Jon Copley is a Professor of Ocean Exploration and Science Communication at the University of Southampton. His research as a marine ecologist investigates the patterns of life in deep-ocean environments, which cover most of our planet and face increasing impacts from climate change, pollution, and extraction of resources, and his work as a professional science communicator raises awareness of deep-sea issues and discoveries with global public audiences and policymakers.
- Deep-sea ecology
- Ocean exploration
- Science communication
Jon's research investigates ecology ("who does what"), biogeography ("who lives where"), and evolution ("who is related to whom") in the deep ocean, by studying island-like seafloor habitats such as hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, and whale-falls.
His work is focused in three main areas: (1) the biogeography of deep-sea chemosynthetic environments (a global "jigsaw puzzle" of what lives where and why in the deep ocean); (2) how life varies in space and time in island-like and ephemeral habitats on the ocean floor, revealing ecological processes that shape deep-sea communities; and (3) the reproductive biology and life-cycles of deep-sea species, which have consequences for the distributions and dynamics of their populations, including their vulnerability to disturbance by human activities.
His grants have included investigations of deep-sea environments in the Caribbean, Indian, Atlantic and Southern Oceans; the evolution of animal life at hydrothermal vents; the impacts of deep-sea mining; and the biomedical potential of compounds from deep-sea species.
Jon's work in public and policymaker engagement with his research generated Impact Case Studies for REF2021 (Deep impact: the exploration and stewardship of biodiversity in the deep ocean) and REF2014 (Explore the deep: public engagement with deep-ocean research).
Current PhD Students
Jon has taught marine ecology and oceanography for more than twenty years, and he is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA). He has worked as Director of Postgraduate Taught Programmes in Ocean & Earth Science, and Lead Educator of the "Exploring Our Ocean" Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), which has been taken up by >60,000 people from 180+ countries.
Jon has received Vice-Chancellor's Awards for Teaching and for Postgraduate Supervision & Training, and he is currently Online Education Champion for the Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences and a member the University's Digital Education Working Group.
External roles and responsibilities
Jon has participated in 20 international deep-sea research expeditions, including leading expeditions as Principal Scientist with the UK's research ships and spending a total of ~2 years working at sea. He led the first Human-Occupied Vehicle dive to the world's deepest known hydrothermal vents, becoming the first British person to dive more than 5000 metres deep in the ocean, and took part in the first Human-Occupied Vehicle dives to reach 1000 metres deep in the Antarctic.
Jon has been a Scientific Associate of the Natural History Museum in London, and a National Geographic Explorer. He was also previously Co-Chair of the InterRidge initiative for international cooperation in research at mid-ocean ridges. His work includes advising policymakers on the protection of deep-sea habitats, for example as an Advisory Board Member for the international Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI).
In science communication, Jon works with documentary-makers to share the exploration of the deep ocean with people worldwide, for example as a science advisor and onscreen contributor for BBC Blue Planet II. He routinely interacts with broadcasters and journalists to raise awareness of deep-sea issues and discoveries, and often talks about exploring the deep ocean at public events and festivals.
As a popular science writer, Jon is the author of the book Ask An Ocean Explorer and has published more than 100 articles in outlets such as The Guardian and New Scientist, where he was also a former full-time Reporter and Assistant News Editor.
Beyond his University role, in 2006 Jon co-founded SciConnect Ltd with colleagues in science journalism, creating a capacity-building company that has trained more than 15,000 scientists in how to communicate their work with wider audiences. Jon has worked as a Director of the company as it has developed training programmes for clients including research institutions, funding bodies, government agencies, NGOs and companies across the UK and in Europe.
- Royal Society of Biology Science Communication Award for Established Researchers (2008)
- British Science Association Charles Lyell Award Lecture for Environmental Sciences (2007)
- Vice-Chancellor's Award for Teaching (2007)
- Vice-Chancellor's Award for Postgraduate Supervision and Training (2011)
- Highly Commended in The Ocean Awards 2016 (Blue Marine Foundation and Boat International Media) (2016)
- University of Southampton Staff Achievement Award Level 1 (2006)
- Nominated by students for Southampton University Students' Union "Most engaging lecturer" award (2019)
- Nominated by students for Southampton University Students' Union "Outstanding lecturer", "Innovative teaching", & "Lifetime achievement" awards (2013)
- Finalist for Vice-Chancellor's Award for Public Engagement (2018)