Bonner Laboratory and dive facility, Rothera Point, Adelaide Island

Lat. 67°34'8"S, Long. 68°7'29"W

The Bonner Laboratory has state-of-the-art research facilities, an aquarium and dive facility complete with recompression chamber as well as offices and a library. 

During the Antarctic summer research teams from British Antarctic Survey, UK universities and international partners use the lab.

The Bonner Laboratory at Rothera Research Station
The Bonner Laboratory at Rothera Research Station. Credit: British Antarctic Survey.
The Bonner Laboratory opened austral summer 1996–97. With its incorporated dive facility, it provides an excellent centre for the study of terrestrial and marine biology.
Take a virtual visit to the Bonner laboratory:

The scientific dive programme continues year-round with divers accessing the water through holes cut in the sea ice during the winter.
A group of people are underwater
The Bonner Laboratory and dive facility at Rothera Research Station, Antarctica, supports marine and terrestrial long-term monitoring programmes. Credit: Joe Marlow.





The Bonner Laboratory supports marine and terrestrial long-term monitoring programmes and a broad range of specific shorter-term studies, many of which are supported by boat and year-round diving.

Bi-weekly (weekly in winter) measurements of sea temperature, salinity, water chlorophyll content as well as major nutrients provide data for the Rothera Time Series (RaTS) project, which has been ongoing since 1997.

A man holding a glass of water
Diver under the sea ice, admiring the foot of an iceberg. Rothera has a year-round diving program, unique in the Antarctic. Credit: Joe Marlow.

Diving supported long-term monitoring of the benthic community involves biodiversity studies, reproductive assessment of a wide range of invertebrate species, including different echinoderms, bivalves and nemerteans as well as monitoring of iceberg scour and its impact on the benthic community (Iceberg Impact Study, IBIS).

Underwater view of a coral
Sea cucumbers are filter feeders. They form an important part of the benthic community. Current projects involve seasonal studies of the physiology, feeding ecology and growth of different sea cucumber species. Credit: British Antarctic Survey.

Monitoring of the skua population on Rothera Point has been ongoing since 1999. The initial intention was to monitor possible impacts of the station, but the data also provide useful indicators of local prey availability at sea, effects of changes in sea-ice coverage etc.

South polar skua nesting in the long-term study area at Rothera Point (Adelaide Island). Photo credit: Richard Phillips.

Short term studies vary more in their requirements and range from in-situ data collection to collection and preservation of biological samples – for laboratory studies in Rothera or for return to the UK to support BAS projects at Cambridge and science at collaborating institutes worldwide. Recent projects have included:

  • Assessing the impact of changing conditions (deglaciation, temperature rise) on the performance of local Antarctic macroalgae using PAM fluorometry and investigating the physiology of Antarctic macroalgae during the polar winter: how are they able to survive without light for a long period of time?
  • Investigating how resilient Antarctic benthic communities are to destructive ice scouring impact exacerbated by climate change. In particular, we monitored the recovery of a shallow near coast benthic ecosystem in Ryder Bay a decade after a period of catastrophic high frequency ice scouring affected more than 50 % of the sea floor. This is in connection with the IBIS project. Additionally, we compiled a food web model of the benthic ecosystem in Ryder Bay to estimate potential changes in food web structure with increasing ice-scour impact and are looking at how prolonged periods of high intensity disturbance affects competitive interactions in benthic secondary consumers.
  • Researching growth and seasonality in shallow Antarctic benthos, specifically for sea cucumbers, sponges and anemones. Using photogrammetry to measure growth in the Antarctic sponge Mycale acerata and the anemones Urticinopsis antarctica and Isotelia Antarctica and charting the seasonal physiology and diet of the sea cucumbers Heterocucumis steineni and Cucumaria georgiana. The aim is to relate the findings to the factors influencing the onset of summer feeding after winter dormancy.

Diving science projects at Rothera are varied and demanding and are at the cutting edge of polar marine biology.


Marine Biologist encounters a giant sponge nearly 20m below the surface. Gigantism may have played a role in the success of some Antarctic marine animals and is one aspect of efforts to understand how evolution has responded to climate change in the past. This image is associated with the 2005-2010 BAS science programme: BIOFLAME – Biodiversity, Function, Limits and Adaptation from Molecules to Ecosystems.

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