Dr Nick Humphries, Mem.MBA

Postdoctoral Research Assistant

Dr Nick Humphries


I am a computational biologist in the Behavioural Ecology research group. I 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. Wanting a new challenge I returned to science in 2006 taking an MSc in Biological Diversity at Plymouth, where I met David Sims. I joined the MBA in 2008 to explore ecological questions by applying computational methods (analysis, modelling and simulations) to the behavioural ecology of marine predators. I was awarded my PhD in 2013 for a study on “Behavioural analysis of marine predator movements in relation to environmental heterogeneity.

An important focus in my work has been an investigation into the search strategies of marine predators. I have 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.

I have studied the spatial ecology of skates through the analysis of data from electronic tags, and have managed the database and contributed to papers for the Global Shark Movement Project. I am currently working on a diverse range of projects with the ERC funded Ocean DeOxyFish fish project, including the analysis of responses of marine predators to Oxygen Minimum Zones, and the development of firmware for a new, DO sensing tag. Outside my own research I contributes to the group by writing software for the sophisticated analysis of electronic tag data and more recently for large scale spatial analyses and the processing of CMIP climate prediction data.