Dr Douglas Speirs

Senior Lecturer

Mathematics and Statistics

Personal statement

I joined the faculty staff of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in 2007 and was appointed senior lecturer in Marine Resource Modelling in 2014.  I am also the departmental Director of Knowledge Exchange, responsible for helping colleagues develop KE activities such as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, Continuous Professional Development, and consultancy. My research involves developing computationally efficient population models of fish stocks in which physiological structure and spatial structure and combined, and I have strong track record of widely cited peer-reviewed publications (average of 24 citations per article, three papers with >100 citations). My research on spatial modelling of zooplankton, as part of the NERC MarProd programme, established a new to modelling the growth and transport by ocean currents of stage-structured populations (e.g. Speirs et al. 2006, Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 313, 173-192). With partners at Marine Scotland Science I led the development of a new size-structured multispecies model for fish communities (Speirs et al. 2010, Fish. Res. 106, 474-494), now known as FishSUMS (Fish Strathclyde University – Marine Scotland). Motivated by policy-driven concerns about the effects of multi-species fisheries, the model has been used to explore the consequences of a range of fisheries management scenarios. Over the last seven years I have been PI or Co-I in grants totalling over £1.3 million FEC. I am an editor for Ecology and the Journal of Biological Systems, and I sit on steering groups of the Strathclyde Marine Institute and the Centre for Mathematics Applied to the Life Sciences (CMALS).  I am deputy convener of the MASTS Fisheries Forum, a group that has representation from all major fisheries related institutes in Scotland, and covers diverse disciplines including biology, stock assessment, ecosystem modelling, economics, and stakeholder experience.


Trends in sandeel growth and abundance off the east coast of Scotland
MacDonald Alan, Speirs Douglas C, Greenstreet Simon P R, Boulcott Philip, Heath Michael R
Frontiers in Marine Science Vol 6 (2019)
Timing of sandeel spawning and hatching off the East Coast of Scotland
MacDonald Alan, Heath Michael R, Greenstreet Simon P R, Speirs Douglas C
Frontiers in Marine Science Vol 6 (2019)
Population density and temperature correlate with long-term trends in somatic growth rates and maturation schedules of herring and sprat
Hunter Aidan, Speirs Douglas C, Heath Michael R
PLOS One Vol 14 (2019)
Modelling the effects of changes in sea-ice extent on Arctic marine food webs
Heath Michael, Benkort Deborah, Brierley Andrew, Daewel Ute, Hofmeister Richard, Proud Roland, Schrum Corinna, Speirs Douglas
MASTS Annual Science Conference (2018)
A general framework for combining ecosystem models
Spence Michael A, Blanchard Julia L, Rossberg Axel G, Heath Michael R, Heymans Johanna J, Mackinson Steven, Serpetti Natalia, Speirs Douglas C, Thorpe Robert B, Blackwell Paul G
Fish and Fisheries Vol 19, pp. 1031–1042 (2018)
Exploring the influence of food and temperature on North Sea sandeels using a new dynamic energy budget model
MacDonald Alan, Speirs Douglas C, Greenstreet Simon P R, Heath Michael R
Frontiers in Marine Science Vol 5 (2018)

more publications

Professional activities

5th International Zooplankton Production Symposium in Pucon
Invited speaker
University of Glasgow, DEEB seminar “Cod in a web: modelling multi-species length-structured interactions in a North Sea fish community”, 2nd December 2009.
Invited speaker
Subject matter editor for Ecology
Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (External organisation)
Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (External organisation)
EUR-OCEANS (External organisation)

more professional activities


Microbes to Megafauna Modelling of Arctic Seas (MiMeMo)
Heath, Mike (Principal Investigator) Speirs, Douglas (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2018 - 30-Jan-2021
Mechanistic understanding of the role of diatoms in the success of the Arctic Calanus complex and implications for a warmer Arctic
Banas, Neil (Principal Investigator) Heath, Mike (Co-investigator) Speirs, Douglas (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2017 - 30-Jan-2021
Scoping the background information for an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries
Heath, Mike (Principal Investigator) Speirs, Douglas (Co-investigator)
25-Jan-2016 - 31-Jan-2017
PhD studentship on modelling Norway lobster and Hematodinium sp. in the Clyde
Speirs, Douglas (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2015 - 31-Jan-2019
Modelling the impacts of trawling on the marine ecosystem
Heath, Mike (Principal Investigator) Speirs, Douglas (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2015 - 31-Jan-2015
Integrating Macroecology and Modelling to Elucidate Regulation of Services from Ecosystems (IMMERSE)
Heath, Mike (Principal Investigator) Speirs, Douglas (Co-investigator)
"Coastal and shelf marine ecosystems are highly productive, bringing great benefits to humans. These benefits, called "ecosystem services" include food supply, recycling and recreation. Coastal and shelf seas are rich, productive and close to large human populations, so they are under great pressure from factors such as fishing and climate change.

Despite years of intensive study, our knowledge of how shelf ecosystems work is still patchy. Therefore we cannot yet predict how they will respond to changes. IMMERSE combines researchers with complementary track records from across 11 UK institutes. We will develop an integrated, whole-ecosystem approach to understand how changes occur in marine ecosystems and how these affect the services they provide. We will a) synthesise and analyse the vast array of existing, but scattered, data, b) target key data gaps and choke-points in our understanding with focussed fieldwork and experimentation and c) combine these into a suite of computer models that explore future consequences of changes and perturbations for ecosystem services. Our geographical focus will be the western seas, from the western English Channel, through the Celtic and Irish Seas, to western Scotland, although relevant data will be included from a wider area.

The novelty of this project is fourfold:

First, we will use novel web-based approaches to combine existing datasets and rate process measurements, from microbes to whales, and at whole shelf scales. By combining these datasets and published data, we can deduce the underlying "ecological rules" that operate at the level of the individual but lead to patterns at the ecosystem scale - for example how an organism's mortality or feeding rate depends on its body size and the ambient temperature.

Second we will target key knowledge gaps by applying the latest method developments in understanding food webs. We will use isotopic methods to trace the relative input of seaweed and planktonic algae into the base of the food web; we will follow these isotopic tracers in the lab and in the wild to understand exactly how these plants are incorporated into the rest of food web; we will use new image analysis technology to quantify the full size range of organisms in the sea; and we will use the latest molecular techniques to trace who eats whom.

The third novelty is that we will use not just one model to understand these ecosystem linkages but six models, all based on different assumptions. This "ensemble" approach is similar to climate forecasting, but is in its infancy in the sea. We will inform these models with the data synthesised and collected above, and then compare the output across the whole ensemble. This approach limits the shortcomings of any single model for a more robust picture of how the ecosystem works. These models will then be challenged with different scenarios of change, for example changing fishing effort or establishing conservation zones, with and without warming.

The fourth novelty of our approach is that we include a small but important socioeconomic part to our proposal. This will enable policy makers to convert the output from models into economic valuations and indicators, so that judgements can be made on management decisions for a suite of marine ecosystem services.

IMMERSE is part of a larger NERC funding scheme, and its outputs spanning the whole of the food web will be tailored to support the next two rounds of funding: first in developing NERC's model of the lower reaches of the food web, and second in testing efficiency of potential management interventions. The legacies of this project will include tools and combined datasets that will place the UK in a leading position to understand whole ecosystems and the consequences of change in terms of ecosystem services."
31-Jan-2014 - 30-Jan-2018

more projects


Mathematics and Statistics
Livingstone Tower

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