Biodiversity, Evolution and Adaptation team

Our ambition

Is to understand how past, present and future environmental change has and will affect polar biodiversity both on land and in the ocean, and how life adapts to extreme polar conditions. Our research outcomes will provide deep insight into the impact of environmental change on the natural world, make a strong contribution to future conservation measures, and generate new and innovative areas of research that have potential societal benefits.

Diver in the water close to Rothera Station, Antarctica
Diver in the water close to Rothera Station, Antarctica

Our team has two research groups, Biodiversity and Adaptations. The Biodiversity group focuses its investigations on mapping species distributions, how they relate to current and past environments and how this information can be used to predict future distributions under environmental change. The Adaptations group investigates adaptations to extreme polar conditions, from the molecular level through physiology to ecology and, using experimental approaches, how these may affect species abilities to adapt under future change scenarios. Both groups work together towards the same aim: to develop a holistic picture of future patterns of biodiversity in a changing world.

Team priorities

Science

Biodiversity

  • Patterns in biodiversity. Revealing the distribution of life in Polar Regions, from microscopic to global scales, to discover the critical environmental and biological drivers that shaped those patterns.
  • Responses to historical and environmental change. Understanding current distributions of animals, plants and microbes can help us to constrain models of past environmental conditions. Studying how life at the poles has survived extreme environmental change in the past will help us to predict how it will react to future changes.
  • Species and ecosystem functions and interactions in Polar Regions. This is mainly a terrestrial project that manipulates and models the network of interactions between soil microrganisms to understand how polar food webs work.
  • Assessing human impacts. Human interactions with the biodiversity of the Polar Regions have the potential for serious negative impacts including pollution, habitat destruction, invasive species and over-exploitation. Surveying, monitoring and assessing key or vulnerable species and habitats allows us to inform policy makers responsible for resource management and environmental protection.

Adaptations

  • Impacts of life in the cold. To understand how life has adapted to extreme Polar conditions we study the similarities and differences between species living at the Poles and those at lower latitudes from genetic, cellular and ecological perspectives.
  • Species resilience to environmental change. Discovering how organisms react and respond to changing environmental conditions, and how their polar adaptations could be an advantage or disadvantage in a warming world.
  • Calcification processes. Understanding how skeletons, especially shells, are produced by marine species (polar and European), and how this impacts their abilities to adapt under future climate change, informs how this knowledge can be used for societal gain for instance in future aquaculture and biomimicry exploitation.
  • Biomolecules from polar organisms. We will identify and develop novel chemicals used by organisms in extreme environments for their potential use for innovative applications in industry and society.

 Technology, innovation and training

  • Use molecular (gene), biochemical and cellular technologies to understand physiological and ecological processes affect resilience/sensitivity to climate change.
  • Use morphological and molecular (phylogeographic) technologies in taxonomy and phylogeny.
  • Use and develop databases and mapping software to reveal patterns in biodiversity and predict future range changes.
  • Use a range of advanced marine technology, including heated settlement plates for marine colonisation studies and new high definition video and photographic systems for mapping seafloor biodiversity.
  • Continued strong commitment to post graduate training through NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships and other direct UK and international collaborations.

Influencing and leading international programmes

  • Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) scientific research programmes State of the Antarctic Ecosystem (AntEco) and Antarctic Thresholds – Ecosystem Resilience and Adaptation (AnT-ERA); steering group of proposed Antarctic Terrestrial and Nearshore Observing System (ANTOS); SCAR Development Council
  • International biodiversity data initiatives including: biodiversity.aq (the Antarctic biodiversity information system), the Global Biodiversity Information System (GBIF) and the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS)
  • Participation in a series of meetings and workshops contributing to Marine Protected Areas in the Southern Ocean, and to the development of Antarctic Biodiversity and Conservation Strategies.Contribution to the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS), Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), the United Nations World Ocean Assessment, the Inter-governmental Panels on Climate Change and Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPCC, IPBES), the Genomic Observatories Network and the European Marine Biological Research Centres (EMBRC).

 Stakeholder engagement

  • Provide expert advice and support to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Polar Regions Department, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, and All Party Parliamentary Groups on Biodiversity and the Overseas Territories.
  • Support the Antarctic Treaty System by provision of research and expert advice on environmental change.
  • Publicising and explaining our scientific advances through the BAS Communications Team.

 Public engagement

  • Disseminate our findings, published in the highest-impact journals, through presentations in leading national and international forums.
  • Participate in BAS media and public engagement programmes through the print, broadcast and online opportunities, and support and develop our early career scientists in their public engagement activities.
  • Enthuse the next generation of Antarctic explorers & scientists through outreach activities such as the Cambridge Science Festival, Lyme Regis Fossil festival, Manchester science festival public talks and school visits.

 

David Barnes

Marine Benthic Ecologist

Elisabeth Biersma

PhD Student

Melody Clark

Molecular Biologist

Peter Convey

Terrestrial Ecologist

J. Crame

Science Leader

Emma Cross

PhD Student

Huw Griffiths

Marine Biogeographer

Terri Souster

NERC BAS Marine Biological Data Analyst

Luca Telesca

PhD Student

Oliver Hogg

PhD Student

Katrin Linse

Molluscan Phylogeneticist

Marta Misiak

PHD Student

Simon Morley

Ecophysiologist

Anje-Margriet Neutel

Community & Ecosystem Ecologist

Kevin Newsham

Terrestrial Ecologist

Lloyd Peck

Physiologist Adaptations Lea

Chester Sands

Geneticist

Victoria Sleight

PhD Student

Tejaswi Yarra

Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher




Protein Folding in the Cold

How do animals survive in the freezing seas of Antarctica? Although Antarctic fish have evolved over millions of years to keep working at such low temperatures, we still do not …

Monitoring climate change in action

Long term science We know that our world is changing due to man’s influence. But how is it changing? Some areas, such as the Antarctic Peninsula, are changing more rapidly …

Cold Skeletons

Does the cold affect how animals grow? Are skeletons different in Antarctic marine species, which survive almost permanently below 0°C? It is well known that animals grow at different rates …


SO-AntEco

The South Orkney Islands is a small archipelago located in the Southern Ocean, 375 miles north-east of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The seafloor around the South Orkney Islands …

The Heated Settlement Panels

How will life and biodiversity on Earth will respond to climate change? This information is particularly urgent for the waters along the Antarctic Peninsula, which are experiencing rapid regional climate …

EMBRC

European Marine Biological Resource Centre

Ascension Island Marine Sustainability (AIMS)

The project Ascension Island Marine Sustainability (AIMS) – A Fisheries and Marine Biodiversity Project Ascension Island harbours globally important marine biodiversity, potentially representing a unique assemblage of western and eastern …

SGMarBase

South Georgia Marine Biodiversity Database (SGMarBase)

SIOS

Svalbard Integrated Earth Observing System (SIOS) is an international infrastructure project. There are 26 partners from Europe and Asia involved. The essential objective is to establish better coordinated services for …

CACHE-ITN

Pushing forward our understanding of calcium production in the marine environment


Antarctic Seabed Carbon Capture Change

The ASCCC Project  has been funded by ACE (Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition) to investigate, quantify and understand the role of polar and subpolar seabeds in the carbon cycle, particularly in response …


SCIENCE BLOG:Penguin or sea lemon?

28 July, 2016 by Melody Clark

Dr Melody Clark gets excited about sea snails as part of an innovative research programme to investigate how Antarctica’s animals will adapt to life in a warmer world. Penguins or …



SHIP BLOG: Lost in a Sea of Biology

16 March, 2016 by Laura Robinson

Lost in a Sea of Biology! Dr  Laura Robinson is interested in documenting and understanding the processes that govern climate on time scales ranging from the modern day back through hundreds of …


SHIP BLOG: New Buoy at Sea!

5 March, 2016 by Oliver Ashford

New ‘buoy’ at sea Oliver Ashford – a PhD student from Oxford University – is the youngest member of the SO-AntEco research cruise onboard the RRS James Clark Ross. He’s working with …




FEATURED PAPER: Icebergs and blue carbon

17 November, 2016

When divers laid a grid of 225 markers on the seabed it started one of the longest marine disturbance experiments anywhere in the world. Surveyed and replaced annually, they show …


New study puts shells under spotlight

11 November, 2016

A new study on how molluscs build their shells in the sub-zero waters of Antarctica is published today (Friday 11 November) in the journal Scientific Reports. A team of European …



Subantarctic seabed creatures and past climate

1 September, 2016

A new marine biodiversity study in one of the largest Marine Protected Areas in the world reveals the impact of environmental change on subantarctic seabed animals and answers big questions …


Shellfish study published this month

27 June, 2016

New technologies and techniques used in a scientific study of the shells of oysters, mussels, clams and scallops reveal clues about how these commercially valuable species may fare in a changing world, and how discarded shells from the aquaculture industry could benefit the environment.


FEATURED PAPER: Battling bryozoans

13 June, 2016

This paper shows that, contrary to long-held ideas, the intensity of competition (density of direct, physical spatial contests) differs little with latitude. However, the severity of competition (contests with a …


NEWS STORY: Fighting for space on the seabed

26 April, 2016

New research highlights differences between the tropics and the poles Rivalry between species is common the world over as animals fight for territory and resources such as food. But, according …



PRESS RELEASE: New season – ambitious science

23 November, 2015

New season tackles ambitious science and logistical challenges The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) 2015/16 field season is underway with dozens of scientists and support staff – together with planes and tonnes …


NEWS STORY: Changes in seabed communities

16 November, 2015

A new study by an international team of scientists, including from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), has analysed the effects on seabed communities of glacial retreat. Writing in Science Advances this …


PRESS RELEASE: Fungal diversity in Antarctic soils

28 September, 2015

Warmer temperatures stimulate diversity of soil fungi Remote and covered by ice for much of the year the Antarctic Peninsula is home to hidden and dynamic communities of microbes that …


NEWS STORY: Antarctic life is highly diverse

13 July, 2015

Antarctica more diverse and biologically rich than previously thought The team of scientists, led by Monash University, along with colleagues from the British Antarctic Survey, University of Waikato in New …


NEWS STORY: Antarctic biodiversity highlighted

24 June, 2015

Antarctic life – highly diverse, unusually structured A new assessment by scientists, published in Nature this week, suggests Antarctica is a more diverse and biologically rich region than previously thought. …


NEWS STORY: New starfish identified

29 April, 2015

First new family of starfish discovered in hydrothermal vents A new family of deep-sea starfish has been discovered living in the warm waters around a hydrothermal vent in the East …


PRESS RELEASE: Oceans and biofouling

28 January, 2015

Ocean acidification changes balance of biofouling communities A new study of marine organisms that make up the ‘biofouling community’ — tiny creatures that attach themselves to ships’ hulls and rocks …


PRESS RELEASE: Sea urchins adapt

10 December, 2014

Sea urchins from Antarctica show adaptation to ocean acidification A study of sea urchins from the Antarctic Peninsula has revealed an ability to adapt to changing conditions such as rising …


NEWS STORY: Patagonian toothfish fishery

16 September, 2014

South Georgia Patagonian toothfish fishery recertified with flying colours Following its five-yearly Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) assessment, the South Georgia Patagonian toothfish longline fishery has, for the third time, been …



NEWS STORY: Understanding how ecosystems function

18 March, 2014

Lessons from a remote Antarctic island on the vulnerability of ecosystems Scientists have carried out new research that could change the way we think about the vulnerability of ecosystems. Published …


NEWS STORY: Volcanoes helped life survive ice ages

10 March, 2014

New research suggests that life survived past ice ages with the help of volcanoes. An international collaboration, including scientists from the British Antarctic Survey, has found new evidence that the …


NEWS STORY: Climate change effects on shellfish

9 December, 2013

BAS takes the lead in ambitious science programme to aid fishing industry and monitor effects of climate change on Europe’s shellfish The supply of shellfish we buy at the supermarket …


NEWS STORY: New marine species identified

3 December, 2013

New species recovered from Amundsen Sea More than thirty new, and, as yet unclassified, species of marine life were discovered during a science expedition to the Amundsen Sea off Pine …


NEWS STORY: Understanding food webs

13 September, 2013

Research on the dynamics of food webs The dynamics of food webs, networks of who-eats-whom interactions, are being highlighted in the August report of International Innovation, an open access European …


NEWS STORY: More moss growing in Antarctica

29 August, 2013

Moss growth in Antarctica linked to climate change Increases in temperature on the Antarctic Peninsula during the latter part of the 20th century were accompanied by an acceleration in moss …


PRESS RELEASE: Krill risk from warming seas

21 August, 2013

Warming Antarctic seas likely to impact on krill habitats Antarctic krill are usually less than 6 cm in length but their size belies the major role they play in sustaining …


PRESS RELEASE: Lake drill mission called off

27 December, 2012

Antarctic lake mission called off In the early hours of Christmas Day (Tuesday 25 December 2012) Professor Martin Siegert, Principal Investigator of the Subglacial Lake Ellsworth experiment, confirmed that the …


PRESS RELEASE: Shellfish and changing oceans

5 August, 2012

New study helps predict impact of ocean acidification on shellfish An international study to understand and predict the likely impact of ocean acidification on shellfish and other marine organisms living …


PRESS RELEASE: Breeding habits of albatrosses

30 April, 2012

Antarctic albatross displays shift in breeding habits A new study of the wandering albatross – one of the largest birds on Earth – has shown that some of the birds …


‘Lost world’ discovered around Antarctic vents

4 January, 2012

Communities of species previously unknown to science have been discovered on the seafloor near Antarctica, clustered in the hot, dark environment surrounding hydrothermal vents. The discoveries, made by teams led …


PRESS RELEASE: Critical food supply level

22 December, 2011

New research shows how much food is needed by seabirds An international group of scientists has shown that many seabirds begin to suffer when the food available for them in …


PRESS RELEASE: How marine animals crossed continent

31 August, 2010

Marine animals suggest evidence for a trans-Antarctic seaway A tiny marine filter-feeder, that anchors itself to the sea bed, offers new clues to scientists studying the stability of the West …


PRESS RELEASE: Diversity of marine species detailed

18 February, 2010

Understanding global climate change through new breakthroughs in Polar research The latest findings from research on Antarctica’s rich marine life are presented this week at the American Association for the …



PRESS RELEASE: Albatrosses feed with whales

7 October, 2009

Albatross camera reveals fascinating feeding interaction with killer whale Scientists from British Antarctic Survey, National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR), Tokyo, and Hokkaido University, Japan, have recorded the first observations …


PRESS RELEASE: Continent’s diversity revealed

1 December, 2008

First comprehensive inventory of life in Antarctica The first comprehensive “inventory” of sea and land animals around a group of Antarctic islands reveals a region that is rich in biodiversity …


PRESS RELEASE: Interactive map highlights diversity

22 October, 2008

New visualisation of South Georgia A new visualisation tool for exploring the subantarctic islands of South Georgia is unveiled today (22 October 2008). The South Georgia Geographic Information System (SGGIS) …


Polar pecking order and biodiversity

7 October, 2002

New research into how biodiversity is generated and maintained in the seas surrounding hostile Polar Regions is reported in this month?s Proceedings of the Royal Society (Biological Sciences). British Antarctic …



SCIENCE BLOG:Penguin or sea lemon?

28 July, 2016 by Melody Clark

Dr Melody Clark gets excited about sea snails as part of an innovative research programme to investigate how Antarctica’s animals will adapt to life in a warmer world. Penguins or …



SHIP BLOG: Lost in a Sea of Biology

16 March, 2016 by Laura Robinson

Lost in a Sea of Biology! Dr  Laura Robinson is interested in documenting and understanding the processes that govern climate on time scales ranging from the modern day back through hundreds of …


SHIP BLOG: New Buoy at Sea!

5 March, 2016 by Oliver Ashford

New ‘buoy’ at sea Oliver Ashford – a PhD student from Oxford University – is the youngest member of the SO-AntEco research cruise onboard the RRS James Clark Ross. He’s working with …