Staff Profile profile for nicmph
Nick is a computational biologist in the Behavioural Ecology research group. He graduated with a BSc in Environmental Biology from Swansea University in 1979 and then spent 25 years working in IT as a systems designer and programmer. For the last 10 years of his commercial career Nick ran his own software consultancy company. Wanting a new challenge Nick returned to science in 2006 taking an MSc in Biological Diversity at Plymouth. He joined the MBA in 2008 to explore ecological questions by applying computational methods (analysis, modelling and simulations) to the behavioural ecology of marine predators. He was awarded his PhD in 2013 for a study on “Behavioural analysis of marine predator movements in relation to environmental heterogeneity” supervised by Professor David Sims. An important focus in Nick’s work has been an investigation into the search strategies of marine predators. Nick has contributed to this field through empirical studies, which identified movement patterns associated with optimal searching, known as Lévy walks; through the development of robust statistical methods to identify these patterns; and through theoretical studies demonstrating the significant benefits of using these searching patterns when prey patches are sparse and beyond sensory range, when animals need to perform ‘blind’ searches. Nick is currently studying the spatial ecology of skates through the analysis of data from electronic tags, deployed over the last eight years. Outside his own research Nick contributes to the group by writing software for the sophisticated analysis of electronic tag data.