Dr Luke Rendell

MASTS Reader in Biology

Harold Mitchell 308
tel. 01334 463499

"The true biologist deals with life, with teeming boisterous life, and learns something from it, learns that the first rule of life is living"
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez

ResearcherID: G-2594-2010 orcid.org/0000-0002-1121-9142

I am a Reader in Biology supported by the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS). I am affiliated with the Scottish Ocean Institute, Sea Mammal Research Unit, the Centre for Biological Diversity, the Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution, and the Institute of Behavioural and Neural Sciences.

I have broad research interests, largely centred around the evolution of learning, behaviour and communication, with a special focus on marine mammals.

Latest paper
Mauricio Cantor, Hal Whitehead, Shane Gero, Luke Rendell (2016) Cultural turnover among Galápagos sperm whales. R. Soc. open sci. 2016 3 160615; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160615

We documented the large-scale relocation of cultural groups of sperm whale off the Galápagos Islands. We used vocal dialect studies to show that the whales encountered around the islands in the years 1985-1999, which belonged to two particular cultural groups, had been completely replaced in surveys conducted in 2013-2014 by groups belonging to two different cultural groups.

Coverage by National Geographic here.

Our book, The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins is even available at Amazon! Hear it discussed on BBC Radio 4's "Start the Week".

Current projects
Sperm whale society and ecology
I have been studying the ecology, communication and societies of sperm whales, the largest of the toothed whales, showing how long lasting social groups use distinctive vocal dialects that appear to be culturally transmitted. Part of this work is my involvement in running the Balearics Sperm Whale Project and as a collaborator of the Dominica Sperm Whale Project.

Culture in whales and dolphins
In whales and dolphins we find examples of both complex communication and apparently widespread social learning, a simple form of culture. I am using statistical models to assess the evidence for social learning in wild cetaceans.

Evolutionary modelling
I also use evolutionary simulation models to understand how these processes like social learning might have evolved, and how they might be related to the evolution of other kinds of behaviour, such as cooperation and niche-construction.

Human social learning
I use experimental approaches to understand how we negotiate the trade-offs involved in deciding whether to use social information to make simple decisions, as a window into how we have evolved to make best use of our cultural inheritance.

East Coast Marine Mammal Acoustic Study (ECOMMAS)
We are deploying passive listening buoys along the Scottish coastline in collaboration with Marine Scotland Science to monitor the impact of coastal windfarm development and also to give insight into acoustic behaviour of marine mammals.

Science without borders!

An approach to academic life: 12 guidelines for survival

Dr Charlotte Dunn finished her PhD "Insights into Blainville's Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon densirostris) communication" in January 2015

Dr Thomas Morgan completed his PhD, co-supervised with Kevin Laland and titled "Experimental studies of human social learning and its evolution" in December 2013

Dr Laurel Fogarty completed her PhD, co-supervised with Kevin Laland and titled "From social learning to culture: Mathematical and computational models of cultural evolution" in June 2012

Dr Ricardo Antunes completed his PhD, co-supervised with Phil Hammond and Jonathan Gordon, and titled "Variation in sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) coda vocalizations and social structure in the North Atlantic Ocean" in March 2009

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Dunn, C, Claridge, D, Durban, J, Shaffer, J, Moretti, D, Tyack, P & Rendell, L 2017, 'Insights into Blainville's beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris) echolocation ontogeny from recordings of mother-calf pairs' Marine Mammal Science, vol 33, no. 1, pp. 356-364. DOI: 10.1111/mms.12351
Cantor, M, Whitehead, H, Gero, S & Rendell, LE 2016, 'Cultural turnover among Galápagos sperm whales' Royal Society Open Science, vol 3, no. 10, 160615. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160615
Mcloughlin, M, Ingram, S, Rendell, LE, Lamoni, LU, Kirke, A, Garland, EC, Noad, M & Miranda, E 2016, Adapting a computational multi agent model for humpback whale song research for use as a tool for algorithmic composition. in R Großmann & G Hajdu (eds), Proceedings SMC 2016. Proceedings of the SMC Conferences, Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg, pp. 274-280, 13th Sound and Music Computing Conference and Summer School, Hamburg, Germany, 31-3 September.
Jones, EL, Rendell, LE, Pirotta, E & Long, JA 2016, 'Novel application of a quantitative spatial comparison tool to species distribution data' Ecological Indicators, vol 70, pp. 67-76. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.05.051
Wang, Z-T, Au, WWL, Rendell, L, Wang, K-X, Wu, H-P, Wu, Y-P, Liu, J-C, Duan, G-Q, Cao, H-J & Wang, D 2016, 'Apparent source levels and active communication space of whistles of free-ranging Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) in the Pearl River Estuary and Beibu Gulf, China' PeerJ, vol 4, pp. 1-38. DOI: 10.7717/peerj.1695
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