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The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Jamie Oaten

PhD Studentship entitled: Metal bioaccumulation and biomarker responses in introduced marine invertebrates to assess the condition of marine ecosystems

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Hi, I'm Jamie Oaten and I studied within Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute at the University of Southampton.

My undergraduate master’s degree in Environmental Science (MEnvSci) at the University of Southampton has provided me with a solid background in the discipline, particularly environmental chemistry and pollution. My studies were partly based at the National Oceanography Centre, which has enhanced my knowledge of the marine environment. Much of my time is spent on the water doing various water sports, which is why this subject area is of great interest to me.

There is great concern about marine metal pollution within estuarine and harbour environments with important maritime activity such as Poole Harbour, where point and non-point metal sources are prevalent and dispersal is restricted by tidal exchange, which also means that pollution related to past activities is still present. Ecosystem contamination from metal pollution (e.g. cadmium, copper, and lead) may damage marine organisms at the cellular level and possibly affect the ecological balance, as well have implications for human health.

The project will use novel biomonitoring techniques, in terms of species and methods, to quantify metal pollution in Poole Harbour and other south coast sites. Metallothionein (MT), a cysteine rich protein that is linked to the detoxification of metals in organisms, will also be used in the study to relay biological impacts. Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) and manila clams (Ruditapes philippinarum) are invasive species introduced by humans to Poole Harbour that are now valued resources for fishing in this location and globally. The project aims to quantify metal accumulation in these species as they may impact human populations, and compare MT response to native species as neither species has been analysed in Poole Harbour. Other novel species such as green and brown seaweeds (Fucus vesiculosus and Ulva linza) will also be explored, as they have shown potential to be useful bioindicators of metal pollution. The research also aims to decipher if whole organisms assays or specific organ dissection is most appropriate to analyse MT as, despite the great need, no standard protocol for MT determination has yet been identified.

We will focus on areas close to shipping activity, to assess the changes in conditions and responses of organisms since the phasing out of tributyl tin antifoulants and the widening use of copper-based replacements. Analysing the proposed novel species with novel laboratory methodologies occupies an interesting research gap and has great potential for application in pollution monitoring programmes. It combines aspects of environmental pollution and chemistry, marine ecology, and physical oceanography, which will inform on pollution risks associated with marine activities and the maritime sector.

Professor Ian Williams (Environmental Sciences), Dr Malcolm Hudson (Environmental Sciences), Dr Antony Jensen (Oceanography)

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