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Personal profile

Scholarly biography

For as many years as I can remember aquatic environments have held a fascination for me. This interest led me to undertake a BSc in Marine Biology at the University of Portsmouth. During that time I was able to focus on my interests in fish and follow up on my passion for sharks. I completed a final year project on the sexual dimorphism of olfactory organs in sharks. Upon graduation I was invited to travel to South Africa and assist in the research into the effects of cage diving on great white sharks. I then returned to Portsmouth and undertook a part-time PhD examining the sexual dimorphism of sharks in more detail, focusing on the responses to reproductive activities of shark species.

I was employed as a research assistant at the University of Portsmouth. The project examined the impacts of aquacultural effluents on the survival of juvenile salmon and the migration of adult salmon. For this project I spent many hours tagging and tracking adult fish and caging juvenile salmon downstream of fish farms in order to determine if the effluent from aquaculture was hindering migration for juvenile and adult salmon.

I was then employed as an environmental trainer running a canal boat for people carrying out community service orders. The projects undertaken involved river and canal restoration projects in conjunction with the canal and parks authorities in Surrey. This ranged from bank repair, removal of invasive non-native species of plant and lock maintenance and repair. One big project was the reinstatement of a water meadow and the installation of boardwalks for public access.

In my previous role I was employed as a lecturer for almost seven years at Sparsholt College in Hampshire, where I taught on the Fisheries Management and Aquaculture degrees, delivering topics in ecology, fish biology, fishery management, aquaculture and marine ecology. Whilst at Sparsholt I ran the majority of practical visits for the undergraduate students and for most weeks of the year I was out electro-fishing, seine netting or invertebrate and plant sampling.

In January 2015 I joined the University of Brighton and have since developed my research working widely across both the Centre for Aquatic Environments and The Ecology, Conservation and Zoonoses Research and Enterprice Group. Collaboration across these research groups has allowed an expansion of topics to incorporate a number of research areas from the impacts of invasive plant species on riverine macroinvertebrates, the effects of microplastics on the behaviour of marine crustaceans and the way in which aquacultural outputs affect the behaviour of a number of fish species. 

Approach to teaching

I teach across the ecology and environmental pathways and am based across the Hastings and Moulsecoomb Campuses. I am the course leader for the Joint Honour programme and pathway leader for environmental biology as well as year lead for the Integrated Foundation Year. I am module leader for Foundation Biology, Issues in Environmental Biology, the Project module and Freshwater and Marine Ecosystems. I also contribute to the teaching of several other modules, Biogeography, Introduction to Marine Biology and Ecology and Ecology Field Skills.

Having worked outside of academia for some time and having a vast range of practical experience it is important that the students are exposed to the real life scenarios that I can bring to my teaching. The fact that I use a lot of anecdotal evidence during my lectures is remarked upon often and this, combined with numerous practical visits that I run, seems to be one of the strengths to my lecture delivery.

Whether in the field, lab or lecture room I encourage students to be engaged committed and open to learning new ideas and concepts. I also integrate students, as far as possible, into my research activities. I encourage students to become involved, whether they volunteer to help with field work, assist PhD students or undertake projects focused on the research that am involved with.

Research interests

My research interests focus primarily around the biology of fish and the effects that pollutants have on their physiology, morphology and behaviour. I am interested in outputs from any kind of human activity, including sewage treatment plants, aquaculture facilities, agricultural and road run-off. The pollutants that these produce are varied and include chemical pollutants such as pharmaceuticals and physical pollutants, including nanoparticles and plastics. I focus mainly on larval fish as the early life stages are the most vulnerable and this is where many of the effects occur. I am interested in the sub-lethal effects of exposure to contaminants, those which do not kill the fish, but may make them unfit for survival in the wild, for example through reduced swimming or foraging capability, which can hinder feeding and can make them more vulnerable to predation. More recently I have started research projects examining the effects of microplastics and nanoparticles on fish and larvae and marine and freshwater invertebrates. The focus of this is the use of microbeads and nanoparticles found in cosmetics and skincare products, especially sunscreens, and the impacts they have on developmental processes of fishes.

I am also interested in the behaviour of captive fish in response to visitors in public aquaria. This has focused around both teleost and elasmobranch species and will extend to examine other organisms. In addition to the behaviour I am also interested in the sexual dimorphism of sharks, specifically the skin ad electrorecptive organs. I work in collaboration with the Kwazulu Natal Sharks Boards, examining the sexual dimorphisms of the dermal denticles (scales) on the skin of sharks. This leads to insights into the mating behaviours of shark species, acts that have rarely been witnessed. I am also developing projects with both the Inshore Fishery and Conservation Authorities and Natural England to determine how electric cabling may affect the behaviour of elasmobranch species and their behaviour. My research interests provide exciting opportunities for final year projects for undergraduate students. 

Supervisory Interests

I am keen to supervise projects that examine any aspect of anthropogenic impact on the physiology, morphology and behaviour of aquatic organisms. Be that chemical or physical pollutants or barriers to migration. I am especially interested in the fisheries management aspects of this and how best to consider mitigation. Projects I have supervised are varied and range from behavioural observations of captive fish species, to microplastic ingestion of the mussel (Mytilus edulis) and the velvet swimming crab (Necora puber). In addition I am interested in aspects of aquaculture and how best to improve the sustainability of feeds. I also have an interest in the welfare of cultured individuals and how to improve habitats whilst being reared.


Example projects that I supervise include the following:


Microplastic pollution within Chichester Harbour (MRes)

Selective breeding of marine copepods (MRes)

Trophic transfer of microplastics in marine invertebrates (MRes).

Does watercress farming impact fish communities (PhD)

The impacts of sewage treatment effluents on the river shrimp Gammarus pulex (PhD).

The effects of simvastatin on the development and behaviour of early life stages of Danio rerio (Undergraduate)

Microplastic ingestion of marine copepods (Undergraduate)

The presence of microplastic fibres in the stomach of the Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) (Undergraduate)

The effects of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide on fish development and behaviour (Undergraduate).

The influence of aquarium visitors on captive elasmobranchs (Undergraduate).

Sexual dimorphism of the integument of sharks (Undergraduate).

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of Portsmouth

Bachelor, University of Portsmouth

Bachelor, University of Brighton


  • GE Environmental Sciences
  • Water
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
  • Rivers
  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Anthropogenic
  • Aquaculture
  • Fisheries Management
  • Revetment
  • Phenethyl Isothiocyanate
  • Water Quality
  • Migration
  • Fish Farming
  • Mitigation
  • Chondrichthyes
  • Ecotoxicology
  • Aquatic
  • Microplastics
  • Watercress
  • Electric Fishing
  • Survey
  • Seine Netting
  • Kick Sampling
  • Harbour
  • Plankton Tow
  • Nanoparticle
  • Aquarium
  • Macrophyte
  • Lake
  • Lentic
  • Lotic
  • Trophic Transfer
  • QL Zoology
  • Electroreception
  • Physiology
  • Morphology
  • Fish Behaviour
  • Crab
  • Shrimp
  • Gammarus pulex
  • Trout
  • Zebra Fish
  • Carp
  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • Skin
  • Integuement
  • Dermal Denticles
  • Olfaction
  • Dermis
  • Epidermis
  • Salmo salar
  • Live feed
  • Carcinus maenas
  • Necora puber
  • Selective Breeding
  • Copepod
  • Salmon
  • Placoid Scales
  • Dentition
  • Rotifer
  • Artemia
  • Behaviour
  • DanioVision
  • Teleost
  • Invertebrates
  • Scyliorhinus canicula
  • Shark
  • Elasmobranch
  • Fish
  • Oyster
  • Lugworm
  • Copulation
  • Mating
  • Biting

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Neil Crooks is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

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Research Output 2012 2019

Brain food? Trophic transfer and tissue retention of microplastics by the velvet swimming crab (Necora puber)

Crooks, N., Parker, H. & Pernetta, A., 19 Jul 2019, In : Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 519, 6 p., 151187.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Chondrichthyes Navigation

Crooks, N., 8 Feb 2019, Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior. Vonk, J. & Shackelford, T. (eds.). Springer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterResearchpeer-review

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer had a very bioluminescent nose. A reply to van der Hoven et al. 2012

Crooks, N., Marriott, C., Clifforth, H. R., Ahmed, Z. A., Xhikola, A., Penny, S. G. & Pernetta, A., 18 Dec 2017, In : Deinsea. 17, p. 39-42 4 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access
nasal mucosa
cooling systems
Rangifer tarandus

Efficacy of tagging European catfish Silurus glanis (L., 1758) released into ponds

Rees, E. M. A., Britton, J. R., Godard, M. J., Crooks, N., Miller, J. I., Wesley, K. J. & Copp, G. H., 28 Feb 2014, In : Journal of Applied Ichthyology. 30, 1, p. 127-129 3 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

A study into the sexual dimorphisms of the Ampullae of Lorenzini in the lesser-spotted catshark, Scyliorhinus canicula (Linnaeus, 1758)

Crooks, N. & Waring, C. P., 31 May 2013, In : Environmental Biology of Fishes. 96, 5

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Activities 2004 2019

Microplastics, Aquaculture & Fisheries – A Risk Assessment

Neil Crooks (Participant)
25 Mar 2019

Activity: EventsWorkshop

Environmental Biology of Fishes (Journal)

Neil Crooks (Reviewer)
3 Apr 20195 Apr 2019

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPublication Peer-review


Neil Crooks (Presenter), Angelo Pernetta (Presenter)
9 Jul 2019

Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation

BBSRC/NERC Joint Call in Aquaculture: Collaborative Research and Innovation

Neil Crooks (EU expert evaluator)
14 May 2018

Activity: External funding peer-review

Sexual Dimorphism in the Lesser Spotted Catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula)

Neil Crooks (Presenter)
4 Jul 2018

Activity: External talk or presentationInvited talk