The Namibian Dolphin Project | Tess Gridley

Team Profiles

Tess Gridley, PI: Acoustics & NIMPA Surveys

Tess is our resident acoustician. She leads the work on bottlenose dolphin behavioural acoustics in Walvis Bay as well as the acoustic towed hydrophone array surveys which are part of the NIMPA surveys

< Previous page Join us on Facebook


I have always had a keen interest in nature and the environment and wanted to work to protect animals from an early age. My inspiration to study marine mammals came during a trip to watch humpback whales in Hervey Bay, Australia and have never looked back. Being a marine biologist combines everything that I am interested in: science, nature, travel and working with people from all over the world. Uncovering new behaviours and sounds provides insights into the lives of these animals and I feel very privileged to observe these on a regular basis.

Tess collecting acoustic and photo ID data from bottlenose dolphins

The Namibian Dolphin Project has a key role to play in helping to better understand the diversity of whales and dolphin in the Benguela ecosystem. These populations face multiple threats and only though careful research and consultation with stakeholders can we help to conserve these creatures for generations to come.

Professional History

Present: Research associate with the Namibian Dolphin Project.
Freelance biologist and marine mammal observer (MMO)

2006 – 2010, University of St Andrews, PhD
Thesis title: Geographic and species variation in bottlenose dolphin signature whistles. Supervisor: Dr Vincent Janik

2004 – 2005, University of Aberdeen, MRes. Marine and Fisheries Science, Pass with Distinction
Thesis title: Combining acoustic and visual survey techniques to determine the factors affecting marine mammal distribution in the outer Moray Firth (NE Scotland). Supervisor: Professor Paul Thompson.

2000–2003, University of Newcastle, First Class BSc Honours Degree in Marine Biology
Thesis title: Applications of the functional biological diversity concept in relation to rocky intertidal communities and physical disturbance. Awarded i) Institute of Biology: Elected as Graduate of the Institute of Biology: Top Bioscience Student at University of Newcastle, 2003. ii) Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering: The Young Book Prize for outstanding achievement in biology. iii) School of Marine Science and Technology: Top Student in Marine Biology
Discipline, 2003.

1997–1999, Sheffield College, UK ‘A’ Levels: Biology, Sociology, Psychology

1992 –1997 Meadowhead School, Sheffield, 10 GCSEs


Research Interests

My research focuses on animal behaviour, primarily acoustic communication in cetaceans. I am interested in understanding functional call types and the factors promoting variation in these at the individual, population and species level. This has allowed me to conduct research all over the world, including Scotland, Tanzania, South Africa and Namibia, using photo-identification, genetic and acoustic techniques. I have been affiliated with the NDP since 2009, where I lead projects on the acoustic behaviour of bottlenose dolphins. I am keen to apply acoustic tools to maximise conservation output, something relatively new in Africa. To this end I am one of the principal investigators on the Namibian Dolphin Projects acoustic surveys to investigate the distribution of Heaviside’s and Dusky Dolphins in the northern Benguela ecosystem.