Gavan M Cooke (drgmcooke)


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Jun 17, 2014
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@drgmcooke - Gavan M Cooke

Gordon, D., Pugh, P. and Cooke, G.M., 2019*. Social Media and citizen science provide valuable data for behavioural ecology research: Are cuttlefish using pursuit-deterrent signals during hunting?. bioRxiv, p.760926.

Cooke, G.M*., Anderson, D.B., Begout, M.L., Dennison, N., Osorio, D., Tonkins, B., Kristiansen, T., Fiorito, G., Galligioni, V., Ponte, G. and Andrews, P.L., 2019. Prospective severity classification of scientific procedures in cephalopods: Report of a COST FA1301 Working Group survey. Laboratory animals, p.0023677219864626.

Marshall, L., McCormick, W.D. and Cooke, G.M., 2019. Perception of the ethical acceptability of live prey feeding to aquatic species kept in captivity. PloS one, 14(8), p.e0216777.

Cooke, G.M*., Tonkins, B.M. and Mather, J.A., 2019. Care and Enrichment for Captive Cephalopods. In The Welfare of Invertebrate Animals (pp. 179-208). Springer, Cham.

Sykes, António V., Eduardo Almansa, Gavan M. Cooke, Giovanna Ponte, and Paul LR Andrews. “The digestive tract of cephalopods: a neglected topic of relevance to animal welfare in the laboratory and aquaculture.” Frontiers in Physiology 8 (2017): 492.

Ponte, G., Sykes, A. V., Cooke, G. M., Almansa, E., & Andrews, P. (2017). The digestive tract of cephalopods: towards non-invasive in vivo monitoring of its physiology. Frontiers in Physiology, 8, 403.

Book chapter: Cooke, G.M*, Cracknell, D. and Hill, G. (2017) Public Aquaria Research Guide in BIAZA research methods. Ed. Dr Amy Ploughman, Dr Geoff Hosey

Cooke, G. M* & Tonkins, B. M. 2015 Behavioural indicators of welfare exhibited by the common European cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis). Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research 3(4)

Tonkins, Belinda M., Alexandra M. Tyers, and Gavan M. Cooke*. 2015 “Cuttlefish in captivity: An investigation into housing and husbandry for improving welfare.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 168 (77-83).

  • CIAC/Cephs in Action conference, Heraklion, Crete March 2017 Presenting talk: “Prospective severity assessment in cephalopods: Results of an on-line survey of the COST Action (CephsInAction) FA1301 cephalopod research community”
  • Aquaculture Europe, 2016, Edinburgh, oral presentation: “Effects of increased volume and tank bottom areas on cuttlefish Sepia officinalis, reproduction behaviour”
  • RSPCA/APHA ‘Welfare of wild animals used in research’ meeting, 2016, oral presentation: “Recent Inclusion of the Class Cephalooda (Mollusca) in ASPA1986/EU Directive 2010/63/EU and The Use of Wild Caught Specimens in Scientific Procedures”
  • LASA/UFAW meeting, 2016, oral presentation: Welfare assessment in alien life forms: The challenges presented by inclusion of cephalopods in directive 2010/63/EU
  • BBSRC Animal Welfare Research Network Inaugural Meeting, May 2016, Welcome Trust, London, poster: “COST Action FA1301 – CephsInAction A network for improvement of cephalopod welfare and husbandry in research, aquaculture and fisheries”
  • FELASA congress 2016, Brussels, poster: “Prospective severity assessment in cephalopods: Results of an on-line survey of the COST Action (CephsInAction) FA1301 cephalopod research community”
  • Aquaculture Europe, 2015, Rotterdam, oral presentation: “Caring for cephalopods”


BBC Two - Springwatch, 2016, Episode 6, Cuttlefish personality - BBC Springwatch Cuttlefish personality
BBC Wales Radio interview UK Cepahlopod reports – a request for Citizen Science 2/8/18
BBC Wales news report
The Conversation (UK) Octopuses: How citizen scientists are uncovering their secrets
The Conversation (UK) Octopuses invade Welsh beach – here are the scientific theories why


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The Cephalopod Citizen Science Project

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Although well studied in some scientific disciplines (e.g. neuroscience, aquaculture, animal physiology, ethology), the wild behavioural ecology and fisheries/conservation status of many cephalopods remains a mystery (e.g. single observation of wild Sepia officinalis behaviour – Allen et al., 2017). Compelling evidence (see Andrews et al., 2013) suggests that cephalopods can suffer and feel pain. As a result, they are protected in some parts of the world in a scientific context but no guidance exists on wild animal welfare. Unlike marine mammals, marine fish, sharks and crustaceans, cephalopods damage very easily and become exhausted when pursued by divers who are used to interacting with animals that have evolved for fast and or long periods of swimming. Furthermore, reports exist of local scale extinction of species once very common (e.g. The Common Cuttlefish Sepia officinalis in parts of Devon, UK). Where important taxa reside, there are often few or no in situ studies, which require expensive SCUBA training, equipment hire, and healthy safety features which become expensive to conduct. For example, in UK/EU laws making diving ‘at work’ (which includes data collection) extremely expensive. Citizen science is becoming a more widely used tool to fill gaps where little funding exists (Dickinson et al 2010).


1) To collect data regarding wild cephalopods that would not otherwise be available

2) To make SCUBA divers aware of how best to interact with cephalopods

3) To engage with the citizen scientists in a number of meaningful ways


  • Having seen many videos and images uploaded to various forms of social media we created a Facebook group specifically for reporting observations of cephalopods in the NE Atlantic – search “UK Cephalopod Reports”
  • Due to the immediate success of this group, eight more groups were created with the help of students at Anglia Ruskin University
  • To help educate the public on cephalopods broadly, we wrote ID guides for the regions which were translated into the relevant local languages
  • Guides included potential warning signals provided by cephalopods (and see Cooke & Tonkins 2015) to help SCUBA divers avoid stressing them
  • The lead author conducted a speaking tour of the SW UK SCUBA groups to promote the project in person and to engage with those providing the data
  • Surveys were conducted after the talks to measure behavioural changes in the SCUBA divers
Facebook groups exist for the following countries:

UK cephalopod reports UK

Log into Facebook | Facebook France

Log into Facebook | Facebook Malta

Log into Facebook | Facebook Portugal

Log into Facebook | Facebook Germany

Log into Facebook | Facebook Spain

Log into Facebook | Facebook Cyprus

Log into Facebook | Facebook Italy

Log into Facebook | Facebook Netherlands/Belgium

Avistamiento de cefalópodos México Mexico

Blekksprutobservasjoner i Norge - Norway

Log into Facebook | Facebook - Greece

Log into Facebook | Facebook Japan

Log into Facebook | Facebook Ireland

Log into Facebook | Facebook Central America

The Cephalopod Citizen Science Project - Main Facebook page that collates regional findings


Membership and observations provided

  • After 27 months the groups have ~2000 members who have provided ~ 2500 images or videos. Analytics show rapid growth in membership, posts and reach
Scientific findings (being analysed)

  • New data on UK squid egg-laying sites and behaviours, vital for fisheries assessment currently being written up into a peer-reviewed article with CEFAS
  • We have received a high number of video observations for key or new behaviours, such as: male-male competition (cuttlefish and bobtail squid); female aggression (cuttlefish); sleeping and resting (cuttlefish); schooling and shoaling (cuttlefish); burying behaviours (octopus); habitat preference (octopus); hunting strategies (cuttlefish, bobtail squid); egg-laying preferences (squid, cuttlefish) and many more
  • Analysis of behaviours are ongoing but include; social network analysis; hierarchical cluster analysis of behaviours by species and reproductive phenotype; sequential analysis of agonistic interactions; alternative mating strategies and many more
Guides to cephalopods for the public

Drerup & Cooke 2019 – Cephalopod ID Guide for the North-East Atlantic_v1

Drerup & Cooke 2019 – Cephalopod ID Guide for the North Sea_v1

Drerup & Cooke 2019 – Cephalopod ID Guide for the Mediterranean Sea_v1

Societal Impact

The project has already received widespread national and international exposure:

  • BBC worldwide website (500,000 reach)
  • BBC Radio Wales (50,000 reach)
  • The Conservation article x 2 (36,000 + 4000 reach)
  • SCUBA magazine article on wild cephalopod welfare (25,000 reach)
  • Photographic exhibition in La Paz Mexico – Aug – Sept 2019
Self-funded public speaking tour saw a:

  • 2100% rise in observations posted to the groups
  • 96% of responders agreed to share more observations with 100% agreeing that they will change their behaviour when diving with cephalopods
  • The Royal Society Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has invited the lead author to give a talk on wild cephalopod welfare in late 2019





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