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Professor James J Bell

I am a marine ecologist with a broad range of interests in marine organisms and systems. My early interest in marine biology was driven by my love of the oceans as I grew up in Devon.

I studied for my primary undergraduate degree in Marine Biology (BSc hons first class) at the University of Wales, Bangor in North Wales. It was here I developed my interest in sponges and marine reserves during a research expedition as part of my degree to Lough Hyne Marine Nature Reserve in Southern Ireland.

After completing my BSc, I returned to Ireland and Lough Hyne to complete my PhD at University College Cork under the supervision of Dr David Barnes (now at the British Antarctic Society). My PhD focused on the unusual sponge assemblages in Lough Hyne and I continue to be intrigued by this important group of marine invertebrates.

After completing my PhD in 2001, I took up a temporary lectureship in marine biology at Glamorgan University in South Wales, and after a year took up another temporary lectureship post at Reading University. During my time at Reading I became increasingly interested in the application of molecular tools to marine ecology and worked in Prof Beth Okamura’s lab (now at the Natural History Museum in London) where I learned a range of molecular techniques. I also travelled to Indonesia to work on the tropical sponge assemblages of the Wakatobi region, a project that I continue to work on today.

After a year at Reading I moved back to Wales to take up my first permanent lectureship at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, where I spent three years. From there I took up my current post in June 2006, as a Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology and director of the Master of Marine Conservation programme at Victoria University of Wellington. I was promoted to Associate Professor in Marine Biology 2014, and Professor of Marine Biology in 2019.

My work is predominately focused on the ecology of sponges and I have ongoing research projects across the world.


  • –present
    Associate Professor of Marine Biology, Victoria University of Wellington


    University College Cork, Ireland, PhD Zoology