Jon Copley is a Professor of Ocean Exploration and Science Communication at the University of Southampton. His research as a marine ecologist explores the patterns of life in deep-ocean environments, which cover most of our planet and face increasing impacts from human activities, and his work in science communication raises awareness of deep-sea issues and discoveries with global public audiences and policymakers.
- Deep-sea ecology
- Ocean exploration
- Science communication
In particular, he studies island-like seafloor habitats such as hydrothermal vents to understand ecology ("who does what"), biogeography ("who lives where"), and evolution ("who is related to whom") in the deep ocean. Exploring these deep-sea habitats often involves finding and describing new species, and Jon is interested in what we can learn from them for medicine and materials science. He also studies the reproductive biology and life-cycles of deep-sea animals, which may help us to understand their vulnerability to disturbance by human activities.
His grants have included explorations of deep-sea habitats in the Caribbean, Indian, Atlantic and Southern Oceans; and investigations of the evolution of animal life at hydrothermal vents, the ecological 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).
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 is the Module Leader of Deep-Sea Ecology for postgraduate Masters & 3rd+4th Year undergraduate students, and Co-Leader of the Shallow-Water Survey Techniques field course for 3rd Year students. He also teaches Introduction to Marine Ecology & Evolution and Introduction to Functional Marine Biology for 1st Year students, and Key Skills for postgraduate Masters students.
Jon has received Vice-Chancellor's Awards for Teaching and for Postgraduate Supervision & Training, and been nominated by students several times for Students' Union teaching awards. He is currently Online Education Champion for the Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences.
Jon was previously Director of Postgraduate Taught Programmes in Ocean & Earth Science, and Lead Educator of the "Exploring Our Ocean" Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), which was taken up by more than 60,000 people from 180+ countries and Highly Commended in The Ocean Awards 2016.
External roles and responsibilities
Jon has been involved in exploring the deep ocean over the past 25 years, including using Human-Occupied Vehicles (HOVs) and Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and leading expeditions aboard research ships. He took part in 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 the first Human-Occupied Vehicle dives to reach 1000 metres deep in the Antarctic.
Jon is an Advisory Board member for the global Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI) and a former Co-Chair of the InterRidge initiative for international cooperation in research at mid-ocean ridges. He is also a former Scientific Associate of the Natural History Museum in London and a National Geographic Explorer.
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. He has also advised deep-sea eco-thriller and sci-fi series.
Jon is the author of Ask An Ocean Explorer (Hodder & Staughton, 2019) and Deep Sea: 10 Things You Should Know (Seven Dials, 2023), and he has published popular-science articles in outlets including The Guardian, Nature and New Scientist, where he was previously a Reporter and Assistant News Editor. Jon is a recipient of the Royal Society of Biology's Science Communication Award for Established Researchers and the British Science Association's Charles Lyell Award Lecture for Environmental Sciences.
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 share 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", and "Lifetime achievement" awards (2013)
- Finalist for Vice-Chancellor's Award for Public Engagement (2018)