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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Ecological and environmental variability (in space and time)


Climate change, pollution (nutrients, light, microplastics, sound), resource exploitation and habitat destruction are only some of the threats marine organisms and ecosystems are facing globally. Individual and cumulative pressures from a range of climate change variables (including sea surface temperature, ocean acidification, ultraviolet radiation) and human activities continue to put significant pressures on marine biodiversity and are generally increasing. To support conservation and management of marine systems and predict ecosystem responses to global change, we need to better understand how anticipated environmental change and human activities affect organism responses, as well as ecosystem structure and functioning.

Seafront lighting
Seafront lighting the Red Sea. Image: J. Wiedenmann & C. D'Angelo

Across the Marine Biology and Ecology group we are therefore involved in a diverse range of research projects that investigate the impacts of human activities and/or environmental change on marine systems from the tropics to the poles.

Key Questions:

1. How do predator-prey interactions, animal migrations and food web structures vary in response to and affect environmental and ecological variables?

2. How will anticipated future environmental conditions and anthropogenic activities affect marine benthic organisms and sediment biogeochemical cycles?

3. What role do gelatinous zooplankton play on the structure and function of pelagic ecosystems, including the nitrogen cycle and ocean biological carbon pump?

4. What are the impacts of global change and connectivity on the distribution of invasive species? Prevention, detection and management of invasive species.

5. How do local environmental gradients influence the distribution of species occupying deep-sea benthic habitats?

6. What is the impact of Artificial Light at Night (ALAN), nutrient enrichment and eutrophication on reproduction and overall functioning of coral reefs?   

7. What are the eco-physiological and -toxicological impacts of climate change and deep-sea resource utilisation on marine organisms?

Studying the mudstar
Measuring the mudstar (Ctenodiscus crispatus). Image: J. Godbold

How do we do it?

  • Using stable isotope tracers to track the flow of nutrients through food webs and building isotopic maps (isoscapes) to track movements of animals through isotopically dynamic seascapes.
  • Our experimental facilities allow us to study the impacts of single and combined environmental variables (temperature, ocean acidification, oxygenation), and anthropogenic activities such as nutrients, light and plastic pollution, sound, habitat destruction and biodiversity loss on a range of marine organisms.   
  • Use global databases, laboratory measures of metabolism and nitrogenous excretion, and ecosystem modelling to quantify the role that gelatinous zooplankton have in global ocean biogeochemical cycles
  • We use novel molecular techniques (including genomic and lipidomic approaches) to map marine invasive species and to understand the responses of symbiotic corals and their microbiome to multifactorial stress.
  • We use precision-controlled remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) with high-definition camera systems to create detailed digital duplicates of the environment to investigate species distribution patterns in deep-sea habitats such as hydrothermal vents.
  • We have a long-standing collaboration with the Charles Darwin Foundation to investigate the impacts of climate change on invasive species on Galapagos.
ISIS remotely operated vehicle
ISIS (rov) used to investigate species distribution. Image: J. Copley

Links to other Research Themes

Ocean currents and mixing

Past to Future Climate Change

Dynamics of marine planktonic and microbial communities

Staff MemberPrimary Position
Dr Ken Collins Emeritus Fellow
Dr Jon Copley Associate Professor in Ocean Exploration & Public Engagement
Dr Cecilia D'Angelo Lecturer in Marine Biology
Dr Jasmin Godbold Associate Professor in Marine Ecology
Prof. Chris Hauton Professor of Marine Ecophysiology
Dr Cathy Lucas Associate Professor in Marine Biology
Dr Martina Stiasny Lecturer
Dr Clive Trueman Associate Professor in Marine Ecology
Dr Marc Rius Lecturer
Prof. Martin Solan Professor in Marine Ecology
Prof. Jörg Wiedenmann Professor of Biological Oceanography


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