Dr Kerry Howell is head of the Deep Sea Conservation Research Unit. She is an expert in deep-sea ecology, with research interests in conservation and sustainable management, design of high seas / deep-sea marine protected area networks, marine habitat classification, marine habitat mapping, predictive species modelling, population connectivity, deep-sea food webs and ecosystem impacts of deep-water fisheries.
Dr Nicola Foster is a postdoctoral researcher within the group who has been investigating the use of species-area relationships to inform the conservation planning process in the deep North East Atlantic. She has expertise in video and image analysis, and deep-sea species identification, and her research interests include population connectivity and the use of population genetics to inform conservation and management of the marine environment.
Dr Nick Higgs is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Marine Institute at Plymouth University and is working with the team on modelling biodiversity in deep sea habitats of the NE Atlantic. Nick’s previous research has been on the ecology of whale-fall habitats, particularly the ecology & evolution of Osedax worms. He has also worked on other chemosynthetic ecosystems in both deep and shallow waters. Nick currently co-ordinates the Challenger Society’s Deep-Sea Ecosystems special interest group. You can find out more about his research at nickhiggs.com
Dr Rebecca Ross is a postdoctoral researcher within the group having recently completed her PhD on “investigating the role of larval dispersal models in the development of an ‘ecologically coherent’ network of deep-sea marine protected areas”. This was an interdisciplinary project combining ecological and oceanographic modelling techniques to explore, and test the abilities of these models to answer questions about the larval connectivity of populations in the deep sea. She is currently working on the development of a new larval sampling tool.
Nils Piechaud is a PhD student and has previously been a research assistant within the group primarily working on the ‘Mapping the Deep’ project. He has expertise in predictive habitat modelling, statistical analysis in R, mapping, video and image analysis and deep-sea species identification. His PhD project aims at assessing how the biologic and oceanographic data provided by autonomous vehicles (AUVs and gliders) can be used for predictive habitat mapping in the deep sea and what advantage these technologies offer compared to other methods used to survey the sea-bed. Nils previously worked on mapping the distribution of several deep-sea communities and community description. These various modelling projects should help addressing practical questions about species distribution modelling and the use of its output for biodiversity management.
Kirsty McQuaid is a PhD student in the group. Her PhD will investigate the application of predictive modelling to marine spatial planning associated with deep-sea mining. This research will focus on a polymetallic nodule-rich area of the Pacific Ocean called the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone. Kirsty will create broad- and fine-scale models to classify the physical habitat of the area, which will then be validated using biological samples collected in recent years. She will also compare the accuracy of bottom-up and top-down approaches to predictive modelling, and will investigate the accuracy of models transposed to new areas. This work will address several key questions in the spatial management of deep-sea mining.
Chloe Game has just successfully defended her Masters of Research thesis focused on investigating the spatial transferability of species distribution models in the deep sea, focusing on cold-water corals, sponges and xenophyophores. This research involved the use of ArcGIS, predictive modelling in R and video and image analysis. Chloe research aims to provide a solution to the current issue of data availability in the deep sea by investigating the accuracy of transferable models. She is hopeful that this will provide useful results to inform marine policy.
Otis Brunner has moved on to work in Japan, but is in the process of writing up the research he carried out with the group, on predictively mapping the distribution of deep-sea biological communities (biotopes) around the UK using machine learning models in R. The map is intended to guide policy makers responsible for the protection of North Atlantic ecosystems within and beyond the UK.
Joshua Davison is a final year undergraduate student on the Marine Biology and Oceanography programme at Plymouth University. He is currently working with the team on his honours project, investigating the distribution and ecology of deep-sea sponges. Josh hopes to enhance his understanding of the deep ocean and assist in the teams research, whilst developing new skills to help him pursue a career in academic research.
Sophie Donaldson is a Plymouth University Marine Biology and Oceanography undergraduate, working with us during her placement year. Sophie is carrying out preliminary research for her final year project, where she will measure the pumping rates of three sponge species, using in-situ and ex-situ measurements. She is also identifying samples from 2015’s CE15011 cruise, along with researching new equipment and techniques for the measurement of sponges in the deep sea. During her placement, Sophie has gained valuable knowledge of animal husbandry, taxonomic identification and research methods which will help her both academically and in her future career.