Research Associate, Marine Ecology, Newcastle University

I am a postdoctoral research associate within Dr Alan Jamieson's research team. I am particularly interested in the fish of the world’s deepest places, specifically the abyssal (3000 to 6000 m deep) and hadal (>6000 m depth) zones. The abyssal zone makes up the majority of the Earth’s surface (54%) and with only a few exceptions forms a continuous circumglobal habitat with very stable conditions. While the two zones are directly connected the hadal zone, most commonly occurring in the deep subduction trenches, is isolated and varied. While the fish in both of these zones have adapted to huge pressure, their habitat is very different.

I have been lucky enough to be involved in many firsts including the discovery of the ethereal snailfish which featured in Blue Planet II. On the same cruise we captured the Mariana snailfish (Pseudoliparis swirei), likely the deepest living fish, and went on to describe it as a new species and the illustrate the paper. The Mariana snailfish went on to be the focus of an award-winning NHK documentary ‘Deep Ocean: Descent into the Mariana Trench’ narrated by David Attenborough.

While there are many things that we can only learn from physical specimens, I am specifically interested in filming animals in situ. The damaged corpses recovered do not do justice to the animals in life, where they show natural behaviour, and may be partly to blame for the idea that they are monstrous. Using baited lander systems is a cost/time effective, non-fatal and non-destructive means of collecting data.

I enjoy fieldwork and have accrued over 600 days of seagoing experience. I believe a good understanding of the equipment you use, particularly if you are going to use it in the field with no hope of shopping for spares. It is important to me that I am able to deploy, maintain and develop my own equipment. Low cost, full ocean depth, HD video and still cameras and illumination with fully customisable sequences and logging form the crux of my research and are constructed in-house. This has led to skills in engineering, equipment development and programming.

Experience

  • –present
    Research Associate, Marine Ecology, Newcastle University