- Marine ecology
- Science communication
External roles and responsibilities
Jon's research grants from NERC and National Geographic have included investigations of deep-sea environments in the Caribbean, Indian, Atlantic and Southern Oceans; the evolution of animal life at hydrothermal vents; and the impacts of deep-sea mining. Highlights of his research achievements include leading a NERC research grant that discovered the world's deepest known hydrothermal vents, 5000 metres deep in the Cayman Trough of the Caribbean Sea, in collaboration with US colleagues (Connelly, Copley et al., 2012, Nature Communications, 3: 620), and leading another NERC grant investigating the first known hydrothermal vents in the SW Indian Ocean, which discovered seven species of previously undescribed deep-sea animals (Copley et al., 2016, Scientific Reports,6: 38158).
Jon has participated in 20 international deep-sea research expeditions, including leading expeditions as Principal Scientistwith the UK's research ships and spending a total of ~2 years working at sea, during which he has specialised in using Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), Human-Occupied Vehicles (HOVs), and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) to investigate ocean-floor environments. Jon 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 is a Scientific Associate of the Natural History Museum in London, and a National Geographic Explorer. He advises policymakers on the protection of deep-sea habitats, for example through Parliamentary Select Committee inquiries, and he is an Advisory Board Member for the international Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI). He previously served as Co-Chair of the InterRidge organisation for international cooperation in research at mid-ocean ridges, and he was Science Coordinator of the UK's Autosub Under Ice research programme.
In the public engagement part of his role, 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 and narrator of award-winning online films. He routinely interacts with broadcasters and journalists to raise awareness of deep-sea issues and his team's discoveries, through extensive interviews on national TV and radio and widespread coverage by international news media.
Jon is the author of the book Ask An Ocean Explorer and has published more than 100 bylined articles as a popular science writer for outlets such The Guardian, Nature, and New Scientist, where he was previously a full-time Reporter and Assistant News Editor. He often talks about exploring the deep ocean at public events and festivals, presenting his research to total audiences of more than 86,000 people since 2014. He is a recipient of the Royal Society of Biology Science Communication Award for Established Researchers and the British Science Association 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 communicate their work with wider audiences, enhancing the contribution of science to society. Jon has worked as 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)