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Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

 Kieran McCloskey

Kieran McCloskey

PhD Research Student

 Hatherly B11


Hatherly Building, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter, EX4 4PS, UK


My research focuses on the impacts of anthropogenic noise on the reproduction and survival of fish in temperate and tropical climates.

Anthropogenic noise has become increasingly pervasive as human populations, and corresponding development, continue to grow. Consequently, international legislation recognises anthropogenic noise, or noise pollution, as a pollutant of global concern. A growing body of research has successfully demonstrated the negative impacts of noise pollution on fish physiology, health and behaviour. However, much of this work utilises laboratories and aquariums where it is difficult to reproduce natural acoustic conditions, thus limiting ecological validity. Furthermore, it is often difficult to extrapolate long-term, population-level fitness consequences from short-term studies. Thus, my research endeavours to address these gaps.

Through in situ oriented research, I intend to investigate the potential biological impacts of anthropogenic noise on the reproduction, embryonic development and larval survival of demersal fish species in temperate and tropical waters.  This work will help to understand how anthropogenic noise affects the reproductive success of fish populations. My fieldwork will be conducted in the coastal waters of the UK and the Great Barrier Reef. I hope to use discoveries from this PhD program to help mitigate the negative biological impacts of noise on marine ecosystems, thus improving resilience towards the future threats of climate change, such as warming waters and ocean acidification.

Broad research specialisms:

  • Marine biology
  • Bioacoustics
  • Fish behaviour and reproduction
  • Anthropogenic stressors
  • Climate change


BSc Biochemistry, minor in Chemistry – Virginia Tech, 2007–2011
MSc Physiology & Biophysics – Georgetown University, 2014–2015
MSc Conservation & Biodiversity – University of Exeter, 2016–2017

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Research projects

Project Title: In situ assessment of anthropogenic noise impacts on fish reproduction and survival


Funding Body:

Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship (University of Exeter)
Natural England

Project Description:
The underwater environment is teeming with natural biotic and abiotic sounds that are essential to survival in marine ecosystems. However, marine noise generated by human activities can interfere with this natural soundscape.  Consequently, mounting evidence demonstrates that anthropogenic noise has the potential to negatively affect a wide range of marine taxa. The aim of my PhD project is to assess the impacts for fish of two types of anthropogenic noise (impact pile-driving and motorboats) on key life-history processes (reproduction, embryonic development and larval survival) that have direct fitness and ecological implications. Through research-driven mitigation, the negative impacts of noise on fish can be reduced, thus improving population resilience.

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Journal articles

Gordon T, Simpson S, McCloskey K, Nedelec S (In Press). Acoustic enrichment can enhance fish community development on degraded coral-reef habitat. Nature Communications
Nedelec SL, Radford AN, Gatenby P, Davidson IK, Velasquez Jimenez L, Travis M, Chapman KE, McCloskey KP, Lamont TAC, Illing B, et al (2022). Limiting motorboat noise on coral reefs boosts fish reproductive success. Nature Communications, 13(1).
McCloskey KP, Chapman KE, Chapuis L, McCormick MI, Radford AN, Simpson SD (2020). Assessing and mitigating impacts of motorboat noise on nesting damselfish. Environmental Pollution, 266 Abstract.

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