Ecosystems team

Our ambition

The scientific goal of our team is to understand the combined impacts of global climate-driven change and commercial fishing on polar marine ecosystems. Our research will provide fundamental insight into the response of species and ecosystems to change and enable us to detect and project their responses to future change.   Our research is critical to the development of conservation and ecosystem-based management strategies and will contribute to the development of Government policy.

BAS biologist Dr Kate Barlow studies macaroni penguins in the 'little mac' study colony at Fairy point, Bird Island, South Georgia
BAS biologist Dr Kate Barlow studies macaroni penguins in the ‘little mac’ study colony at Fairy point, Bird Island, South Georgia

Our research is focused on understanding the effects of change on whole ecosystems from microbes to whales and from local to circumpolar ecosystems. Our two research groups (Pelagic Ecosystems and Higher Predators and Conservation) focus on the Scotia Sea/West Antarctic Peninsula region, which is affected by both rapid climate-driven changes and major fishing activities. Comparative studies of Arctic and Southern Oceans will also advance our understanding of the Polar Regions, their influence on global cycles and ecosystems, their response to change, and methods for their effective conservation. Our innovative multidisciplinary approach and international leadership and partnerships will ensure that we continue to strengthen this area of globally important research.

Team priorities

Science

  • Understanding the life-cycles of polar marine species. To develop a quantitative understanding of the life-cycles, distribution and abundance of key species.
  • The structure and functioning of polar ocean ecosystems. To understand the biological-physical-chemical interactions that determine the structure and functioning of ecosystems from local to circumpolar scales from a food web perspective.
  • Impacts of variability and change. To understand the multiple drivers of change and the response of individual species and whole ecosystems.
  • Modelling ecosystems and future change. To develop models of key species and ecosystems for projecting the impacts of future change on polar ocean ecosystems.
  • Fisheries and conservation in areas of rapid change. To use our understanding of the interactive effects of harvesting and climate-driven change to develop sustainable management and conservation approaches.

Technology, innovation and training

  • Conduct large-scale multidisciplinary field experiments from ships and land-bases and develop and deploy advanced technology and autonomous systems for biological-oceanographic and ecological studies.
  • Develop innovative multidisciplinary approaches, encompassing genetics, biology and ecology of marine organisms (from plankton to the highest predators), biogeochemistry, oceanography, fisheries and climate science.
  • Targeted numerical modelling studies and analyses of long-term data series.

Influencing and leading international programmes

  • Work with national and international partners in Antarctic and Arctic research, including the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), the Arctic Council and the Ecosystems Studies of Sub-Arctic Sea (ESSAS) programme.
  • Work in partnership with international partners and institutions to gain deeper understanding of human impacts (e.g. fisheries) on polar ecosystems, particularly through the Commission for Conservation for Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in the Southern Ocean.
  • Lead the international Integrating Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics in the Southern Ocean programme (ICED) linking ecosystem and climate studies, developing links to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
  • Through our role in ICED, input polar perspectives into global science programmes, including the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme’s (IGBP) Integrated Marine Biogeochemistry and Ecosystem Research (IMBER) programme, the Scientific Committee on Ocean Research (SCOR) and Future Earth.

 Stakeholder engagement

  • Produce essential scientific advice to underpin the development of UK government (Foreign and Commonwealth Office, FCO, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA) and international conservation and management policies for the sustainable management of fisheries and human impacts in polar ocean ecosystems
  • Provide critical scientific evidence and advice to shape international policy development within the Commission for Conservation for Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)
  • Inform the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services (IPBES)

Public engagement in research

  • Disseminate our findings via publication in the highest-impact journals, through presentations in leading national and international forums
  • Participate in educational, media, business and stakeholder engagement activities.

 

Mark Belchier

Science Manager, South Georgia

Rachel Cavanagh

Ecosystem Scientist

Michael Dunn

Higher Predator Ecologist

Sophie Fielding

Zooplankton Ecologist

Jaume Forcada

Marine Mammal Leader

Jessie Gardner

PhD Student

Will Goodall-Copestake

Population Geneticist

Susie Grant

Marine Biogeographer

Simeon Hill

Fisheries Modeller Leader/WPM

Jennifer Jackson

Molecular Phylogeneticist

Nadine Johnston

Ecosystems Scientist

Cecilia Liszka

PhD Student

Clara Manno

Pelagic Marine Ecologist

Eugene Murphy

Science Leader

Richard Phillips

Seabird Ecologist Foodweb

Norman Ratcliffe

Seabird Ecologist

Ryan Saunders

Fish Ecologist

Iain Staniland

Marine Mammal Ecologist

Gabriele Stowasser

Marine Ecologist

Geraint Tarling

Zooplankton Ecologist/WPM

Sally Thorpe

Ecological Modeller

Phil Trathan

Predators in Ecosystems/WPM

Claire Waluda

Data Analysis CCAMLR

Andy Wood

Marine Predator Ecologist

Anna Belcher

Ecological Biogeochemist


Skua monitoring at Rothera

The small population of south polar skuas (up to 25 pairs) at Rothera Point has been studied since the late 1990s. The initial intention was to monitor possible impacts of …

Modelling Movement of Antarctic Krill

The MMAK project is using state-of-the-art ocean-sea ice models to improve our understanding of processes that influence the distribution of krill in the South Orkney Islands region.

Higher Predators – Long-Term Science

The British Antarctic Survey carries out Long Term Science that measures changes in Antarctic ecosystems and seeks to understand the underlying drivers and processes. Marine predators are sensitive to changes …



POETS-WCB

The main deliverable of the Western Core Box (WCB) is a consistent unique time series of mesoscale distribution and abundance of macro-zooplankton and micronekton, and an understanding of the physical …

Wildlife from Space

Many populations of wildlife are remote inaccessible or difficult to monitor. The advent of sub-metre, Very-High-Resolution satellite imagery may enable us study these animals in a much more efficient way. …

COMICS

Investigating the twilight zone The four-year COMICS project, is led by the National Oceanography Centre, is a collaboration between the British Antarctic Survey and the universities of Queen Mary London, …

KRILLBASE

KRILLBASE is a data rescue and compilation project which aims to improve the availability of information on two of the Southern Ocean’s most important zooplankton taxa: Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) …

Continuous Plankton Recorder

Contemporary research has shown that the Southern Ocean is warming. Summer surface temperatures have risen by more than 1 degree Centigrade in the last 80 years and a strong upper-layer …

Krill Hotspots

Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) are a key component of the food chain throughout much of the Southern Ocean. These small, shrimp-like animals occur in dense swarms, but their distribution is …

White-chinned Petrel Tracking

The white-chinned petrel is the most common bird species recorded as fisheries bycatch in the Southern Ocean [1]. Although currently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, limited population trend data …


SONA

The Southern Ocean Network of Acoustics (SONA) represents a group of scientific institutes and industrial partners who have united to measure an under-sampled component of the ecosystem – the mid-trophic …

Long term monitoring of plastics

This long-term study monitors the impact of marine plastics and other debris on breeding seabirds at Bird Island. Researchers have monitored the levels of marine plastics and other material from …


Fur seals in the Falklands – Part 3

11 October, 2018 by Kayleigh Jones

Kayleigh Jones, a seal biologist at British Antarctic Survey, travelled to the Falkland Islands to spend 6 weeks studying South American fur seals. This blog describes how the team studied …






Signy Island: Water and Ice

17 February, 2017 by BAS Communications

I wish I could tell you how dramatically isolated we feel here – how the expanse of an ocean that swirls the entire circumference of the planet and stands between …


Shedding light on lanternfish

25 January, 2017 by Geraint Tarling

By Dr Geraint Tarling Lanternfish are found in many of the world’s oceans and get their name from the numerous photophores (light organs) that occur all over their bodies. Also …



SHIP BLOG: Heading for home

31 March, 2016 by Susie Grant

The ship’s science labs have all been packed up and cleaned, kit boxes stowed in the container, cargo paperwork finished and cruise reports written. The SO-AntEco team is ready to …




Search and Rescue on Bird Island

23 February, 2016 by Jerry Gillham

Bird Island Research Station has a small staff team; no more than 10 in summer and just four over winter. We have no doctor on station though all staff receives …








Bird Island Diary — June 2010

30 June, 2010 by BAS Bloggers

by Claudia Mischler, Albatross Field Assistant June here on the little island was a fantastic month. We finally got a nice thick snow layer shortly before mid-winter. The white stuff …


Seabird populations on Antarctic Peninsula unexpected

5 December, 2018

Results of a new study on Antarctic seabirds shows a larger percentage of their populations inhabit important nesting sites around Ryder Bay, close to British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Station than …


Watching whales from space

1 November, 2018

Scientists have used detailed high-resolution satellite images provided by Maxar Technologies’ DigitalGlobe, to detect, count and describe four different species of whales. Reported this week in the journal Marine Mammal …


Scientists join policy makers to discuss conservation

22 October, 2018

BAS marine researchers join nearly 300 international delegates at the annual meeting of the Convention on the Conservation or Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) beginning in Hobart today. For the …




Science meetings on conservation of Southern Ocean

2 July, 2018

Science meetings of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) take place over the next two weeks (starting 2 July 2018) at the Cambridge Headquarters of …




Special issue on how oceans are changing

14 May, 2018

The seas around the Antarctic Peninsula are biologically extremely rich, but are climatically sensitive, having experienced some of the fastest warming globally in recent decades. A special issue of the …










Study sheds new light on krill larvae survival

14 November, 2017

An international study involving British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientists has shed light on how the larvae of Antarctic krill – small shrimp-like crustaceans – use sea ice to ensure their …


BBC Blockbuster Blue Planet II returns

23 October, 2017

Blue Planet II – the nature documentary that explores the deepest and darkest realms of the world’s oceans – is back on the BBC some 16 years after it was …




Zooplankton resilient to long-term warming

29 August, 2017

Temperature plays an important role in the distribution of ocean plankton communities and has the potential to cause major distribution shifts, as recently observed in the Arctic. A new study …



New study reveals what penguins eat

15 February, 2017

The longest and most comprehensive study to date of what penguins eat is published this month. The study, published in the journal Marine Biology, examines the diets of gentoo penguins …


FEATURED PAPER: Ecosystem Services

1 February, 2017

Intensifying pressures from fisheries, habitat destruction, pollution and climate change are driving global declines in marine biodiversity. Despite widespread conservation efforts there is a growing argument that traditional approaches have …


Conservation plans to protect the albatross

11 January, 2017

The UK Overseas Territory of South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands is this week launching an ambitious conservation effort to help protect the albatross. South Georgia is a globally important …


Special feature highlights the value of biodiversity

7 December, 2016

Scientists agree that meeting the ever-increasing needs of the Earth’s human population while maintaining biological diversity is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Despite bold international commitments, biodiversity …


UK welcomes agreement on largest Marine Protected Area

28 October, 2016

HOBART, Australia: The world’s experts on Antarctic marine conservation have this week agreed to establish a marine protected area (MPA) in Antarctica’s Ross Sea. At the meeting of the Commission …


Study shows mixed fortunes for Signy penguins

27 October, 2016

A forty year study on a remote Antarctic island shows that while populations of two penguin species are declining, a third is increasing. Analysis of census data from Signy Island …


Nature’s ocean fertiliser

20 September, 2016

Scientists have discovered that Antarctic krill – a tiny shrimp-like crustacean – plays a key role in fertilising the Southern Ocean with iron, which stimulates the growth of phytoplankton, the …


Review of threats to seabirds

1 August, 2016

A review of breeding distributions, population trends, threats and key priorities for conservation actions on land and at sea for the 29 species covered by the Agreement on the Conservation …


Albatrosses use different regions when on migration

25 July, 2016

A new study of the movements of sub-Antarctic albatrosses tracked from two remote islands some 5,000 km apart, shows that although the birds from each breeding site take similar routes around the Southern Ocean, they forage in different areas for the majority of the time. The results are published this month in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.


PRESS RELEASE: Antarctic seabird in decline

21 December, 2015

New research shows decline in population and breeding success of Antarctic seabird A fifty year study of the charismatic seabird, the southern giant petrel, on the Antarctic island of Signy …


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: Assessing seabird communities

7 October, 2015

Antarctic seabird community structure remains unaffected by changes in food availability A new study of sub-Antarctic seabirds shows that their community structure (how they co-exist and share resources) is unaffected …


NEWS STORY: Grant for penguin project

25 September, 2015

BAS scientists awarded grant to study penguins’ reliance on krill Norwegian and British scientists are to take part in a research project to determine how dependant non-breeding penguins are on …


NEWS STORY: Explaining sea lion decline

4 September, 2015

The southern sea lion population of the Falkland Islands witnessed a dramatic decline during the last century with numbers falling by 95 per cent between the 1930s and 1960s. It …


NEWS STORY: Bird tracking aids seabird research

18 August, 2015

Bird tracking technology reveals future climate may affect seabird feeding behaviour A two year study of shags on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve in Scotland reveals that when …


PRESS RELEASE: Scent matters to fur seals

10 August, 2015

Antarctic fur seals have unique ‘scent profile’ to recognise their pups Researchers studying Antarctic fur seals have discovered their scent has a unique ‘profile’ which enables them to recognise their …


NEWS STORY: New study uncovers how petrels co-exist

14 July, 2015

New study uncovers how petrels in sub-Antarctic co-exist during the winter For the first time, scientists understand more clearly how birds living on the remote sub-Antarctic island of Bird Island …


NEWS STORY: New Antarctic conservation assessment

30 June, 2015

Prince Albert II of Monaco supports Antarctic conservation assessment HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco recently closed a historic meeting of biodiversity and Antarctic experts, convened for three days in …


NEWS STORY: Petrels followed on feeding trips

26 May, 2015

Petrels tracked across the Oceans Staff at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are following the journeys of White-chinned Petrel fledglings as they make their first journeys over the South Atlantic Ocean …


NEWS STORY: Antarctic fur seals monitored

1 April, 2015

New study tracks feeding behaviour of Antarctic fur seals in winter During the Antarctic Summer female fur seals feed in the waters around their breeding breaches. In winter, when their …


NEWS STORY: Penguin colonies once limited

2 March, 2015

Survival of the fittest – genetics reveals where emperor penguins survived the last ice age During the last ice age, when much of the Antarctic coastline was uninhabitable due to …


NEWS STORY: Age does not wither

16 February, 2015

Does age matter? Maybe not if you’re a wandering albatross A new study of the wandering albatrosses breeding on the sub-antarctic island of Bird Island (off South Georgia) reveals that …


NEWS STORY: Satellites spot seabird poo!

11 December, 2014

Seabird poo has unique spectral signature visible from satellite images Scientists have discovered that penguin and seabird poo (guano) from colonies around the Antarctic Peninsula has a unique spectral signature …


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 …


PRESS RELEASE: Penguin trends analysed

6 August, 2014

Risks to penguin populations analysed A major study of all penguin species suggests the birds are at continuing risk from habitat degradation. Writing in the journal, Conservation Biology, a group …


PRESS RELEASE: Fur seal genetics and climate change

23 July, 2014

Genetic study shows major impact of climate change on Antarctic fur seals Genetic analysis of Antarctic fur seals, alongside decades of in-depth monitoring,* has provided unique insights into the effect …


NEWS STORY: Icebergs leave their mark

16 June, 2014

Climate related iceberg activity has massively altered life on the seabed Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey have found evidence that climate change has fundamentally altered the way that life …


NEWS STORY: Ancestral penguins studied

12 June, 2014

Rise and fall of prehistoric penguin populations charted The British Antarctic Survey has been involved in a study of how penguin populations have changed over the last 30,000 years. This …


NEWS STORY: Bridging the gap in the krill debate

9 June, 2014

Event: Understanding the objectives for krill fishing and conservation in the Scotia Sea and the Antarctic Peninsula Region Convened by the British Antarctic Survey, ICED and WWF WWF’s Living Planet …


PRESS RELEASE: Penguins monitored with tags

21 May, 2014

Electronic tags provide 10 years worth of penguin data A team of scientists, led by researchers from the British Antarctic Survey, has used tiny electronic tags to study the decline …


PRESS RELEASE: New whale subspecies

21 May, 2014

Humpback whale subspecies revealed by genetic study A new genetic study has revealed that populations of humpback whales in the oceans of the North Pacific, North Atlantic and Southern Hemisphere …


PRESS RELEASE: Antarctic emperor penguins

8 January, 2014

Antarctic emperor penguins may be adapting to warmer temperatures A new study of four Antarctic emperor penguin colonies suggest that unexpected breeding behaviour may be a sign that the birds …


NEWS STORY: Fishing limits to be discussed at meeting

23 October, 2013

CCAMLR underway in Hobart The annual gathering of international Antarctic scientists and policy makers is under way at Hobart in Australia. Twenty-five delegations from around the world have arrived in …


NEWS STORY: Antarctic experts gather in Australia

16 October, 2013

World’s Antarctic marine experts converge on Hobart Hobart’s annual gathering of international Antarctic scientists and policy makers is underway. Twenty-five flags flying outside the offices of the Commission for the …



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 Age and Antarctic clams

18 April, 2013

Age matters to Antarctic clams A new study of Antarctic clams reveals that age matters when it comes to adapting to the effects of climate change. The research provides new …


NEWS STORY: Age no barrier for albatrosses

12 March, 2013

Saving the best for last – wandering albatrosses” last push for successful parenting Romanticised in poetry, the wandering albatross is famed for its enormous wing-span and long life. The bird …


PRESS RELEASE: British team to explore buried lake

12 December, 2012

British team set to access and sample one of the last unexplored environments on Earth This week (12 December) a British team of scientists and engineers, including scientists from British …


PRESS RELEASE: Effects of ocean acidification

25 November, 2012

First evidence of ocean acidification affecting live marine creatures in the Southern Ocean The shells of marine snails – known as pteropods – living in the seas around Antarctica are …



PRESS RELEASE: Penguins surveyed from space

13 April, 2012

Scientists count penguins from space A new study using satellite mapping technology reveals there are twice as many emperor penguins in Antarctica than was previously thought. The results provide an …


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: Krill’s key role in oceans

4 July, 2011

Antarctic krill help to fertilise Southern Ocean with iron A new discovery reveals that the shrimp-like creature at the heart of the Antarctic food chain could play a key role …


PRESS RELEASE: Deep sea mystery solved

13 June, 2011

New discovery – Copepods share “diver’s weight belt” technique with whales A deep-sea mystery has been solved with the discovery that the tiny 3 mm long marine animals, eaten by …


PRESS RELEASE: Island haven for sea life

24 May, 2011

Study reveals most biologically rich island in Southern Ocean The first comprehensive study of sea creatures around the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia reveals a region that is richer in …


PRESS RELEASE: Census of Marine Life

4 October, 2010

Event: A Decade of Discovery: Census of Marine Life — News Conference Venue: Royal Institution, London Date: Monday 4 October: 12.30 – 16.30 Findings from a major international investigation into …


PRESS RELEASE: Terns clock up the miles

12 January, 2010

Arctic terns confirmed to have the longest animal migration in the world New information on bird migration is revealed by an international team of scientists who have confirmed that the …



Fur seals in the Falklands – Part 3

11 October, 2018 by Kayleigh Jones

Kayleigh Jones, a seal biologist at British Antarctic Survey, travelled to the Falkland Islands to spend 6 weeks studying South American fur seals. This blog describes how the team studied …






Signy Island: Water and Ice

17 February, 2017 by BAS Communications

I wish I could tell you how dramatically isolated we feel here – how the expanse of an ocean that swirls the entire circumference of the planet and stands between …


Shedding light on lanternfish

25 January, 2017 by Geraint Tarling

By Dr Geraint Tarling Lanternfish are found in many of the world’s oceans and get their name from the numerous photophores (light organs) that occur all over their bodies. Also …



SHIP BLOG: Heading for home

31 March, 2016 by Susie Grant

The ship’s science labs have all been packed up and cleaned, kit boxes stowed in the container, cargo paperwork finished and cruise reports written. The SO-AntEco team is ready to …




Search and Rescue on Bird Island

23 February, 2016 by Jerry Gillham

Bird Island Research Station has a small staff team; no more than 10 in summer and just four over winter. We have no doctor on station though all staff receives …








Bird Island Diary — June 2010

30 June, 2010 by BAS Bloggers

by Claudia Mischler, Albatross Field Assistant June here on the little island was a fantastic month. We finally got a nice thick snow layer shortly before mid-winter. The white stuff …