I will be working as Marine Biologist at Rothera Research Station for 15 months from 2021-22.
After graduating from Plymouth University with a BSc in Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology, my research career took hold in the field in benthic ecology. I became enthralled by NE Atlantic kelp forest ecosystems and began researching the mechanistic processes of kelp detrital breakdown in the context of climate change at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth. In addition to previous work I had assisted with at Roscoff Biology Station, I have a deep understanding of the functioning of underwater kelp forests.
I will continue pursuing the field of benthic research through various field-based research projects in Antarctica using SCUBA. My main project, within the Biodiversity, Evolution and Adaptations team, will be to obtain field growth rates of key benthic species such as the a suspension feeding sea cucumber, (Heterocucumis steineni), a seastar predator (Odontaster validus), a mollusc (Aequiyolida eightsi) a limpet (Nacella concinna) and an urchin (Sterechinus neumayeri) to facilitate a comparison of their growth rates across the seasons. This will certainly be challenging to realise but this data will provide a unique insight into crucial year-round processes occurring within Antarctic ecosystems. I plan to adopt an in situ experimental approach in order to obtain estimates that are reflective of processes happening in the field. Seasonal forces are incredibly important in polar systems where the variation in food type and quantality are strongly dictated by daylength. Coupling growth data with seasonal feeding ecology and other physiological metrics will provide a multifactorial approach into benthic ecosystem functioning.
Within the Biodiversity, Evolution and Adaptations team, will be developing new tagging methods which, so far, has proved challenging in Antarctic species, This will enable us to relocate the same individuals and follow population dynamics across the seasons.
Furthermore, the role of macroalgae detritus is a relatively understudied field. I will be collecting various macroalgae species around the western Antarctic peninsula to measure their degradation rates, their palatability to herbivore grazers and their role in carbon-draw down processes in benthic sediments.