Grant Duffy - PhD Student

I started my PhD studies at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton in October 2009. In the past I have worked mainly on coastal and behavioural ecology studies, so the jump to deep-sea research has been a big one. The main focus of my current work is looking at the biodiversity of scavenging organisms in submarine canyons, specifically small crustaceans called amphipods.

Submarine canyons are of particular interest to deep-sea marine biologists because of their unique hydrographic, sedimentary, and biochemical characteristics. Their role as conduits from the continental shelf to the deep sea makes canyons and the organisms inhabiting them at increased risk from human activity both directly, via coastal and fisheries activity, and indirectly as a result of anthropogenic climate change and ocean acidification.

Sampling submarine canyons is particularly tricky due to the rough terrain and strong currents encountered within. Thankfully scavenging organisms can be collected using baited traps, which makes sampling scavenging fauna relatively simple. Scavenging amphipods play a vital role in the cycling of organic carbon, and as they feed on large food falls, usually the carcasses of larger marine organisms, they can be found almost everywhere in the deep sea and have a varied taxonomic composition. The combination of these factors makes scavenging amphipods an ideal taxonomic group to study.

Throughout the course of my PhD I intend to analyse samples of scavenging amphipods from a range of submarine canyons on the European Margin in order to assess the species composition and biodiversity. This will provide us with vital information on how the increased influx of organic matter found in canyons affects scavenging amphipod biodiversity and allow us to predict the effect of human activities on the scavenging fauna assemblages of the deep sea.

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Abigail Pattenden - project manager

I graduated from the University of Southampton with a degree in Marine Biology and Oceanography in 2003 and then spent a few months working for the marine conservation organisation Operation Wallacea in Indonesia, followed by a couple of research cruises across the Atlantic Ocean and down to South Africa working as a lab technician measuring oxygen and chlorophyll in seawater.  I really enjoyed my time at sea and, when I got back, was lucky enough to get offered a PhD in the HERMES project.

As a PhD student, I studied the influence of submarine canyons on large animals, (“megafauna”), in particular trying to find out if any of the special environmental conditions that we know about canyons might affect the numbers of megafauna or their diversity.  To carry out the research I used deep-sea photography.  I took a lot of photographs and video footage of the seafloor in four submarine canyons off the coast of Portugal, using a towed sledge with a camera on, and a remotely operated vehicle.   I then analysed the images to see what links existed between the distribution of the megafauna and the environmental conditions within canyons.

After finishing my PhD, I went to work on shallow-water environments at an environmental consultancy, Cefas.  Here, I worked on the impacts of underwater sound on marine life.  However, I was soon to return to the deep-sea, as I am now back in Southampton as the project manager for HERMIONE.  I gained a lot of transferable skills during my PhD and other experiences, and I am really pleased to have found a job in which I can use these skills and still be involved in deep-sea research.


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Lies de Mol

Lies de Mol - PhD student

Hi, my name is Lies and I am currently doing a PhD at the Renard Centre of Marine Geology (Ghent University, Belgium). My main study area is the El Arraiche mud volcano field in the Gulf of Cadiz and more specifically the cold-water coral mounds that were discovered in 2002 by R/V Belgica. The discovery of large deep-water carbonate mound provinces along the European continental margin (i.e. Porcupine Seabight and Rockall Trough) is one of the most spectacular discoveries of the past decade. Since then, these mounds, up to 350 m high, hae become a hot topic in deep-water research. At present, more than one thousand mounds have already been identified within different mound provinces along the European and Moroccan continental margins.

The main aim of my PhD is to make a 4D model of a cold-water coral mound, based on ROV observations and sediment cores, in order to better understand the genesis and build-up of these mounds. This will be achieved by studying (1) the distribution and significance of cold-water corals on top of mounds, (2) the spatial (3D) characteristics of individual coral plates, (3) the sedimentological and (micro)biological processes within these coral plates, and (4) the organisation and migrations of coral plates in space and geological time. These results can than be compared with other mound areas to finally end up with a model for the 4D architecture of a cold-water coral mound. Besides this we will also have a look at other areas where no mounds occur but where living and dead cold-water corals are present, like in the Bay of Biscay and the Whittard Canyon. We will try to compare these three different areas and to find differences or changes in environmental conditions.

I started as an undergraduate student in geology in 2001 at Ghent University and graduated in 2006 as marine geologist. After working one year as a scientific co-worker at the RCMG I really liked doing research, so I applied for a PhD scholarship for four years. Within the past two years of my PhD I had a great time and really learned a lot, especially during cruises and on international conferences.


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David Amblas - PhD student

I am a geologist and I currently work as an assistant researcher in the CRG Marine Geosciences of the University of Barcelona. At present, I am nearing the end of a Ph.D. on  mid-latitude continental margins morphodynamics, mainly investigating the evolution of submarine canyons. Submarine canyons can efficiently drain sediments from continental margins just as river systems do in subaerial catchments.  Like in river systems, submarine canyons are often arranged as complex drainage networks that evolve from patterns of erosion and deposition.  The focus of my study is to understand these patterns and how they affect the seascape morphology over time. To do that, I am working on high-resolution geophysical data and on a numerical modeling study that provides a morphodynamic explanation for the long-term evolution of submarine canyon thalweg profiles.


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francescaapeFrancesca Ape - PhD student

My name is Francesca Ape, and in March 2009 I graduated in Marine Biology.  In January 2010 I started my PhD studies in Marine Ecology and Biology at Polytechnic University of Marche, Ancona, studying the deep meiofaunal community in submarine canyons in the framework of the HERMES project.  This year, and in 2008, I took part in two cruises to the Mediterranean Sea through the HERMIONE and HERMES frameworks.  I have just begun to study the marine microbial community and I am really enjoying working on the microscopic component.

During my PhD I will study the effects of ocean acidification on prokaryotic, viral and meiofaunal community and its influence on biodiversity, community structure and ecosystemic functioning of pelagic and benthic ecosystems.

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Ellen Pape - PhD student

I have always been interested in marine biology and that’s why I decided to take up an additional MsC in “Advanced studies in Marine and Lacustrine Sciences” (Ghent University) after getting my Biology degree at the Catholic University of Leuven. For this MsC, I had the opportunity to go to Kenya and study the ecology of snails in the mangroves, which I (of course) really enjoyed. After this 1-year master, I worked in pharmacology and a marine data centre, during which I realized I really missed doing marine research. So, in October 2007, I started my PhD at Ghent University.

I am investigating – or at least trying to - the biodiversity and ecosystem function of nematodes, i.e. microscopic worms, in the deep sea and how productivity affects the relationship between them. My study areas comprise the Galicia Bank (seamount in the NE Atlantic) and the western, central and eastern Mediterranean. For my research, I take sediment samples using a multiple corer or a box corer. These samples are then analyzed back in Ghent for nematode community (densities, biomass and diversity) and trophic structure (by means of stable isotope and fatty acid analyses). Besides these field studies, several experiments have also been conducted aboard the research vessel to assess the role of nematodes in the benthic carbon cycle. In these experiments, the uptake of different carbon sources by the nematodes was investigated. At the moment, I am almost finishing my 3rd (and starting my 4th) year of PhD at Ghent University, but I still have a lot of work!

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sybilleSybille van den Hove - science economist

I am definitely not the typical marine scientist… I work on science-policy interfaces for environmental governance and on other socio-economic aspects of our relationship with the natural world. I am passionate about interdisciplinary work across natural and social sciences. Most of the research projects in which I am currently involved are European in scope and focus on biodiversity and ecosystems.

How did I get there? By accident almost! I was trained initially as a particle physicist. I then went to work as a business executive in a company making cyclotrons and other particle accelerators for medical applications. When I decided to change course, I chose to work on environmental issues. So I went to do a masters degree in environmental economics as I thought that many of the root causes of the environmental crisis relate to the way the economy is operated. I then did a PhD in ecological economics. I was working on climate change issues at the time but over the years I moved to the biodiversity field as I met more and more scientists working on the topic.

HERMES and HERMIONE are amongst my favourite projects, because the deep sea is fascinating and because the marine scientists involved in those programmes are both incredibly interesting and fun to work with. In HERMIONE, I am leading the work package dealing with socio-economic research, governance and science-policy interfaces. We study human activities and impacts in the deep sea, ecosystem goods and services and the potential to assess their value, governance schemes, and we also provide a link to policy-makers and other stakeholders. Today I am also the co-coordinator of a new EU-funded research project called SPIRAL (Science-Policy Interfaces for biodiversity: Research, Action, Learning).

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claire_armstrongClaire Armstrong - marine resource economist

I see myself as a marine scientist - studying the social side of marine environments. I work mainly within the truly multidisciplinary topic of bioeconomic modeling; i.e. modeling of the environment taking into account both human behavior and the ecology.
I started out by studying fisheries science in a broad fashion, and was then fascinated by the economic mechanisms that I felt impacted the oceans so fundamentally. My PhD combined economics and the environment, primarily related to fisheries management issues.
Now, at the University of Tromsø, Norway, I focus on modeling how human activities, such as fishing, affect ocean habitats, and how these effects again impact upon fish and thereby the fisheries and fishers themselves. This lead me to HERMES and on to HERMIONE, where I have researched cold water corals and their connection to fisheries, as well as the broader set of resources that the ocean supplies.

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claudia_wienbergClaudia Wienberg - marine geologist

My name is Claudia, I am a marine geologist and work as a PostDoc at the Center for Marine Environmental Sciences (MARUM) at the University of Bremen, Germany. My research within HERMIONE concentrates on cold-water coral ecosystems along the European continental margin comprising the Irish, Moroccan and Mauritanian margins and the Mediterranean Sea. The main aim of my work is to identify coral growth periods during the past glacial-interglacial cycle and to relate these growth periods to environmental conditions that changed along with climate change.
I started my scientific career in 1993 with the study of geology and palaeontology. During this time, I got into contact with deep-water ecosystems as my diploma thesis was about cold-water carbonates in the northeast Atlantic. As a PhD student, I studied sedimentological processes in the coastal area with special emphasis on the impact of human activities (e.g., dredging of navigation channels). However, after my graduation in 2003, I returned deep-water ecosystem research, first within the ESF-EuroMARGINS project MOUNDFORCE followed by EU-IP HERMES, ESF-EuroMARC project CARBONATE and EU-IP HERMIONE.
The most interesting part of my work is participation in expeditions with various research vessels (RV Meteor, RV Sonne, RV Maria S. Merian, RV Pelagia), which gives me the opportunity to get in contact with other scientists from all over the world and to broaden my experience of work in an interdisciplinary field.

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veerleVeerle Huvenne - marine geoscientist/habitat-mapping specialist

It is often difficult to stick a label on what I do. Studying the natural environment, it is important to work in an interdisciplinary way, and that’s especially true in the deep sea! Besides, I love working with people from different disciplines: it makes for much more interesting research!

My job consists of mapping the different habitats on the seabed, especially in the deep sea (>500 m), and trying to understand the way they work. Which of the environmental characteristics determines the occurrence of this species here and that species there? Using acoustic techniques (echosounders), I map the bathymetry of the seabed and the occurrence of different sediment types. We also collect video records and photographs, and take samples to calibrate the acoustic signals. Long cores allow us to look at different periods of sedimentation, back in geological times. Some of the surveys nowadays are pretty advanced, using underwater vehicles such as Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) or Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs). They provide much more detail and precision than equipment deployed from a ship, especially when working in 4000 m water depth! Technology keeps advancing, and now we do not only make maps of the seabed, but also map what happens on the walls and under overhangs of deep-sea cliffs! All the data is then gathered in so-called Geographical Information Systems (GIS), geospatial databases we use to make maps of the occurrence of certain seabed types or the best places to find animal species with specific requirements.
So far I have mostly worked on cold-water coral reefs and mounds, and on deep-sea canyons. Both environments are key in the HERMIONE project. However, I have also carried out surveys in other areas such as hydrothermal vent fields or shallow water settings.

Left: listen to our interview with Veerle
about how she became a marine scientist.

The career path I took to get into this job was not immediately straightforward. I started in Belgium with a 5-year study in Bio-engineering, focussing on (land-based) soil- and water-management. This contained a lot of land-use studies and GIS work. I then decided to expand my horizon with a study abroad, and came to Southampton for the MSc in Oceanography. Back in Belgium this was followed by a PhD in Marine Geology, studying cold-water coral mounds in the Porcupine Seabight with a variety of techniques (sidescan sonar, multibeam echosounder, 3D seismics, ROV work…). The PhD was firmly embedded in the EU projects GEOmound and ECOmound, and this is where I got a taste for European Research and its opportunities for networking! I continued with several post-doc positions in Southampton, amongst which a 2-year Marie Curie Fellowship that turned into a Senior Research position at the NOCS, still linked to the EU projects HERMES and HERMIONE. Not all that straightforward, thus. But then again, not much in the deep sea is. And that’s what makes it challenging and exciting to study!

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federicaFederica Foglini - marine geologist

My name is Federica Foglini, and I am an Italian geologist. My main professional and scientific interests are focussed on design, implementation and management of complex geo-databases using the most recent GIS technologies in marine science.
I was born on the 22nd July 1976 in Fermo, a small town facing the Adriatic Sea founded centuries ago by the Romans. I took a first class degree in Geology at the University of Bologna, one of the oldest universities in the world. Soon after the graduation I started working with the G.A.S. (Geological Assistance and Survey), an Italian service company based in Pianoro (Bologna) working in geological and geophysical marine surveys. In the G.A.S. I was involved in the interpretation and mapping of geophysical, seismic, geotechnical and environmental data collected during the various marine surveys performed all over the world by the G.A.S. team. Part of the job had to be carried out at sea, so I spent long weeks in the middle of the Mediterranean working 12 hours a day in front a workstation screen, drafting sea floor and bathymetrical maps while the boat was shaking and rolling!
In September 2003, after two years of honoured service in the G.A.S., I left Italy for London to start a Master of Science in GIS and Remote Sensing at the University of Greenwich.
From 2005 I have been a Researcher - GIS Manager at CNR ISMAR Bologna. Since then I manage the full ISMAR Geo-database for geophysical and marine geological data, and analyse high-resolution bathymetry. Moreover I am the main designer of the ISMAR WebGIS for which I am the Easter Mediterranean Sea regional coordinator for the HERMIONE project. At the same time, thanks to my long experience at sea, I am now the supervisor for the acquisition and processing of multibeam and geophysical data for ISMAR cruises in the Adriatic basin. Part of this activity concerns the mapping of the occurrence and frequency of “dangerous” marine litter in the south Adriatic Sea.

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