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Using the soundscape at Seal Rocks to develop a noise impact model for Australian fur seals at Seal Rocks


In order to evaluate the impact of increasing human disturbance on the health and viability of the Australian fur seal population at Seal Rocks, Victoria, this project will use an acoustic array of four hydrophones (underwater recording devices, funded by the Penguin Foundation) and measures of stress hormones and parameters of health to examine impacts of visitation and noise on the breeding colony of Seal Rocks. In addition, this project aims to develop a soundscape model of visitation at Seal Rocks and relate it to fur seal abundance and behaviour and critically, the status and health of the fur seals at this important colony site.

The additional supervisors for this project are Dr Rebecca McIntosh (will be the primary contact for this project) from Phillip Island Nature Parks, Victoria and Dr Isabelle Charrier from CNRS & Universite Paris Sud, France.


Dr Rachael Beverly Gray.

Research location

Sydney School of Veterinary Science

Program type



This is a multidisciplinary study including heath assessments, remote field work, extensive animal handling, laboratory and acoustic analyses. This research will have direct management implications for vessel visitation to Seal Rocks and understanding the status of the breeding colony.  
PhD aims:

  1. Assessment and description of noise due to vessel activity around Seal Rocks, and its variations between seasons using passive acoustic monitoring
  2. Impact of noise on both vocal communication and behaviour of fur seals
  3. Impact of noise on health and physiology of seals at Seal Rocks using both stress hormones level and morphometric data.

Additional information

This project is open to domestic higher degree research candidates only. All applicants must meet the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook. Upon selection, the successful candidate will need to apply for a Research Training Program Scholarship through the University of Sydney. The candidate will be required to perform extensive field work at Seal Rocks in Victoria during the course of the project, laboratory analyses (i.e., physiology parameters of health and hormonal investigations) through The University of Sydney and acoustic analyses may be performed in France at the Université Paris Sud (Orsay).

The successful candidate will have a background in animal behaviour, animal or veterinary science, or ecology. Previous experience in health and veterinary work, remote field work and animal handling, as well as laboratory and computer skills, particularly any experience in analysing acoustic files or passive acoustic monitoring would be considered valuable attributes of potential candidates. 

HDR Inherent Requirements In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include: 

  • Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
  • Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
  • Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
  • Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
  • Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
  • Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
  • Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
  • Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
  • Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
  • Hold a current scuba diving licence;
  • Hold a current Working with Children Check;
  • Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.) 

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2787