The behaviour of grey seals is diverse and subtle; it changes with age and with the seasons. It is also difficult to study due to the aqueous, remote lifestyle of grey seals. Especially little is known about the behaviour of young individuals, their early development, and the role of steroid hormones that might affect their nervous, immune and reproductive systems.

Research into social behaviour and factors that influence it could provide a better understanding of grey seal locomotion and behaviour in the water and on land, of how they gather in social groups, and provide us with the ability to recognize different individuals and behavioural changes during growth.

Our current research aims to evaluate the changes in social behaviour and steroid concentrations in grey seals during early ontogenesis (from weaning to maturity).

Behavioural research is performed in the wild during natural conditions on the Isle of May (Scotland), one of the largest grey seal breeding areas in UK. Between September and December, thousands of seals gather to give birth and mate afterwards. The behaviour is studied in collaboration with the most renowned grey seal behaviour specialists. We use high-quality behavioural recording tools and geographic information systems (ArcGIS, QGIS) for data registration and analysis.

Concentrations of steroids (cortisol, estradiol, testosterone and dihydrotestosterone) are estimated using several different methods, like ELISA, thin layer chromatography (TLC), and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS), ultra high performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS), liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Not only blood is used for steroid analysis, but also non-invasive sources like saliva and hair.



Dr. Vaida Survilienė

Junior Research Fellow/ Assistant

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tel.: +370 662 11047


Dr. K. Bennett, School of Applied Sciences, Division of Health Sciences, Abertay University, Bell Street, Dundee, UK.

Prof. Dr. T. M. Ciesieski, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway.

Dr. M. Jussi, ProMare, Tartu, Estonia.

Dr. P. Pomeroy, Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, UK.

Vyr. Spec. Arūnas Grušas, Lietuvos Jūrų muziejus, Klaipėda. 


Since 2017 - HELCOM MAMA Health group. 

Since 2013 – Society of Marine Mammalogy


2020-09-06 – 2020-09-19 - Consultations and practical training on preparation analysis of steroids from grey seal plasma samples using UPLC-MS/MS, in collaboration with Laboratories of Ecotoxicology and Chemistry at NTNU, Norway.

2020-03-08 – 2020-03-16 - Pilot fieldwork of Baltic grey seals, sample collection in Saarema, collaboration with Pro Mare (NGO), Estonia.

2012.10 –12 and 2013.10-12 Data collection for personal PhD and fieldwork assistance during the scientific research of grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) in the Isle of May, Scotland. Sea Mammal Research Unit, Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK.

2009.06.01-09.01: Internship (Erasmus practice) – scientific fieldwork project and behavioural observations of grey seals in the wild on the subject: “Sexual and social behaviour of young grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) individuals during the non-breeding season”. Sea Mammal Research Unit, Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK.

Projects and funding

2019.01 - 2020.09 - "Development and installation of advanced gear, protected from marine mammals on Lithuanian coast and collection of diffuse information on the damage suffered by fishermen during collisions with grey seals", funded by the Ministry of Agriculture (EU funds), the beneficiary - Lithuanian Fund for Nature.

2014.06.01 - 2015.06.01 - "Gray Seal and Fishermen's Conflict in Lithuania - Problem Assessment, Understanding and Opportunities for Cooperation", The project was funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers (No. NGSLT-90, Grant Program for Nordic-Baltic Non-Governmental Organizations' (NGO) Cooperation 2013 Lithuania). Beneficiary - Lithuanian Fund for Nature.

Society for Marine Mammalogy Grants in Aid of Research, 2013. Project: Survilienė V. The development of social behaviour of Grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) during the post-weaning fast.

Grant for equipment from IDEA WILD (, 2014. Project: Survilienė, V. The development of social behavior of Grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) during the post-weaning fast.



V. Survilienė, O. Rukšėnas, P.P. Pomeroy, S.E.W. Moss, K.A. Bennett. 2022. Evaluating suitability of saliva to measure steroid concentrations in grey seal pups. General and Comparative Endocrinology,

Survilienė, V., Rukšėnas, O. & Pomeroy, P. P. 2016. Play behavior of wild Grey seals: Effects of haul-out group size and composition. Aquatic Mammals, 42(2), 144-161.


Natkevičiūtė, V., Kulikov, P. & Grušas, A. 2013. Baltijos jūros žinduolių paplitimas ir būklė. Straipsnių rinkinyje: Baltijos jūros būklė. Jūrinių tyrimų centras, LR Aplinkos ministerija.

PhD Thesis:

Social development and changes in steroid hormones during early ontogenesis of grey seals (Halichoerus grypus). 2023. Scientific advisor Prof. Osvaldas Rukšėnas, scientific advisors Dr. Kimberley Bennett and Dr. Paddy Pomeroy, Vilnius University, Vilnius.


Survilienė, V., Sait, S.T.L, Asimakopoulos, A. G., Bennet, K., Moss, S., Pomeroy, P., Rukšėnas, O., Jenssen, B.M. and Ciesielski, T. M. 2022. Steroid hormone profiles in grey seal pups during the suckling period and postweaning fast using SFC-MS/MS. 24th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Florida, USA.

Survilienė, V., Moss, S. and Rukšėnas, O. Changes in saliva steroid hormone levels of grey seal pups during lactation and post-weaning fast. World Marine Mammal Conference, 9-12 December, 2019, Barcelona, Spain.

Stukonytė, L., Pomeroy, P., Twiss, S., Mozgeris, G., Rukšėnas, O. and Survilienė, V. Evidence of group density effect on behavioural differences in grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) neonates during lactation period. World Marine Mammal Conference, 9-12 December, 2019, Barcelona, Spain.

Survilienė V., Pomeroy P., Moss, S. and Rukšėnas O. The comparative analysis of steroid hormones in saliva and blood from grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) pups. 22nd Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, 22-27 October, 2017, Halifax, Canada.

Survilienė, V., Moss S., Pomeroy P., Rukšėnas O. The analysis of steroid hormones in saliva and blood from grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) pups. 20th Anniversary Conference Laboratory Animals in Research, 24-25 Lapritis, 2016, Vilnius, Lietuva

Survilienė, V., Pomeroy, P., Moss S. and Rukšėnas, O. The use of saliva samples to estimate levels of steroids in grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) pups. Conference of Life Sciences Baltic, Vilnius, 2016.

Natkevičiūtė, V. & Rukšėnas, O. „Testosterono priklausomybė nuo kūno masės: seilių analizės metodas Baltijos pilkųjų ruonių (Halichoerus grypus macrorhynchus) testosterono koncentracijai nustatyti“. Stendinis pranešimas, santrauka pranešimų medžiagoje bei diplomas už I vietą. Mokslinė konferencija „Mokslas Gamtos mokslų fakultete“, Gamtos mokslų fakultetas, Vilniaus Universitetas, Vilnius, 2012.

Natkevičiūtė, V. Elgsenos stebėjimai laisvėje: socialinis žaidimas neporavimosi sezonu pilkųjų ruonių (Halichoerus grypus) tarpe. Tarptautinė mokslinė-praktinė konferencija „Virtualūs instrumentai biomedicinoje“. Išspausdinta konferencijos leidinyje. Klaipėdos universitetas, Klaipėda, 2012.