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.

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



  • 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.


  • 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: (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

Data Interpretation Ecologist


Melody Clark

Genetics Leader IMP 3


Peter Convey

Terrestrial Ecologist IMP 3


Alistair Crame

Science Leader


Huw Griffiths

Marine Biogeographer


Katrin Linse

Senior Biodiversity Biologist


Simon Morley



Kevin Newsham

Terrestrial Ecologist


Samuel Hall

Research Scientist


Chester Sands



Victoria Sleight

Visiting Scientist


Jakob Thyrring

Visiting Scientist


Terri Souster

BAS Honorary Researcher


Sam Coffin

PhD Student

Larsen-C Benthos

On 12 July 2017, the Larsen-C Ice Shelf calved one of the largest iceberg originating from the Antarctic Peninsula ever recorded. As iceberg A68 moves north, it  leaves behind an …

Biodiversity at BAS Cambridge

Biodiversity@BAS is an initiative formed by BAS staff. Adopting current NERC Biodiversity policy​ and working closely with BAS Estates and Environment Office teams, its goal is to assist with the …

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 human 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 …


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 …


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 …


Pushing forward our understanding of calcium production in the marine environment


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 …


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 …

Octopus DNA solves mystery of ice sheet’s past

22 December, 2023

Scientists, including from British Antarctic Survey, have used octopus DNA to discover that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) likely collapsed during the Last Interglacial period around 120,000 years ago …

Invading insects transforming Antarctic soils

9 May, 2023

A tiny flightless midge which has colonised Antarctica’s Signy Island is driving fundamental changes to the island’s soil ecosystem. Research by experts at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in collaboration …

Tackling climate change and biodiversity loss together

21 April, 2023

Climate, biodiversity, and societal challenges are intrinsically linked and yet are usually viewed in isolation. A new review study, published in the journal Science this week (21st April 2023), focusses …

Warming and acidification threatens organisms

30 November, 2022

Global warming and ocean acidification are threatening marine organisms, such as corals, bryozoans, molluscs, sea urchins or crustaceans, that build their skeletons and shells with calcium carbonate (chalk) according to …

Polar medals awarded to BAS staff

31 January, 2022

Three British Antarctic Survey (BAS) staff have been awarded the Polar Medal. The announcement was published last week (Friday 28 January) in the London Gazette. Melody Clark is a molecular …

Discovery of life beneath Antarctica’s ice shelves

15 February, 2021

Far underneath the ice shelves of the Antarctic, there’s more life than expected, finds a recent study in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, published this week (15 February 2021). …

Expedition to map biodiversity in Atlantic deep sea

8 January, 2021

A British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientist departs Germany today (8 January 2021) onboard the research vessel SONNE  to study the diversity of marine organisms in the Atlantic deep sea. Dr …

Climate change will turn coastal Antarctica green

20 May, 2020

Scientists have created the first ever large-scale map of microscopic algae as they bloomed across the surface of snow along the Antarctic Peninsula coast. Results indicate that this ‘green snow’ is …

Parents help offspring adapt to climate change

30 January, 2019

Some parents in the animal kingdom can prepare their young for environmental change, helping them cope better in new conditions, a paper published today in Nature Scientific Reports reveals. Scientists …

The impact of ‘alien’ species in Antarctica

19 December, 2018

Of the known non-native or ‘alien’ species found in Antarctica, a non-biting species of midge currently presents one of the highest risks to terrestrial ecosystems, researchers have found. The preliminary …

Fungi respire millennium-old carbon from Antarctic soil

30 May, 2018

Fungi in Antarctic soils release carbon that is more than a thousand years old, a team led by scientists at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has found. This discovery sheds light on how carbon is released into the atmosphere as polar regions warm.

Brachiopods resilient to past environmental change

14 March, 2018

A new study concludes that a seafloor dwelling marine invertebrate is more resilient to environmental change than expected. The paper, led by researchers at British Antarctic Survey, is published today …

First expedition to newly exposed Antarctic ecosystem

12 February, 2018

A team of scientists, led by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), heads to Antarctica this week (14 February) to investigate a mysterious marine ecosystem that’s been hidden beneath an Antarctic ice …

Life in the slow lane

19 January, 2018

A new study from British Antarctic Survey shows how five common Antarctic marine invertebrates (animals without a backbone) use less energy to feed, grow and reproduce than their temperate and …

New study explains moss migration across the globe

19 July, 2017

A new study on mosses found in the polar regions reveals when and how often they have migrated across the Equator. Mosses are the dominant flora in Antarctica, yet little is known of …

Poor outlook for Antarctic biodiversity

28 March, 2017

An international study involving scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has debunked the popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in a much better environmental shape than the …

New study on how shellfish create their shells

8 February, 2017

A new study describing how shellfish create their shells in response to their environment is published today (Wednesday 8 February) in the journal Royal Society Open Science. The shells of …

Study of roundworm that returns to life after freezing

20 January, 2017

The first molecular study of an organism able to survive intracellular freezing (freezing within its cells) is published this week by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), in collaboration with researchers from …

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 …

BLOG: Global Ocean Wildlife Analysis Network

28 July, 2021 by Simon Morley

In the latest of the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) blog series on the Global Ocean Wildlife Analysis Network, we hear from Simon Morley, British Antarctic Survey (BAS) …

Blog: The Rothera marine team

8 February, 2021 by Nadia Frontier

Nadia Frontier is the new Marine Biologist at Rothera Research Station. In her latest blog, Nadia takes us through safety training, wildlife sightings, and what it takes to dive successfully …

Blog: First experiences at Rothera

5 February, 2021 by Nadia Frontier

Nadia Frontier is the new marine biologist at Rothera Research Station. In her blog below, Nadia takes us through arriving at Rothera, first impressions of the station, and Christmas celebrations! …

Carrying the PRIDE message to the Polar Regions

22 June, 2020 by Huw Griffiths

BAS marine biogeographer Dr Huw Griffiths talks about the importance of diverse role models. He is hopeful that existing and future polar scientists will see that being yourself and being different are no barrier to working in the most extreme environments on Earth, and can be a real asset as a scientist.

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 …

Top predator feeding ecology and microplastic (MP) contamination on the far eastern South American coast: Evidence of MP trophic biotransfer

1 June, 2024 by Simon Morley

This study describes the feeding ecology, spatial distribution of each ontogenetic phase and the corresponding plastic debris contamination, in the Caribbean sharpnose shark, Rhizoprionodon porosus as a function of spatial-temporal…

Read more on Top predator feeding ecology and microplastic (MP) contamination on the far eastern South American coast: Evidence of MP trophic biotransfer

Pathogenic potential of an environmental Aspergillus fumigatus strain recovered from soil of Pygoscelis papua (Gentoo Penguins) colony in Antarctica

1 June, 2024 by Peter Convey

Aspergillus fumigatus is a common opportunistic pathogen in different animals, including birds such as penguins. For the first time, a fungal strain identified as A. fumigatus was isolated from soil…

Read more on Pathogenic potential of an environmental Aspergillus fumigatus strain recovered from soil of Pygoscelis papua (Gentoo Penguins) colony in Antarctica

A comparative study of tissue protein synthesis rates in an Antarctic, Harpagifer antarcticus and a temperate, Lipophrys pholis teleost

6 May, 2024 by Andrew Clarke, Lloyd Peck, Melody Clark

The affect of temperature on tissue protein synthesis rates has been reported in temperate and tropical, but not Antarctic fishes. Previous studies have generally demonstrated low growth rates in Antarctic…

Read more on A comparative study of tissue protein synthesis rates in an Antarctic, Harpagifer antarcticus and a temperate, Lipophrys pholis teleost

When ice and sea are not barriers for flies: First report of Trichocera maculipennis (Diptera) in South America

1 May, 2024 by Peter Convey

1. During the 2022/2023 austral winter, large swarms of Trichocera (Saltrichocera) maculipennis Meigen, 1818 (Diptera: Trichoceridae), were observed around house roofs in Puerto Williams (Navarino Island, southern Chile, 54° S). In…

Read more on When ice and sea are not barriers for flies: First report of Trichocera maculipennis (Diptera) in South America

Detection of plastic, cellulosic micro-fragments and microfibers in Laternula elliptica from King George Island (Maritime Antarctica)

1 April, 2024 by Simon Morley

It is generally acknowledged that microplastic pollutants are prevalent in ocean waters and sediments across a range of tropical, temperate, subpolar, and polar regions. The waters surrounding King George Island…

Read more on Detection of plastic, cellulosic micro-fragments and microfibers in Laternula elliptica from King George Island (Maritime Antarctica)

Testing the resilience, physiological plasticity and mechanisms underlying upper temperature limits of Antarctic marine ecto-therms

29 March, 2024 by Elaine Fitzcharles, Lloyd Peck, Melody Clark, Rebecca Smith, Rose Stainthorp, Simon Morley

Antarctic marine ectotherms live in the constant cold and are characterised by limited resilience to elevated temperature. Here we tested three of the central paradigms underlying this resilience. Firstly, we…

Read more on Testing the resilience, physiological plasticity and mechanisms underlying upper temperature limits of Antarctic marine ecto-therms