoven, C, Prieto, R & Thomas, L 2016, 'From physiology to policy: a review of physiological noise effects on marine fauna with implications for mitigation' Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, vol 27, no. 1, 040008. DOI: 10.1121/2.0000299
Martin Lopez, LM, Aguilar de Soto, N, Miller, P & Johnson, M 2016, 'Tracking the kinematics of caudal-oscillatory swimming: a comparison of two on-animal sensing methods' Journal of Experimental Biology, vol 219, no. 14, pp. 2103-2109. DOI: 10.1242/jeb.136242
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Dr Natacha Aguilar de Soto
The Observatory
Buchanan Gardens
University of St Andrews
St Andrews
KY16 9LZ

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