Karen Diele

Marine Ecologist

A photo of Marine Ecologist Karen Diele working with crabs
  • BORN 30th March 1933Hamburg, Germany
  • WORKED Edinburgh Napier University & St Abbs Marine Station, Scotland (currently);  Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), Germany; Can Gio Biosphere Reserve, Vietnam; Federal University of Pará, Belém/Bragança, Brazil;  Lizard Island Research Station, Australia

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Artistic Connections

All started with Minerva Scientifica (2017)……..


Title:  Oh! Mangrove Crab – deep in the mud
Words by: Frances M Lynch
Arranged by:  Frances M Lynch & Herbie Clarke
Written in: 2017
For: guitar and mixed voices
Performed by: Eyemouth Primary School Singers
World Premiere: by Herbie Clarke (guitar) with the voices of Frances M Lynch, Margaret Cameron (BBC Singers), Karen Diele and three pupils from Eyemouth Primary School   Aimee Robb, Holly Windram and Jessica Henderson –  on June 18th 2018, Ebba Centre, St Abbs, Berwickshire, Scotland

This fun sing-along song is based on the research of Dr Diele and her Brazilian colleagues from the REMAR network.  Feel free to join in!

Oh Mangrove Crab deep in the mud
Caranguejo-uçá I pull him from the mud
Caranguejo-uçá And throw him in my bag

In Brazil lives the Mangrove crab Deep in the mud
Burrowing under the Mangrove Trees Deep in the mud
The fisher folk dig and try to grab They really need to catch that crab


In St.Abbs you can almost hear High on the cliffs
Data streaming from Brazilian phones High on the cliffs
The Fisher folk use an App from here To save their fisheries over there


Dr. Diele loves those Mangrove Crabs Deep in the mud
She hears what their saying, she’s keeping tabs High on the cliffs
Science and Fishing have one great aim Together they can help sustain


Title: A Lament for Invertebrates
Words by: Frances M Lynch in collaboration with Dr Karen Diele
Written in: 2017
For: Solo Voice and pre-recorded sounds
Performed by: Frances M Lynch and Primary 6, Canal View School, Edinburgh

The piece is based on Karen’s research with Edward Bolger, Dr Rob Briers, Dr Mark Hartl, Petra Harsanyi, Dr Ted Henry, Nick Mackay-Roberts, Dr Sonja Rueckert, Kevin Scott, Matthew Wales.  The underwater soundscape was sampled from the voices of Primary 6, Canal View Primary School, Wester Hailes, and the Marine Station equipment at St Abbs.

It was created as part of an electric voice theatre Minerva Scientifica Project at Edinburgh Napier University from February – June 2017 and was first performed at the Sighthill Campus on June 20th 2017.


Abitur (High School Degree)
Diploma-Biology (~MSc)
Dr rer nat  (~ PhD)
Always loved biology and did a lot of practical volunteer work jobs in different parts of the world, e.g.

  • Radiotracking wild cats, Felis silvestris, in the Bavarian Forests, Bund Naturschutz e.V., Germany
  • Monitoring coral spawning behaviour, Lizard Island Research Station, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  • Radiotracking rock wallabies, Petrogale assimilis /James Cook University, Australia
  • Monitoring damage of acid rain on forests in the Erzgebirge, Czech Republic, University of Wuerzburg
  • Population ecology of the mangrove crab Cardisoma guanhumi, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, US. Virgin Islands
  • Behavioural observations of rainforest ants, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
  • Behavioural ecology of fiddler crabs, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama
  • Image-Quest 3-D -Oxford, England – Underwater filming, Lizard Island, Australia
  • Paleoecological studies, Lake Tilla, Nigeria.


2015 – ongoing: Co-Director of Research, St Abbs Marine Station, Scotland
2012 – ongoing:  Reader in Marine Sciences, Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland

Current research in Scotland:

  • Effects of underwater sound on marine invertebrates
  • Effects of anthropogenic encroachment on seabird nesting success and behaviour

Current research overseas:

  • Biodiversity and functional roles of mangrove macrobenthos
  • Mangrove ecology
  • Small scale shellfish fisheries management

2005 – 2012: Researcher based at the Centre For Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), Germany
2000 – 2005: Researcher based in Brazil, Federal University of Pará & ZMT

Earlier short-term researcher contracts:

  • Max Planck Institute for Behavioural Physiology, Germany: Monitoring homing behaviour of pigeons
  • CSIRO, Australia: Capture/recapture study of Crown of Thorns starfish Acanthaster plancii, Lizard Island, Australia
  • University of Goettingen, Germany: Research assistant for mapping of cryptofauna in submarine caves, Osprey Reef (Coral sea) and Great Astrolabe Reefs, Fiji

As a student, to earn money for travelling I have also worked as translator on International Food and Fashion Fairs, optometrist assistant, hotel maid, to name just a few.

Scientific Achievements

I have uncovered the many facets of the life of the ecologically and economically important (and very tasty) Brazilian mangrove crab Ucides cordatus, caranguejo-uçá, a national icon. Have identified the linkage of the crabs’ reproduction with geophysical cycles, including the Syzygy Tide Inequality Cycle. This research has direct impact on crab fisheries management in Brazil, and the sustainability of this important fisheries resource. These crabs are the main income source for thousands of coastal, often poor and marginalized people that depend on them for their livelihoods.

Did You Know?

Everything is unexpected – always

An Inspiring Woman

Seeing a woman working in mangroves, assisted by (fisher)men, has been inspiring for wives (and daughters) of fishers that I worked with in coastal Brazil. I have involved the wives into my work wherever I could, and it was great to see that they started to go to school again when they got a chance, to make a degree. Receiving an email one day from someone who grew up without running water and electricity, without much self-confidence (back then), was wonderful. The husbands however, as very much as I like them, didn’t cope very well with their modern wives. There are sad stories to be told too.