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September 2014

Oceanlab on BBC World Service

The BBC World service is to broadcast a version of the ‘Into the Abyss’ BBC Radio 4 programme that aired a few months ago.  Rebranded as ‘Beyond the Abyss’, the show, featuring Dr Alan Jamieson from Oceanlab, will be broadcast on the World Service ‘Discovery’ slot on Monday, 1st September at 18:32 GMT.  For further details see

Snailfish (Liparids) at 7000m deep
Snailfish (Liparids) at 7000m deep, one of the hot topics on ultra-deep ocean research.  Photo by A. Jamieson, Oceanlab.

Oceanlab in New Scientist

Some of the most recent video footage from HADES project, taken by Alan Jamieson and Thom Linley, has been shown on the New Scientist web site as the picture of the day.  The video is the first time that the supergiant amphipod, Alicella gigantea, has been filmed alive.

Supergiant amphipod swimming among snailfish
A frame grab from the video taken at 7234m deep of the supergiant amphipod swimming among an aggregation of snailfish in the Kermadec Trench.  Video taken by A. Jamieson and T. Linley, Oceanlab.

10KM UNDER THE SEA - Upcoming TechFest event being hosted at Oceanlab by David Sproule, Business Unit Manager

Take a tour round the University of Aberdeen's Oceanlab and hear from scientists conducting cutting edge research from around the world, take part in an evening celebrating marine science with tours, demonstrations and short presentations on topics including the open ocean and life in the deepest places on earth.

Tuesday, 23rd September, 18:30
Oceanlab, Newburgh

£3.30 (incl booking fee)

Refreshments will be provided

For directions to the University of Aberdeen, Oceanlab, Main Street, Newburgh, ELLON, Aberdeenshire, AB41 6AA see our contacts page.

Book by phoning Aberdeen Box Office ticketline (01224) 641122, online at or in person at Aberdeen Box Office based at the Music Hall on Union Street, Aberdeen 09:30 - 18:00 Monday to Saturday.

August 2014

Hadal science and technology partnership with China

Dr Alan Jamieson and Prof. Stuart Piertney recently visited the Shanghai Ocean University (SHOU) in China.
Prof. Weicheng Cui, head of the new Hadal Science and Technology Research Centre (HAST) and Vice President of SHOU, Prof. Huang Shuo Lin presented Dr Jamieson and Prof. Piertney with certificates that detail the official invitations to be advisors of the HAST manned submersible project.  The certificates were gratefully received by Dr Jamieson and Prof. Piertney who reciprocated with gifts to cement the relationship between the two institutes.

The University of Aberdeen and HAST are to begin a new and exciting partnership relating to hadal science and technology which sees Dr Binbin Pan, a mechanical engineer from SHOU, starting an 18-month secondment at Oceanlab beginning September 2014. He and Dr Jamieson will begin designing and developing HAST's two full ocean depth lander vehicles, the first of many new hadal rated vehicles to emerge from the project.

Shanghai visit
  Prof. Piertney and Dr Jamieson with their awards, with staff from SHOU and HAST

Update from Alexandra Mystikou, MSc

Recenty published paper with Prof Frithjof Kuepper and Kyle Fletcher and many thanks to Dr Dawn Shewring for her support.

2014 Polar Biol Mystikou Seaweed biodiversity in the south-western Antarctic Peninsula

July 2014

Pushing frontiers of deep sea exploration

Alan Jamieson and Thom Linley recently returned from an epic 40 day expedition to the Kermadec Trench as part of the HADES-k project.  There, they completed 35 lander deployments between 1500m and 9000m.  These exciting new results are featured in a two part BBC Radio 4 documentary called ‘Into the Abyss’ with an additional information article on the BBC website.

Read the article on the BBC, details of ‘Into the Abyss’ episode 1 and of episode 2.  Episode 1 was broadcast on the 16th July (repeated 22nd July at 1530) and episode 2 was broadcast on Radio 4 on the 23rd July.

Cusk Eel at 5000m
A cusk eel, Bassozetus at 5000m deep.

July 2014

Update from Prof Graham Pierce

PhD students completing this year co-supervised by Prof Graham Pierce

  1. Silvia Monteiro, PhD 2014. “Population Ecology of Long-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala melas) off the Western Coast of the Iberian Peninsula”. University of Minho. Co-supervisors: José Vingada (University of Minho), Alfredo López (CEMMA), Begoña Santos (Instituto Español de Oceanografía), Stuart Piertney (University of Aberdeen).
  2. Fleur Visser, PhD 2014. “Moving in concert: social and migratory behaviour of dolphins and whales in the North Atlantic Ocean. University of Amsterdam. Co-supervisor: Jef Huisman (University of Amsterdam).
  3. Sabine Goetz, PhD 2014. “Interactions of cetaceans with Spanish and Portuguese fisheries in Atlantic waters: costs, benefits and implications for management”. Universidade de Aveiro. Co-supervisors: M. Begoña Santos, Julio Portela (both Instituto Español de Oceanografía), José Vingada (Universidade do Minho).

Recent Papers include:

April 2014

HADES-k cruise underway in the Kermadec Trench, SW Pacific Ocean.

The first of two cruises of the HADES (HADal Ecosystem Studies) Project is now underway in the Kermadec Trench, Pacific Ocean.  HADES-k, is an international collaboration with partners from the US, New Zealand and the UK, including our own Dr Alan Jamieson, Dr Dan Mayor and Prof Stuart Piertney.

The 40-day expedition began on 11th April in Auckland and kicks off the three-year collaborative effort. HADES will conduct the first systematic study of life in ocean trenches (Kermadec and Mariana), comparing it to the neighbouring abyssal plains.

This first cruise sees the participation of Oceanlab’s Alan Jamieson, Thomas Linley and Eleanna Grammatopoulou.  Alan and Thom have already made significant progress with the lander work having achieved 12 successful deployments in the first 10 days. To view some of their results as they happen, visit the HADES website:

For other info see:


News release:


March 2014

Ocean's carbon budget balanced

Ocean scientists have, for the first time, successfully balanced the supply of food to midwater organisms with their demands for this food. The depth at which they consume sinking organic material regulates our climate by determining how much carbon is stored by the ocean and how much remains in the atmosphere.

Marine copepods

The results of the study in the North Atlantic are published in the journal Nature. The research demonstrates how interactions between microscopic animals and bacteria in the ocean account for the consumption of sinking organic detritus called ‘marine snow’.

Lead author of the study, Dr Sarah Giering, now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen explained: “Microscopic plants in the upper ocean convert CO2 into organic matter. When these organisms die they sink into the deep ocean, carrying carbon with them. This fuels deep sea food webs and locks CO2 away from the atmosphere, helping to regulate the climate.”

Organisms in the ‘twilight zone’, a layer of water between 50–1000 metres beneath the surface where light levels are extremely low, consume virtually all of the organic detritus, or ‘marine snow’ that rains down. Previous attempts to explain the loss of marine snow with biological activity in the twilight zone have failed, suggesting that the understanding of the processes within the ocean was incomplete.

“We show that a balance between food supply and demand is possible because of intricate linkages between zooplankton and microbes,” explained Dr Sarah Giering.

“When these microscopic animals eat marine snow, much of it is released as tiny suspended particles that are readily available to bacteria, which in turn convert it into biomass and CO2.”

Dr Daniel Mayor from the University of Aberdeen, a co-author of the research, said:

“The apparently wasteful process of zooplankton fragmenting, rather than ingesting, sinking detritus is central to understanding how the twilight zone works.”

CO2 released at depth can stay there for thousands of years, providing a natural mechanism for carbon storage.

Dr Giering said: “Marine organisms release massive quantities of CO2 in the deep ocean, keeping atmospheric CO2 concentrations much lower than if the oceans were devoid of life.

“Our findings are a major step forward, allowing us to explore the role of deep‐sea biota in regulating our climate.”

Dr Richard Sanders, Head of Ocean Biology and Ecosystems at the National Oceanography Centre and a co-author of the study added:  “When predicting future atmospheric CO2 levels, it is important to understand how much marine snow is sinking to depth and where it is being consumed.”

The field studies took place in 2009 in the Porcupine Abyssal Plain in the North Atlantic.

'Reconciliation of the carbon budget in the ocean's twilight zone' published Advance Online Publications 19th March 2014.

Authors Sarah Giering, Richard Sanders, Richard Lampitt, Thomas Anderson, Christian Tamburini, LMehdi Boutrif, Mikhail Zubkov, Chris Marsay, Stephanie Henson, Kevin Saw, Kathryn Cook, Daniel Mayor


November 2013


The 2013 HADEEP cruise is taking place aboard the Kaharoa, a research vessel belonging to HADEEP partner NIWA (the New Zealand environmental research agency). This exciting expedition is researching the deep sea fauna of the South Fiji basin and the New Hebrides Trench. The expedition is being led by Dr Alan Jamieson and involves two Aberdeen PhD students, Thomas Linley and Heather Ritchie and one undergraduate student, Ryan Eustace.  Another PhD student, Amy Scott-Murray, is kindly compiling a blog for them. Check it out at

The cruise is well on but we expect a few more entries over the coming week or so. It certainly makes for an interesting read in life at sea and the issues that must be overcome on a day-to-day basis exploring the deep blue sea from a small boat.


HADEEP (HADal Environment and Educational Program) is a collaborative project based at the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab.  It started in 2006 with the first of four HADEEP projects called “Nippon-UK Hadal Science and Education Partnership” in collaboration with the Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute at the University to Tokyo, Japan and funded by the Nippon Foundation.  This project primarily funded participation in several expeditions to the deep trenches of the Pacific Rim.  The technology that was needed was funded by NERC in the project “Life at extreme depth; fishes and scavenging fauna of the abyssal to hadal boundary” which ran concurrently with the Nippon Foundation grant.

HADEEP 2 or “Multi-disciplinary investigations of the deepest scavengers on Earth” followed on in 2010 and was funded by the Total Foundation in France. This project saw further technological developments and two more expeditions to the trenches.  In 2012, funding from the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS) supported the construction of a new lander and another expedition (HADEEP 3).  Last year, HADEEP 4 was funded by the Total Foundation.  This project, entitled “Trench Connection” is supporting this trip. HADEEP 2-4 has been a collaboration between Oceanlab and NIWA in New Zealand.

The overarching point of HADEEP is to firstly, design, construct and operate new technology capable of imaging and collecting biological samples from the deepest places on Earth.

With these we have been examining depth-related and geographic trends in diversity, in particular how the hadal communities changes through the transition from the surrounding abyssal plains to the hadal trenches, and how the communities differ from one trench to another.  We have also been research physiology and behaviour of these animals as they inhabit a rather extreme environment in regards to high pressure, low temperature and low food supply.

The highlights of this research so far have been unequivocally proving that decapods do exist in the trenches, filming of the deepest fish seen alive (Click here), filming the deepest fish in the southern hemisphere (Click here), having a hadal amphipod named after Alan (Click here) and finding the ‘supergiant’ amphipod in trenches and the southern hemisphere for the first time (Click here). This work has also gathered significant public interest which has led to various interesting public outreach endeavours such as Blue Peter (Click here), the Filmic Art 3D Deep Ocean Experience Blu-Ray DVD (Click Here), and various other media activities.

HADEEP Cruises

FS Sonne 194 (Germany)                           (2007) Tonga and Kermadec Trench

RV Hakuho-Maru KH-07-3 (Japan)               (2007) Japan Trench

RV Kairei KR-07-16 (Japan)                        (2007) Mariana Trench

RV Hakuho-Maru KH-08-01 (Japan)             (2008) Japan Trench

RV Tansei-Maru KT-09-02  (Japan)              (2009) Izu-Bonin Trench

RV Kaharoa KAH0910 (NZ)                          (2009) Kermadec Trench

FS Sonne 209 (Germany)                           (2010) Peru-Chile Trench

RV Kaharoa KAH1109 (NZ)                         (2011) Kermadec Trench

RV Kaharoa KAH1202 (NZ)                         (2012) Kermadec Trench

RV Kaharoa KAH1301 (NZ)                         (2013) Kermadec Trench

RV Kaharoa KAH1310 (NZ)                         (2013) New Hebrides Trench


Professor Monty Priede, Director of Oceanlab retires

We were sad to lose our Director of Oceanlab, Professor Monty Priede who retired on 1st November 2013. Professor Mike Greaves, Head of College of Life Sciences and Medicine, thanked Monty on behalf of the College for his magnificent contribution to the University and stated that Monty was the epitome of scientist, teacher and leader.

Professor Liz Baggs, Head of School of Biological Sciences thanked Monty on behalf of the School, pointing out that it was Monty who found the land for Oceanlab and his vision that iniatiated both Oceanlab 1 and Oceanlab 2.

Monty said goodbye to Aberdeen after 38 years, first arriving in 1975 as a post doc studying metabolism of flatfish in a water tunnel he built in the basement of the Zoology Building. There have been many adventures since then and Monty said the fact that he stayed so long is indicative of how wonderful the working environment of the University has been.

A party was held at Oceanlab in the evening of 23rd October. Dr Alan Jamieson gave a retirment speech for Monty which included lots of messages from international colleagues and many stories about Monty. Alan thanked Monty for all the great things that he accomplished here, stating that the lab will be an emptier place without him but he hoped that Monty would come to visit often and that the lab can continue to excel as it has done while he was here. A message was also read out from Monty's wife Maria who was unable to attend the event. The Oceanlab band performed a few songs including one with lyrics DOBO to the music of LOLA (The Kinks) especially written for Monty. There was a cake decorated with the RRS James Cook research vessel, a lander, Monty and a grenadier fish. Monty was presented with a photo book of his life at sea, a book token, binoculars and a book on Greek fishes.

Monty also enjoyed a dinner at the Marcliffe Hotel on 29th October with some senior colleagues, ex-colleagues and family, and an afternoon tea on 1st November with Oceanlab staff and students.

Monty is retiring to a Greek island but will remain a Professor Emeritus with the University of Aberdeen.

CakeMonty with Cake

Retirment PartyMonty with Band


September 2013

TechFest at Oceanlab

On 25th September 48 members of TechFest visited Oceanlab. The event was opened by David Sproule, Business Unit Manager. Dr Alan Jamieson gave a presentation on the Deep Sea and the Solar System. Thomas Linley, PhD student gave a presentation on Journey to the Deep and Fishes of the South Pacific Ocean with a big musical finish. The visitors then got to see the actual fish. At the beginning of the evening, they had been handed out polystyrene cups to decorate and at the end they got them back in a different form after having been pressure tested, the process being explained. It was the largest attendance we have had for Techfest and, although we were short staffed this year, the presentations were excellent and well received.

TechFestDave TechFestAlan

August 2013

Antarctic experiment reveals new species of bone-eating worm and clues to shipwreck preservation

Two new species of rare whale-bone eating worms have been found in deep Antarctic waters, according to research published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The discovery of red-plumed Osedax antarcticus and O. deceptionensis are the results of deep-water investigations by an international collaboration of marine biologists, including experts from the University of Aberdeen, led by London’s Natural History Museum and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Their findings also revealed Osedax's wood-eating cousins - the Xylophagainae molluscs - were nowhere to be found, leading the scientists to believe famous shipwrecks such as the Shackleton’s Endurance,could actually remain entirely preserved in the depths of the Antarctic. The Endurance was the ship that Sir Ernest Shackleton used to sail to Antarctica in 1914 on the epic Imperial Trans-Antarctica Expedition. However, the ship was beset in the ice of the Weddell Sea and later sank leaving 28 men stranded on the ice for two years.

The team examined whale bones and planks of wood which had been left on the sea floor for over a year. The lead researcher, Dr Adrian Glover from the Natural History Museum in London, said: "We designed the experiment to search for two of the strangest animals that live in the deep sea – bone-eating Osedax worms that consume whale bones at the seafloor, and their 'wood-eating' Xylophagainae bivalve mollusc cousins that do a very similar thing to wood.”

Experts from the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab – who have been pivotal in discovering entirely new species in world’s deepest ocean trenches – were called upon to create the technology required for the unusual task in the deep Antarctic. Dr Alan Jamieson from Oceanlab, a specialist in the design and scientific use of deep-sea landers said: When Adrian called with such a bizarre request it seemed crazy not to get involved. We quite literally dug the remains of two old landers from the back garden of the laboratory, fixed them up and posted them to the Swedish Antarctic vessel, ready to embark on its voyage.”

Over the course of a year, they deployed and recovered the deep-sea lander, ladened with a most unusual cargo – large whale bones and planks of wood. Dr Glover continued: “Whilst we were excited by the discovery of the first new Osedax worms from Antarctica, we were even more intrigued by the perfectly-preserved wood.

“It occurred to us that the dramatic contrast between the heavily-consumed bone and the pristine wood was indicative of how the Antarctic is relatively isolated from other ocean basins – the tiny larvae of the wood-eating worms could not reach the Antarctic from nearby continents.

“The pristine condition of the wood also means it’s likely that Antarctic wooden shipwrecks such as Endurance, lost on Shackleton's epic voyage might be remarkably well preserved.

“A new DNA analysis of the Osedax worms also revealed that the seven described species in the genus are most closely related to the tiny mud-dwelling 'beard worms' that use specialist bacteria to consume chemicals in oxygen-poor muds.

“This provides new clues as to how these bizarre animals evolve. Perhaps at some point after whales first appeared in the oceans, ancestral worms were able to make the evolutionary leap from sulphidic-muds to whale carcasses.”  Jamieson added “this research exemplifies how important scientific discoveries in extreme environments can be made using very simple yet innovative approaches.

This work is published in: Glover A.G., Wiklund H., Taboada S., Avila C., Cristobo F.J., Smith C.R., Kemp K.M., Jamieson A.J., Dahlgren T.G. 2013 (in press) Bone-eating worms from the Antarctic: the contrasting fate of whale and wood remains on the Southern Ocean seafloor. Proc R Soc B in press.

Bone-eating worm

The bone-eating worm (Photo: Thomas Dahlgren, University of Gothenburg in Sweden)

Bone lander Antartica

One of Oceanlab’s Bone-Landers being recovered in Antarctica (Photo: Thomas Dahlgren, University of Gothenburg in Sweden)

The paper has already received a large amount of publicity in the media, for example, BBC News, Nature News, Science Mag, National Geographic and Discovery News amongst many others.

July 2013

Rotary Club of Aberdeen Deeside Visit to Oceanlab

Oceanlab welcomed the Rotary Club of Aberdeen Deeside for some presentations and a tour of our facilities on the evening of 31st July 2013.   Nichola Lacey and Thomas Linley presented 'To the Abyss and Beyond: Creatures of the Deep'.  Prof Frithjof Kuepper presented 'Seaweeds of the high-latitude regions of Planet Earth' and Alexandra Mystikou 'Exploring the seaweed biodiversity around the Antarctic Convergence'.  David Sproule ended the visit with a talk and tour 'Commercial Access to Facilities'.   The visit was enjoyed by all.

Deeside Rotary

     Prof Frithjof Kuepper presenting to Aberdeen Rotary Club Deeside

CCGS Amundsen cruise

The CCGS Amundsen cruise will set off on 26th July 2013 from Quebec City. Over the next three months Professor Ursula Witte and PhD students Anni Makela and Georgios Kazanidis will be sailing on the Canadian Arctic on board the icebreaker Amundsen. The Oceanlab team, in collaboration with Professor Philippe Archambault and Research Assistant Cindy Grant from the Institut des sciences de la mer de Rimouski will form the “Benthic Team”. The work of the team will mainly include on board incubations studying the response of the macrofaunal community to the supply of organic matter. The approach will be based on the use of isotopically labelled microalgae simulating the flux of organic matter from the ocean surface to the benthos. These studies will help us understand the structure and functionality of the Arctic benthic ecosystem especially under the framework of rapidly-changing environmental conditions.    

Oceanlab scientists release new report: UK marine protected areas worth billions

Marine protected areas (MPAs) in England, Wales and Scotland are worth a one-off 0.92 – 1.93 billion pounds to recreational users, says a new interim report of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment based on research led by researchers from Oceanlab, University of Aberdeen. These values would further increase if MPAs would put significant restrictions on commercial fisheries.

The research also estimated the current recreational value of the 151 areas assessed in the study to lie between 148-248 million for divers and 1.86 – 3.38 billion for anglers per year, although there is considerable uncertainty around these recreational figures, because it is difficult to precisely estimate how often divers and anglers visit each of the areas. There are 1-2 million sea anglers and around 200.000 divers in the UK.

The study also compared the value of conservation to the projected costs associated with English Marine Conservation Zones, and found that the economic benefits to society of designating 127 zones were likely to be outweigh the costs, even without accounting for the potential benefits to other recreational users. Benefits would depend on most areas remaining open to diving and angling.

Researchers asked 1683 divers and sea anglers how much they would be willing to donate for the protection of a wide range of different marine habitats, such as mussel and flame shell beds, corals, kelp and tide swept channels. Participants were also asked about 40 vulnerable and rare species home to UK waters, from stalked jellyfish to gooseneck barnacles and spiny lobsters to basking sharks.

Besides looking at the economic value of marine conservation, researchers also looked at non-monetary values, including the health, therapeutic, spiritual and social benefits of diving and angling of the marine sites. All sites were important to some degree for these benefits, while Scottish sites scored highest.
 “This study clearly demonstrates how important these potential marine conservation are for divers and sea anglers,” said Oceanlab researcher Jasper Kenter, who led the project.

“The way that divers and anglers relate to these places goes much deeper than just recreation, it an experience that is important on so many levels: physical health, stress relief, engagement and connection with nature, beauty, a sense of wonder. It is these profound bonds that makes divers and anglers very concerned about the future of these special places.”

The survey was conducted by researchers from the Universities of Aberdeen, Aberystwyth, De Montford, and Birmingham City, and the James Hutton Institute, in partnership with the Marine Conservation Society, the Angling Trust and the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC). Besides Jasper Kenter, Oceanlab researcher Niels Jobstvogt was also part of the project team. The research formed the first stage of a broader study on shared and cultural values of nature, which is due to be published in March 2014 as part of a large-scale follow-on report to the National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA).

The report, including headline results and an executive summary, is available on

For more information, please contact Jasper Kenter,

Photograph by Tim Hunt
Photograph courtesy of Tim Hunt

March 2013

Miranda Krestovnikoff visits Oceanlab

Miranda Krestovnikoff is a history and wildlife presenter, writer, musician and underwater diver. She has a background in zoology and has appeared on numerous T.V. programmes. On the 14th of March she visited the University of Aberdeen as part of National Science and Engineering Week where she gave a talk at King's College.  During the day she found the time to visit Oceanlab where Dr Alan Jamieson showed her around and introduced her to the supergiant amphipods.

For more info on National Science and Engineering Week go to

One Show Presenter Visit

February 2013

New deep sea fish discovered off New Zealand
University of Aberdeen scientists have returned from a voyage to one of the deepest points on the planet where they discovered a new species of fish and gained new knowledge of life at previously unexplored depths.
In seven days of ocean sampling - to the north of New Zealand, near the Kermadec Islands at depths of between 1km and 6.5km deep - they took over 6,500 photographs of deep sea fish and caught about 100 fish from depths between 1km and 6.5km deep.
They discovered:

  • a new species of eelpout at depths of 4250m
  • new depth records of 5,500m for a rattail fish - these have not previously been caught in the southwest Pacific
  • another rattail fish – in depths of between 2000 and 4500m – that has not been caught in New Zealand waters for over 100 years
  • new depth records of 3500m for  large deep sea cusk eels   

The research expedition - involving scientists from the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab, NIWA and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa - explored waters well below the depth that light penetrates, on the edge of the Kermadec Trench. It is one of the deepest places on Earth with depths exceeding 10km.
The scientists onboard the research vessel RV Kaharoa used landers with cameras attached that free-fall to the seafloor, as well as baited fish traps to attract the animals. The equipment was designed and built at Oceanlab.
Voyage Leader Dr Alan Jamieson, from Oceanlab, said, "We are never quite sure what we will find on these expeditions to unchartered territories. We had set out to find out more about the deep sea fish communities and we were delighted to find both new species and new depth records for fish.”
 The amount of data recovered during this latest expedition is substantial and adds to the information collected on three previous voyages to the Kermadec Trench by the Aberdeen-NIWA collaboration aboard the RV Kahora.
Dr Jamieson added: “Between this and the previous expeditions we have now sampled from a depth range greater than Mount Everest is high.  What makes the whole experience even more personally satisfying is that all the equipment used in these research cruises was designed and constructed at Oceanlab."
NIWA Principal Scientist Dr Malcolm Clark said: "The international collaboration enables New Zealand researchers to use scientific equipment we don't have, and to sample places that would otherwise be inaccessible, and hence unknown.
Dr Jamieson added: "A voyage such as this is testament to how feasible scientific research in the deep sea has become. It is no longer the inaccessible, out of reach, part of the world it once was. The technological challenges of the past are being overcome, and shouldn't limit our responsibility to learn about and understand the deep sea to help ensure the long term health of the deep oceans - one of the largest environments on Earth."
Funding for this voyage was primarily from the Marine Alliance for Science & Technology for Scotland (MASTS), and is supported by NIWA's Deep-sea Communities project funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). 

Notes to Editors / Picture Editors:
Dr Alan Jamieson is available for interviews and photographs. Photos of the fish plus the equipment used are also available. To arrange contact Joanne Milne / Laura McCombie on +44 (0)1224 272013. Issued by the Communications Team, Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King’s College, Regent Walk. Tel: 01224 273174. Contact: Jennifer Phillips.

Fish New Zealand
Clockwise: Oceanlab’s Alan Jamieson and Thom Linley with some of the fish from 2000m, Niki Lacey and Heather Ritchie processing the amphipod catches, 1st Officer Steve Bailey and Alan with two large cusk eels from 3500m and the new species of eel pout from 4250m.

January 2013

John Polanski receives award for over 25 years service

John Polanski, our Oceanlab Electronics Research Technician, attended a long service award ceremony at Chanonry Lodge on 24th January where The Principal thanked him for over twenty five years of dedicated service, presenting John with a certificate and gift vouchers.


Algae Group

On the 23rd of January, 2013, Prof Frithjof Kuepper and his PhD student Alexandra Mystikou set off for the Falkland Islands to carry out work on their project Seaweed biodiversity of the Falkland Islands and sub-Antarctic region. The Falkland Islands are located in the South Atlantic Ocean on the Patagonian Shelf. They are also called the Malvinas (after French 18th century settlers from St. Malo, Brittany).

The purpose of this expedition is sampling of live isolates of macroalgae (seaweeds) and their pathogens around the Falklands. Oomycete pathogens affecting algae and fish will be collected as well.

The seaweed biodiversity around the Falklands remains only incompletely explored. Since the pioneering work of Skottsberg in the early 20th century, few phycologists have visited the islands. Especially there are significant gaps in the understanding of the Falklands’ deep-water brown algal flora.

Moreover, the main aims of this expedition include the study of the molecular biology, ecology and physiology of macroalgae of the Subantarctic region. This expedition will provide samples for molecular identification of mostly filamentous macroalgae, cataloguing seaweed herbarium specimens and culturing of live isolates. The help from the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute in Stanley for this expedition will be much appreciated.

Alexandra has created a blog site where you can follow explorations with frequent, almost daily updates and photos:

Ascension Island

From the left Aldo Asensi, Pieter van West, Alexandra Mystikou and Frithjof Kuepper at Ascension Island

November 2012

Thomas Linley

Back in March of 2010 Thomas Linley, at the time a research assistant working on the CoralFISH project, sailed on the G O Sars to conduct baited lander studies investigating the fish around cold-water corals. The cruise was in the arctic circle, off the coast of Norway and a documentary crew were present. That documentary was aired in France on the 9th of November this year. The film, which was only available in French and German, focused on the world's little known cold/deep-water corals.

October 2012

Dr Kate Brookes

Dr Kate Brookes leaves the university on 19th October to take up a job with Marine Scotland Science.  She will be a Marine Mammal Scientist on the newly formed marine renewables team.  Her job will involve giving advice on the interactions between marine mammals and marine renewable devices, as well as working on projects aiming to answer questions about the interactions between the two.  Her experience working at the university on projects relating to effects of underwater noise on marine mammals will stand her in good stead in her new role. 

Kate has been based at Oceanlab, although she worked within the research group based at the Lighthouse Field Station in Cromarty (, where she completed her PhD in 2009. Her most recent project, funded by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), investigated the potential impact of seismic surveys for oil and gas on cetaceans. 

A farewell lunch was held in the Udny Arms Hotel on 12th October.

Kate FarewellKate Cup


Oceanlab PhD student has article published in AU Science Magazine

Nichola Lacey has had an article on her PhD published in the last edition of the AU Science Magazine. Nichola's research focuses on a particular group of crustacea found at hadal depths: the amphipods.

The article can be found at

Nichola takes readers to where she spends 12 days at a time at sea in the South-West Pacific, just north of New Zealand, over the Kermadec Trench, which at its deepest is 10,047m. Through the use of baited cameras and traps attached to free-fall landers she observes and takes samples from the thousands of amphipods which swarm the bait and can completely devour an entire jack mackerel in a matter of hours. An average sample will consist of hundreds of little amphipods, typically up to 0.2 2 cm long. On the last day of sampling on her first cruise however, a very different catch surfaced (see posting below in February 2012 'Supergiant' amphipods discovered 7 km deep). Lying alongside the normal, tiny specimens were seven massive amphipods, measuring up to 27 cm in length. These gigantic specimens were a complete shock. No-one had any idea that these monsters were in the Southern Hemisphere. This incredible species of giant crustacea had only been recorded five times before and only in the North Pacific and North Atlantic, with no records since 1987.

September 2012

British Science Festival Visits Oceanlab

16 visitors came to Oceanlab for the afternoon of Wednesday, 5th September to learn about deep-sea life. They viewed the research facilities at Oceanlab including the workshop and test laboratory for deep ocean unmanned lander vehicles capable of descending to over 10km beneath the sea surface.   They were shown video and still image presentations of the new forms of life discovered by the Oceanlab team (including the the supergiant amphipod found recently in waters north of New Zealand), life at maximum ocean depth and natural light (bioluminescence) in the deep sea.  Professor Monty Priede gave a welcome presentation, Georgios Kazanidis talked about deep-sea sponges, Thom Linley about fish on corals, Dr Toyo Fujii on fish around oil platforms and Dr Alan Jamieson on our HADEEP project. Alan and Thom gave a demonstration of a lander in operation and Neil Gregge a demonstration of the high pressure test tank.

Below is a photograph of the group taken by the camera on our deep sea lander vehicle BRIL.

 BRIL photo


Will Hunter takes up a Marie Curie fellowship

Former Oceanlab PhD student Will Hunter takes up a new post this month at Universität Wien in Vienna, Austria.Will Hunter

Will was supervised by Prof Ursula Witte and his thesis investigated how oxygen availability and organic matter quality affected carbon and nitrogen cycling in deep-sea sediments. This took him to the Arabian Sea oxygen minimum zone and the Whittard canyon (North East Atlantic), and involved a dive to 800m in the Japanese submersible Shinkai 6500.

Will takes up an EU-funded Marie Curie postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Limnology (Universität Wien). In Vienna, he will investigate how bacterial biofilms process particulate organic matter sources, and the consequences for carbon and nitrogen cycling in streams and rivers.  


August 2012

Dr Mark Shields, Research Fellow for ECOMAR

Dr Mark Shields, who has looked after this website for the last two years, is moving at the beginning of September to the Department of Energy and Climate Change to take up a position as an Environmental Manager and will be helping to regulate offshore industries in UK waters. He will still be based in Aberdeen and is looking forward to the opportunity to learn new things in the role.

The project ECOMAR has come to an end and Mark will be missed at Oceanlab. A lunch was held at the Udny Arms Hotel in Newburgh where Mark was presented with the picture of a polynoid polychaete he identified.

Mark Leaving

Mark's presentation

Prof Terry Hazen visits Oceanlab

Professor Terry Hazen of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, The University of Tennessee and Biosciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, visited Oceanlab on 22nd August to give a seminar entitled 'A Systems Biology Approach to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill'.

Terry  published a paper 'Deep-Sea Oil Plume Enriches Indigenous Oil-Degrading Bacteria' Terry C. Hazen et al.Science 330, 204 (2010);DOI: 10.1126/science.1195979 in Science describing his initial work at Deepwater Horizon.

Raimundo Blanco, Research Assistant for ECOMAR

A leaving tea party was held for Raimundo on 22nd August. Raimundo has excellent taxonomy skills and has worked at Oceanlab for a year assisting Dr Mark Shields identifying and categorising the deep sea invertebrates within ECOMAR, a UK project aimed at understanding how physical and biogeochemical factors influence the distributions and structure of deep-sea communities, focusing on the fauna of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Raimundo's presentation

Latest Publications from the Hadal Projects.

There have been three new publications recently arrising from the Hadal projects. 

The first is a paper in Marine Ecology Progress Series describing the behaviour of deep-sea (inc. hadal)  buccind gastropods at natural and simulated food falls, in a collaboration with Spanish and Japanese researchers. 

The second was publisehd in the Journal of Experimental Biology and documents the locomotion and behavour of a hadal isopod, Rectisura cf. herculea, from the Japan Trench (6945-7703m).

The third paper, in collaboration with Prof. Paul Yancey at the Whitman Collage, USA, was published in Biological Bulletin and explores, or rather dispells the myth of, the ‘Trieste flatfish’ story, reportedly seen in 1960 during the first manned mission to the deepest place on Earth; the Mariana Trench.  This paper was both the Editors Pick and inspired the front cover featuring mythical sea creatures.  See;

The three citations are:
Aguzzi, J., Jamieson, A.J., Fujii, T., Sbragaglia, V., Costa, C., Menesatti, P., Fujiwara, Y. (2012) Shifting feeding behaviour of deep-sea buccinid gastropods at natural and simulated food falls. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 458, 247-253

Jamieson, A.J., Fujii, T., Priede, I.G. (2012) Locomotory activity and feeding strategy of the hadal munnopsid isopod Rectisura cf. herculea (Crustacea: Asellota) in the Japan Trench. J. Exp. Bio. 215: 3010-3017

Jamieson, A.J., Yancey, P.H. (2012) On the validity of the Trieste flatfish; dispelling the myth.  Biol. Bull. 222, 171-175

New Hadal Project for 2013-2015

Dr. Alan Jamieson and Prof. Stuart Piertney from the University of Aberdeen with collaborators from NIWA, New Zealand and the Museum of Natural History in Paris, France, have been awarded a new 2-year project by the TOTAL Foundation in France. 

The Project entitled ‘Trench Connection’ will expand their current sampling campaigns in the Kermadec Trench (SW Pacific Ocean) to encompass the abyssal communties of the South Fiji Basin and the hadal communities of the New Hebrides Trench (west of New Caledonia).  The project will utilise the New Zealand Research Vessel ‘Kaharoa’ to deploy the abyssal- and hadal-landers across the South Fiji Basin in leg 1, and down the slopes of the New Hebrides Trench to it’s maximum depth  (7200m) on leg 2.
The team are investigating the concept of trench endemism in the contexts of intra- and inter-trench endemsism versus provincial ultra-deep endemism and the influence of abyssal partitioning.
The project is due to start in April 2013 with the expedition scheduled for the austral spring 2013.

New Hadal-Lander and New PhD student under construction

Work has recently begun on the construction of Oceanlab’s new Hadal-Lander. Although currently without an official name, the new lander is expected to be ready for testing by September before being shipped to New Zealand.

The lander comprises a light-weight, compact aluminium frame with 17” glass sphere buoyancy.  The scientific payload comprises a bespoke high-resolution wide-angle video camera, water sampler, pressure/temperature sensors, an acoustic current meter and baited invert traps. All components are related to 11,000 metres operational depth.  Construction of the new Hadal lander is supported by the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology, Scotland (MASTS). Furthermore, the lander formally known as ‘BRIL’, is being refurbished for use in the abyssal stations alongside the Hadal-Lander in the three Hadal Trench campaigns scheduled for 2013.

In addition to the new technology and expeditions scheduled for next year, a new PhD student, in the form of Mr. Thom Linley, has been appointed. Thom’s PhD, currently entitled ‘Novel technology for biological research at hadal depths’, is supervised by Dr. Alan Jamieson of Oceanlab and Prof. John Watson from the Engineering Department. Thom’s PhD is also supported by MASTS.

Tea Party to inaugurate seat of Owen McPherson

We remembered our colleague Owen on 16th August at a tea party to which his family and past and present work colleagues were invited. Fundraising had taken place for a seat with the inscription 'In Memory of our friend and colleague Owen McPherson 1949-2010'. Two of our members of staff, Evina and Jess joined us with their 'new arrivals'.

Guests' chatting

New arrivals

Owen's family with Oceanlab Director

Owen's family on seat

Hot Paper from Alain Zuur

Dr Alain Zuur, our  Honorary Research Fellow  in Statistics has been recognised by Thomson Reuters (the IMPACT FACTOR people) as author  of  a New Hot Paper in the field of Environment/Ecology.

Alain F. Zuur,  Elena N. Ieno, & Chris S. Elphick (2010)  A protocol for data exploration to avoid common statistical problems. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 1[1]: 3-14,
201doi: 10.1111/j.2041-210X.2009.00001.x
This is a very useful “must read” paper for everyone concerned with analysis of ecological data and has already received record levels of downloads and citations.  
If you have not  already seen it,  it is highly recommended.

Photo of Alain Zuur

Alexandra Mystikou

Alexandra is an MSc Student in Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology at the University of Aberdeen. Her Master’s project studies the seaweed biodiversity around the Antarctic Convergence in the South Atlantic. It includes microscopic and molecular identification of mostly filamentous macroalgae, cataloguing seaweed herbarium specimens and culturing of live isolates. The project is based at Oceanlab and the Institute of Medical Sciences of the University of Aberdeen (supervisors: Prof. Frithjof C. Küpper and Prof. Pieter van West).

May 2012

Mingulay Reef Complex

'An international team of scientists will depart from Glasgow next week onboard the RRS James Cook, aiming to examine the potential effects of climate change on the ecology of cold-water coral reefs. Using a variety of equipment (including the deep water ROV Holland I) scientists will carry out a series of onboard and in situ experiments focusing on the responses of cold-water corals and associated fauna to different temperature and pH conditions.

The cruise will visit the shallow Mingulay Reef Complex in the Outer Hebrides and the Rockall Bank. In this cruise the University of Aberdeen is represented by Mr Georgios Kazanidis (1st year PhD student at Oceanlab, supervised by Professor Ursula Witte) and Mr John Polanski. Georgios and John will conduct on board and in situ experiments focusing on the feeding and respiration of deep-sea sponges and corals using isotopically labelled substrates. You can follow Georgios and John on the cruise blog here.

April 2012

The 5th International Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals

The 5th International Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals was hosted by the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research (NIOZ) in Amsterdam at the beginning of April. Thomas Linley was there representing Oceanlab and presenting his data from the Biogenic Reef Ichthyofauna Lander (BRIL)'s work on the CoralFISH project.
The conferences brought together the world's specialists on all aspects of cold-water corals. A short video was produced during the conference that combines some really amazing footage of the reefs along with interviews with some of the world's leading experts link.


National Science and Engineering Week

Thomas Linley was at the MacDuff aquarium on the 11th of March as part of National Science and Engineering Week. Thom took along some fish caught from over 3000 m depth and also displayed some videos using an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle). All the samples and videos were from the ECOMAR project focusing on the Mid Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range located in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.

The day was a success and over 250 people visited the aquarium. The most popular of Thom’s fish was the Deep-sea lizardfish (Bathysaurus ferox), who always smiles for photos.

Thom in action

Bathysaurus ferox

HADES in Science, Nature and BBC World

The launch of the new HADES project has already received some media coverage.  This report on HADES in the article ‘Ocean's Deep, Dark Trenches to Get Their Moment in the Spotlight’ by Jane J. Lee, which includes Oceanlab imagery and interviews with Tim Shank (WHOI), Jeff Drazen, (UoH), Paul Yancey (WC) and Oceanlab’s Alan Jamieson Link.

Also, in response to the timely dive to the Mariana Trench by James Cameron, the HADES project have contributed to multiple media outlets such as Nature news, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (‘Way down deep’ by Adrian Burton; Vol 10 [2], p112) and Alan was interviewed by Zeinab Badawi on BBC World News and BBC 4 News. Footage from Oceanlab HADEEP project was also broadcast on Channel 4 news amongst others.

HADES goes live

Oceanlab are now involved in a new international consortium project called HADES (HADal Ecosystem Studies). The NSF funded project includes partners from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (USA), University of Hawaii (USA), Whitman Collage (USA) NIWA (New Zealand) and NOCS (UK). The project aims to pursue the foremost questions in trench and hadal ecosystem science, determining the composition and distribution of hadal species, the role of pressure, food supply, physiology, depth, and seafloor topography on deep-ocean communities and the evolution of trench life. These factors will be examined using the world’s first full-ocean depth hybrid remotely operated vehicle (HROV Nereus) in conjunction with Oceanlab’s full-ocean depth imaging landers and traps.

The project involves Dr. Alan Jamieson and Dr. Dan Mayor from Oceanlab and Dr. Stuart Piertney from the Zoology department.

The project website is now live and hosts a variety of information on trench ecosystems and deep-submergence technology.  It also includes an ‘images and video section’ where the latest results from the Hadal-landers and the HROV Nereus can be viewed. Go to:


February 2012

Climate change study warns against one-off experiments

Climate change research conducted by the University of Aberdeen and Marine Scotland Science highlights the risks of conducting an experiment only once. Scientists examined how different climate change scenarios affected one of the most important organisms in our ocean - tiny marine crustaceans called copepods, which are the preferred prey of cod and herring larvae. Understanding how copepods are affected by climate change is fundamental to better understanding and managing fish stocks. Researchers widely agree that mankind’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are causing the planet to warm up and are also responsible for ocean acidification - when CO2 dissolves in seawater it produces a weak acid.
A team led by Dr Daniel Mayor, an Independent Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab, investigated how future global warming and ocean acidification scenarios affected the health of copepod eggs. Unlike many other climate-change studies, they repeated their experiment at a later date and found different results.

Dr Mayor said: “Both of our experiments indicated that the health of copepod eggs remains unaffected when they are exposed to ocean acidification levels predicted for the end of the 21st century. This is great news. However our previous research has demonstrated that more severe acidification, potentially arising if a subsea carbon capture reservoir burst open, causes a major decline in the number of copepod eggs that successfully hatch. Our most recent study found that the effect of global warming depends on when the eggs were collected. In our first experiment we found no clear effect of temperature on how many hatchlings were produced by the eggs. But in the second experiment, conducted a week later, increasing the seawater temperature actually increased the number of healthy hatchlings.”


Researchers believe this effect relates to the temperature at which the maternal copepods were acclimated - animals from warmer waters produce eggs that are less stressed by warm water and vice versa.

Dr Mayor added: “Our results highlight a potentially positive effect of global warming - it may increase the number of healthy copepods in our seas, which is good news for the larvae of fish such as cod and herring, and ultimately fishermen. The varying effects of global warming complicate our ability to predict how different populations of organisms will respond to climate change. They also demonstrate the danger of making assumptions based on one-off studies.”

The team’s findings are published in the scientific periodical Journal of Plankton Research.

'Supergiant' amphipods discovered 7 km deep

An expedition to one of the deepest places in the ocean has discovered one of the most enigmatic creatures in the deep sea - the ‘supergiant’ amphipod. Amphipods are a type of crustacean which are particularly common in the deep sea and are found in greater numbers the deeper you explore.  Typically deep sea amphipods are 2 to 3 centimetres long with the exception of the slightly larger ‘giant’ amphipod found in Antarctica which grows to 10cm. But scientists have discovered a ‘supergiant’ amphipod in waters north of New Zealand which dwarfs the Antarctic ‘giant’. The newly captured specimen measures 28 cm – nearly ten times that of ‘normal’ amphipods. A ‘supergiant’ estimated at 34cm was also caught on film.

Photo of the supergiant amphipod.

Photo copyright of Oceanlab, University of Aberdeen, UK

The discovery was made during a joint UK and New Zealand expedition to the Kermadec Trench, north of New Zealand, led by scientists from the University of Aberdeen and National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA). Also aboard NIWA’s research vessel Kaharoa were researchers from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Whitman College, in America. Using specially designed ultra-deep submergence technology designed by the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab, the team deployed a camera system and a large trap to depths ranging from 6900 to 9900 metres. At depths of approximately 7000 metres, the team were hoping to recover specimens of deep sea snailfish which they have photographed before, but have not been captured since the early 1950s.

Voyage leader, Dr Alan Jamieson from the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab, said: “The moment the traps came on deck we were elated at the sight of the snailfish as we have been after these fish for years. However, seconds later, I stopped and thought ‘what on earth is that?’ whilst catching a glimpse of an amphipod far bigger than I ever thought possible. It’s a bit like finding a foot long cockroach.” ‘Supergiant’ is a term coined by American scientists in the early 1980s after a few large specimens were caught off the Hawaiian Islands.   

Alan Jamieson with one of the supergian amphipods.

Photo copyright of Oceanlab, University of Aberdeen, UK

Despite a few infrequent findings in the 1970s, the supergiant amphipod has not been reported since and has faded into the realms of rare and mysterious deep sea creatures, until now. These new sightings and specimens captured represent both the biggest whole specimen of supergiant ever caught and the deepest point these have ever been found.      Seven specimens were caught in the trap and up to nine we photographed aggregating at the camera system.  The largest specimen was 28cm long whilst the largest seen by the camera was estimated at 34cm long.

Dr Ashley Rowden, from NIWA in Wellington, said: “It just goes to show that the more you look, the more you find. For such a large and conspicuous animal to go unnoticed for so long is just testament to how little we know about life in New Zealand’s most deep and unique habitat.”

Dr. Jamieson added: “The surprising thing is that we have already been to this deep trench twice and never come across these animals before. In fact a few days after the discovery we deployed all the equipment again on the same site and we didn’t photograph or capture a single supergiant; they were there for a day and gone the next.”

Now the challenge for the team is to determine whether these new samples are the same species as those from Hawaii, and then try to establish why, out of the hundreds of species of deep-sea amphipods, these ones have evolved to be so large. The supergiant and the fish specimens are current residing in Wellington New Zealand until later this month when the team’s next expedition ends.  The expedition was predominantly funded by the Fondation Total in France, with additional funding from NIWA and support from the Marne Alliance for Science and Technology, Scotland (MASTS).

return to top or return to Nichola Lacey article

Euorpean Society for Ecological Economics

Oceanlab PhD student Jasper Kenter has secured a place on the board of the European Society for Ecological Economics as student representative. He will be working towards new funding and networking opportunities for early career researchers in ESEE, contribute to summer schools and other postgraduate events, as well as contributing to the general direction of the society.

October 2011

The World Marine Biodiversity Conference 2011

The World Marine Biodiversity Conference 2011 closed on Friday 30 September in a mood of optimism in tackling the challenges scientists are now identifying in the sustainability of our ocean ecosystems. After a week of over a thousand presentations from 930 delegates from 76 countries, provocative keynote addresses from leading experts, and vigorous debate, the final session on Friday concentrated on the way forward, including building on examples of successful marine conservation across the globe.

It was also announced that the next world conference in marine biodiversity will take place in 2014 in Quingdao, China, hosted by the Institute of Oceanology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Quingdao is the most important centre for marine science research in China. Anne-Helene Prieur-Richard, Deputy Director of the international DIVERSITAS programme stressed to delegates the importance of the new tool now being developed to harness and channel scientific information and messages to governmental policymakers. The new Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) will fill a previous gap in being the interface that should strengthen the influence of science on policy making.

Dr Martin Solan, from the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab, who co-organised the conference said: “This has been a brilliant week in bringing so much expertise to Scotland from across the world. While there have been many differing viewpoints put forward, the common themes which have emerged are the need to all pull together, for different disciplines and specialisms to work together, and for us to make sure that the knowledge we are now able to gather about our marine environment is able to influence the decisions of those creating policies which will impact on it.”

Professor David M Paterson, from the University of St Andrews, who also organised the event, added: “We have heard many examples this week of great research, well presented argument, and many coherent strategies for the future. We feel very positive that we are in an excellent position to build on the examples we have heard about this week, and move forward together for the sake of our seas and those who will inherit them. We are looking forward to meeting again in China in three years time and discussing progress.”

The World Conference on Marine Biodiversitywas brought to Scotland by the Universities of Aberdeen and St Andrews, and took place at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre between September 26 and 30.
The event was supported by ACSEF (Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future), and by Energetica, the public-private project to create an ‘energy corridor’ between Aberdeen and Peterhead. Shell sponsored the conference exhibition.

International Conference on the Environmental Interactions Of Marine Renewable Energy Technologies

Dr Mark Shields is part of the scientific steering group committee for the upcoming international conference 'The Environmental Interactions Of Marine Renewable Energy Technologies'. The conference will be held in Kirkwall, on the Orkney Islands, Scotland from Tuesday May 1, to Thursday May 3 2012, with an additional programme of special interest sessions, field trips and other activities expected to take place from Monday April 30 until Friday May 4. The main objective is to bring together people from different disciplines and cultures to encourage collaboration and develop ideas.

Ocean Acidification and Biodiversity

Dr Jasmin Godbold attended the Port-Cros Symposiom on Ocean Acidification and biodiversity” which was organised by the TOTAL FOUNDATION in partnership with IUCN and Parc national de Port-Cros .  The symposium brought together researchers, stakeholders, socio-economists, and managers to discuss research and legal, economic and management aspects of ocean acidification.

Managing coastal landscapes for the future

Jasper Kenter, PhD researcher at Oceanlab and ACES, is starting a series of workshops with local community councils around the Forth to look at the multiple benefits of restoring habitats in the Forth estuary, north of Edinburgh, such as flood protection, water quality enhancement, fish breeding and bird feeding and nesting habitat, and recreation. The workshops are an extension of work in the past summer with stakeholders from local councils, community groups and businesses.

One of the key motivations for the habitat restoration project is climate change, which will increasingly start to affect our coasts. Scotland is being ‘lifted up’ by the forces of the earth, but sea levels are rising faster than the land, with projected relative rises of up to 60 cm by 2080. Combined with increased rainfall and intensity of storm surges, this urges re-evaluation of the current system of flood management. An alternative to raising existing defences is to allow flooding in areas which have in the past been reclaimed from the sea: managed realignment. The intertidal habitat that is restored gradually becomes a sea defence in itself.

The RSPB is leading a landscape partnership that proposes to combine managed realignment and habitat creation with measures to improve access, aesthetics, interpretation, cultural heritage and skills, in a ‘Futurescape’ project, to encourage both ecological and economic regeneration of the area. The Oceanlab/ACES-led workshops will provide valuable knowledge about economic and non-economic values of ecosystem services and biodiversity, which will aid with implementation of the project. The participatory, deliberative process is also set to enhance theoretical knowledge about how people’s preferences are constructed when they are making choices in environmental valuation research.


Thomas Linley was aboard the Ifremer vessel "Pourquoi Pas?" (Why Not?) from the 9th of September to the 11th of October for the final cruise of the CoralFISH project. Thom was operating the BRIL lander but many other pieces of equipment were used, including the Victor 6000 ROV, making for a very interesting cruise with some beautiful imagery of cold water coral reefs and their inhabitants.

The first leg focused on the Bay of Biscay and the second the Celtic Sea. A blog was written during the cruise; both a light-hearted account and a more scientifically detailed one are available here.

Planet Earth Podcast

On the 4th October Oceanlab was visited by Sue Nelson (Boffin Media) to record a Podcast for the NERC online magazine Planet Earth. Alan Jamieson and Will Hunter were interviewed by Sue, discussing the development of Oceanlab’s landers, benthic incubation chambers and how they are used to investigate deep-sea ecosystem processes. The Planet Earth podcast is currently available online here.

Valuing Nature Network research project

Oceanlab PhD student Jasper Kenter has secured funding for a one-year research project funded through the Valuing Nature Network, sponsored by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Jasper will be co-investigator and administrator for the project titled Bridge: bridging the gap between supply and demand for valuation evidence. Bridge will investigate two questions around the science-policy interface: How should valuation be improved if valuation evidence is to be more effectively integrated into decision-making; and what are the obstacles that limit uptake of valuation evidence by decision-makers and what research is needed to address these? The project will focus on developing a future research agenda in this area. It will revolve around a series of expert workshops involving a large number of researchers and decision-makers from across the UK, which will further establish the Valuing Nature Network, which has just had its first birthday.


August 2011

Distinguished medal for Oceanlab scientist

Professor Monty Priede, Director of the University’s Oceanlab, has been presented with the Beverton Medal by the Fisheries Society of the British Isles. The accolade is given annually to a scientist who has contributed significantly to fisheries biology. The society describes Professor Priede as “world-leading” and “highly gifted and innovative” whose research has always been “cutting edge”.

Prof Imants Priede Beverton Medal

The Oceanlab Director has been involved in a number of marine ‘firsts’ including:

  • Pioneering the use of technology to monitor the heartbeats of salmon and trout in the wild in the 1970s

  • Being the first in the world to tag and track a basking shark by satellite off the west coast of Scotland in the 80s

  • Developing new methods of estimating mackerel stocks in the North Sea and surveys of deep sea fish in the North Atlantic

  • Heading up the expansion of Oceanlab which leads the world in creating remotely operated landers which are increasing our understanding of life at the bottom of our oceans

  • Being involved in research cruises which have discovered new species and filming for the first time marine creatures at the oceans’ depths

The son of Latvian refugees, Professor Priede grew up by the sea in Southampton. Suffering from a common condition may also have helped fuel his enthusiasm for the marine environment. “As a teenager I enjoyed sailing and going out on boats. I  suffered from hay fever and getting away from land and out on the water in the summer made me feel much better,” he said. “I still find setting out on a voyage, not knowing what we might discover, immensely exciting.  However before satellite phones and internet on board ship this could mean being out of personal contact in mid-ocean for up to six weeks every summer.  I very much appreciate the sacrifices my daughters and family made supporting my lust for adventure.” 

Professor Priede, who joined the University of Aberdeen in 1975, is delighted to receive the Beverton Medal which is named after the late outstanding fish biologist Professor Ray Beverton. Professor Priede said: “It’s a great honour to be recognised in this way by the Fisheries Society of the British Isles which is an organisation I first joined as a student and have remained with throughout my career.”

July 2011

Oceanlab student wins prestigious awards for rainforest research

Oceanlab PhD student Jasper Kenter has recently won two prestigious European awards for his research in the Solomon Islands, a remote island chain in the South Pacific Ocean. The prizes include the first ‘European spotlight on student research award’ by the Society for Conservation Biology, and the European Society for Ecological Economics prize for best student paper. Jasper’s paper on valuing Solomon Islands rainforests was also recently published in the scientific journal Global Environmental Change, one of the top journals in environmental studies.

Jasper said “I received the economics prize during a conference, and I had not been told in advance, so it really took me by surprise. I am happy to have received the awards because they give my research a lot of extra exposure. It helps in getting the message across that we really need to understand how valuable nature is, and that we simply can’t afford to go on degrading it.”

Jasper is jointly based at Oceanlab and at the Aberdeen Centre for Environmental Sustainability (ACES). His ongoing research looks at why nature is important to people, and the economic benefits that nature brings, such as clean water, healthy soil, food and building materials. His particular focus is on developing novel methods for establishing these economic benefits through involvement of local people.

“Jasper’s research is highly innovative,” says Professor Martin Dieterich from the German University of Hohenheim, European president of the Society for Conservation Biology. “It has potentially remarkable implications for nature conservation and human development in the Solomon Islands.

"Rainforests in the Solomon Islands have one of the highest numbers of rare and unique plants and animals in the world, but they are threatened by logging, mining and an increase in the growth of cash crops such as cocoa and oil palms,” explains Jasper. "Local people have a sophisticated knowledge of their environment but at the same time they are challenged by the many changes happening. To manage forests sustainably we need research and development projects that involve and engage local people and respect traditional culture."

"It is quite rare for economic studies to take an interest in local culture and an approach that really recognises that local people have the capacity to address sustainability issues," says Dr Mark Reed, acting director of and Jasper's supervisor at ACES. "The type of approach that Jasper is developing is crucial, because it can really make the huge benefits of conservation clear to both locals, and outsiders. That really improves the chances of long-term survival of forests."

Dr Martin Solan, Jasper's supervisor at Oceanlab, says that many of the insights of Jasper's research are not only valid for tropical islands. "They have a much broader use. These techniques are also helping us understand how people in Scotland can adapt to the consequences of environmental change, such as rising sea levels and more extreme weather. The fact that Jasper has received recognition from both an economic and a biological conservation society reflects the importance and long term benefit of this kind of work."

Fish farm location determines environmental impacts

The environmental efficiency of Scottish fish farms could potentially be increased by carefully selecting their locations, according to a University of Aberdeen study. Researchers say decision makers who approve the location and size of fish farms would benefit from a better understanding of how current speed relates to seabed sediment-type and the communities of organisms living there: Interactions between these variables appear to have a role in determining how a fish farm impacts on the natural environment. Decision makers use a mathematical model to help determine the optimum size of a fish farm for any proposed location; the Scottish Government has recently issued a call for research to look at the effectiveness of this process.

Uneaten fish food and fish faeces from fish farms impact on the seabed by enriching this environment with organic matter. In turn, this affects the communities of marine organisms that live and feed there. Lead researcher Dr Daniel Mayor, from the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab, said: “The physical properties of the seabed, and also the communities of organisms that are found there, play a role in determining how a fish farm impacts on the natural environment. Coarse sediments that are found in areas of high current speed may physically trap waste such as uneaten fish food and fish faeces. This results in waste accumulating in these areas, counteracting the beneficial effects of waste dispersal by faster moving waters. The organisms that live in higher flow regimes tend to be filter feeders which are susceptible to smothering by the sinking particulate wastes. Better understanding of how current speeds influence sediment properties and the biological communities that live on and in the seabed has the potential to allow us to optimise the location of future fish farms. Our findings will be of interest to managers and decision makers who decide where fish farms should be located.”

The study - which appears in the science journal Environmental Research (doi:10.1016/j.envres.2011.03.013) - builds on earlier work by the team into the environmental effects of fish farming in Scotland (doi: 10.1021/es903073h).  Their previous study showed that bigger fish farms may not have a bigger environmental impact on the seabed than smaller fish farms. Dr Martin Solan, co-author of both studies and also based at Oceanlab, said: “Our earlier work involved a desktop study using data from over 50 farms around Scotland to understand the relationship between farm size and environmental impact. We followed this up in the field and confirmed our previous conclusions - when it comes to the environmental impact of fish farming, it is not only farm size that matters. Other factors, such as local conditions and farm practices, need to be considered."

The production of Atlantic salmon in Scotland generates in excess of £400 million annually and provides hundreds of jobs in rural areas. Salmon farming in Scotland is licensed and regulated by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Their research was funded by the Scottish Aquaculture Research Forum, a registered charity and an independent company whose main aim is to support research into aquaculture and related areas.

Oceanlab scientists participate on cruise to the Darwin Mounds

Evina Gontikaki and Niels Jobstvogt recently participated on the 60th research cruise of the RRS James Cook. They spent five weeks in North East Atlantic in rough seas and wind speeds upto force ten and successfully collected samples from the Darwin Mounds and Rockall Bank in the Northern Rockall Trough (NW of Scotland). The first part of their project was a laboratory based experiment using deep-sea sediment collected upto 1,000 m below the water surface. The experiment will provide important insight into carbon-recycling processes in the North East Atlantic. The second part of the project was focusing on the impact of bottom-trawling on continental slope organisms and compared two study sites located in- and outside of a marine protected area.

More details and photos can be found on the cruise blog.

Are omega-3 fatty acids really essential?

Work recently published in the journal Functional Ecology by Dr. Daniel Mayor (doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2010.01791.x) has highlighted how little we understand about the physiology of one of the most abundant animals on our planet – the humble copepod.

Copepods are tiny water flea-like crustaceans, a relative of crabs and lobsters, that inhabit all of the world’s oceans. They serve as an essential interface between the microscopic primary producers and juvenile fish such as cod, and are therefore essential for healthy fish stocks. Until now we have assumed that omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the wellbeing of these animals, just as they are for humans. However, unlike us, copepods can face prolonged periods of food deprivation – and the new research demonstrates that during such events they quickly break down omega-3 fatty acids to generate energy.

Dr Mayor explained: “Previous attempts to understand the nutrition of copepods have been founded on the assumption that they use omega-3’s sparingly because they don’t have the necessary enzymes to produce them for simpler building blocks. Our work challenges this assumption and brings into question our current understanding of their nutritional demands. We need to understand copepod nutrition if we are to be able to predict how their populations will respond to a changing diet as the planet warms and the oceans become more acidic. In turn, this information will be essential to understanding how the size of fish stocks could vary in the future”

May 2011

Oceanlab Staff receive Blue Peter badges.

On the 13th of May, Oceanlab was visited by the popular children’s program ‘Blue Peter’.  Alan Jamieson and Thom Linley spent the afternoon with the presenter Andy helping him out on a forthcoming challenge, the details of which will be announced later this summer.  In exchange for our help on Blue Peter, Alan and Thom were over the moon to be presented with Blue Peter badges.

Alan and Thom standing proud with their newly awarded Blue Peter badges, presented to us by Andy from Blue Peter.

Ocean biodiversity and its importance

Martin Solan was recently interviewed by, discussing the importance on ocean biodiversity and the role it plays in our environment.

National Science and Engineering Week

Mark Shields, Thomas Linley, Jessica Craig and Deborah Crockard were involved in the Discovery Day at the Maritime Museum in Aberdeen. Almost 400 people visited the Maritime Museum on the 19th of March and were welcomed by a fantastic range of events and exhibitions aimed at all the family. Oceanlab staff gave an insight into life in the deep and highlighted some of the technology used to study our deep oceans. The event was a great success and provided an excellent opportunity for Discovery Day visitors to interact with scientists and learn more about our current understanding of our deep oceans.

Oceanlab at the Edinburgh International Science Festival

Oceanlab participated in this year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival (click here for details).  On  April 15th, Dr Alan Jamieson introduced the UK premiere of the film ‘Oceans’ at the Edinburgh Filmhouse on Lothian Road.  Oceans is a French-made nature documentary directed and produced by Jacques Perrin for Disney Nature. It was released in the United States in 2009 and cost 50 million Euros to make over 4 years and featured 50 different locations. It was the third highest-grossing opening for a documentary film grossing $2,466,530 from 1,206 theaters on the opening day. The long overdue UK premiere was well received at the Filmhouse.

On the following Monday (18th), Dr. Alan Jamieson presented a public lecture entitled Beyond the Abyss: Life in the Deepest Places on earth at the University of Edinburgh’s Informatics Forum.

Strange new creatures to science?

School pupils from Aberdeenshire attending the Royal Society of Edinburgh masterclass ‘Creatures that glow in the dark’ have designed their own deep-sea animals, including the curious Purple squidjum  and the Flying hairy hedgehog. The masterclass was lead by Prof. Monty Priede and NERC student Jessica Craig.

If you would like any information on marine themed ideas for working with school kids or other children’s group that you may be involved in, please visit the ECOMAR Public Outreach and Education web pages where you will find lots of ideas and lesson plans.

Association for Science Education visit Oceanlab

On the 24th February Oceanlab hosted a visit from the Association for Science Education. The event was attended by both primary and secondary school teachers with the aim of helping teachers develop teaching resources for incorporating marine science into the school curriculum. The event was lead by Mark Shields and Thomas Linley.

Deep-Sea Oxygen Minimum Zones – Recently Published Paper.

Hunter, W.R.; Oguri, K.; Kitazato, H.; Ansari, Z.A.; Witte, U. (2011). Epi-benthic megafaunal zonation across an oxygen minimum zone at the Indian continental margin. Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. 58 (6): 699-710. doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2011.04.004.

In collaboration with researchers in Japan and India, PhD student Will Hunter and Prof. Ursula Witte publish the first description of megafauna assemblages where the Indian continental margin is affected by the Arabian Sea oxygen minimum zone. Their findings show both the availability of oxygen and organic matter (food) influenced community structure at the sea floor and report observations of fish residing in an area where oxygen levels fall as low as 0.01 µl.l-1.

Oceanlab at EGU General Assemby 2011.

In April, Prof Ursula Witte and PhD student Will Hunter attended  the European Geosciences General Assembly in Vienna to  present work on biogeochemical cycling in low-oxygen environments. Will Hunter’s attendance at the conference was supported by an Adrian Gill Travel Award.

Hunter, W.R.; Veuger, B.; Witte, U. (2011). Patterns of microbial nitrogen incorporation and retention in oxygen minimum zone sediments: An in situ 13C:15N labelling approach.

Witte, U.; Hunter, W.; Levin, L.; Moeseneder, M. (2011). Processing of phytodetrital Carbon by benthic communities across the Indian margin oxygen minimum zone investigated via in situ isotope labelling experiments

Oceanlab at HERMIONE Annual Meeting 2011

A poster by PhD student Will Hunter was awarded the prize for Best Student Poster at the meeting.

Hunter, W.R.; Jamieson, A.; Witte, U. Benthic community response to sedimentation of marine and terrestrial carbon sources in the Whittard Canyon (NE Atlantic): An in situ 13C:15N labelling study.


March 2011

New technical director for Oceanlab

Oceanlab — the University of Aberdeen’s internationally renowned deep sea research facility — has a new technical director.

Dr Stewart Chalmers has been appointed to the role and will head an innovative team of engineers which has been responsible for a string of successes in deep sea research, such as filming the world’s deepest fishes in the Pacific Ocean and recording bioluminescence at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.

Previously Oceanlab’s design engineer, Dr Chalmers’ work will be split between the Oceanlab Business Unit supporting clients from the subsea industry in pressure certification, vibration and environmental testing, and supporting the blue skies research undertaken by staff and students at the Newburgh facility. 

Dr Chalmers, whobegan his career as an electronics design engineer for an American multi-national corporation and was also a lecturer at Robert Gordon University’s School of Electrical Engineering, said: “I am very much looking forward to my new post and hope to build upon past successes, by continuing to develop innovative instrumentation to advance the deep sea research carried out at Oceanlab”  
Professor Monty Priede, Director of Oceanlab, added:  ”We are delighted with this appointment, Stewart has been working with us for a couple of years and he is a very talented engineer.”

Dr Stewart Chalmers

New shrimp named after Oceanlab scientist

It’s white, around 6cm long and has so far only been seen scuttling across the soft sediment floor  five to six miles below the world’s deepest ocean. It’s a new species of shrimp and it’s been named Princaxelia jamiesoni after the University of Aberdeen scientist who discovered it in trenches at the bottom of the North West Pacific Ocean. And it’s almost four decades since the last ’new’ member of this shrimp family was discovered.

Photo of the male and female Primcaxelia jamiesoni.
Photo courtesy of National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research (New Zealand)

Close-up photo of a male Primcaxelia jamiesoni.
Photo courtesy of National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research (New Zealand)

Dr Alan Jamieson from the University’s Oceanlab was on a ‘HADEEP’ research cruise when the shrimp - or amphipods - were filmed and caught in the Japan Trench in 2008 at 7703m deep and then again in 2009 at the nearby Izu-Bonin Trench at depths of 9316m. The Research Fellow is Research Manager of the HADEEP Project – a collaboration involving the Universities of Aberdeen and Tokyo which is investigating life in the deepest parts of the ocean.   Dr Jamieson said: “We caught lots of the usual animals on both research cruises however in amongst our haul were these long white creatures which no-one knew anything about. “The samples eventually came back to Aberdeen and those unknown species sat under my desk for over two years until our next HADEEP trip took us to New Zealand where I met amphipod taxonomist Dr Anne-Nina Loerz. “I told her about these long white spiky things that we had filmed and caught and was delighted when she said she was an expert in such creatures.”

Dr Jamieson sent the samples to Dr Loerz who then established that they were a new species. The taxonomist then named them after Dr Jamieson saying his “dedication to trench research is greatly advancing the scientific knowledge about deep sea biology.” The genus Princaxelia was named after Prince Axel of Denmark (1888-1964) in 1959 after the great Danish Galathea expeditions recovered the first specimens of this kind of shrimp.  The last species to be found was in 1977. This new species, the jamiesoni, is only the fourth species of Princaxelia to be discovered.

Dr Jamieson added: “It is an extraordinary creature with a long elongated body thought to facilitate swimming over great distances. Yet it is extremely manoeuvrable at short ranges, capable of fast predatory attacks. “It is another example of the extraordinary creatures that inhabit the most extreme depths of the oceans and to have this one named after me is a great honour, both for me and my family.”

Dr Jamieson and his HADEEP colleagues head off to Japan again tomorrow where, among other things, they hope to observe and collect further specimens of Princaxelia jamiesoni.
Meanwhile Dr Leorz’s description of the new shrimp has just been published in the journal Zoologica Baetica and the specimens themselves are currently residing in the National Science Museum of Tokyo.

Deepest point in European waters sampled

On the 30th of January Thomas Linley successfully deployed Oceanlab's BRIL lander to the deepest point in European waters. The basin, some 5,200m deep, is 65km South West of the Greek town of Pilos in the Mediterranean sea.

Location of deepest point

Although the Mediterranean is known for being nutrient poor there was still life at this depth. The Mediterranean grenadier (Coryphaenoides mediterraneus) and deep-water shrimp (Acanthephyra eximia)were still found at the very bottom.

This may be the first photos taken of this area and confirms that fish persist right to the deepest places in Europe. More information can be found here.

Image of European waters deepest point


February 2011

New Arrival at Oceanlab

Niels Jobstvogt

Niels Jobstvogt joined the Oceanlab team in January 2011. He is conducting an interdisciplinary MASTS funded PhD project, which is seeking for the socio-economic value of the deep-sea ecosystem and its biodiversity under the supervision of Prof. Ursula Witte. In the last decades the exploitation of deep ocean resources has been steadily increasing due to technological advances and decreasing resources on the continental shelves, resulting in a rising anthropogenic impact. Therefore, this project aims to set a “price tag” to the deep-sea environment, to draw public awareness to this mainly common good and to highlight its value for human well-being. In the process deep-sea ecosystem services will be identified, classified and quantified to estimate their Total Economic Value. This rather new approach of applying environmental economics to marine ecosystems is thought to help politicians and managers to base their decisions on solid ground.
Niels wrote his Diplom thesis about the sustainability of the artisanal fishery in the marine protected area of the Galapagos Islands and finished his university degree at the Free University of Berlin.

Niels on the Galapagos Islands

HADEEP team returns from another trench campaign

The HADEEP team has returned home after their seventh trench sampling campaign.  This time the project was in the Peru-Chile trench were they managed to collect 6500 images and hundreds of specimens of deep-sea fauna living between depths of 4500 and 8000m.  On the German Research vessel ‘Sonne’ the team completed 6 deployments along the trench axis off the coast of South America.  Amongst these findings, the most notable were the highly unexpectedly large aggregation of the cusk-eel Leucicorus atlanticus at6173m, what appears to be a new species of Liparid (snailfish) at 7000m, the collection of the extremely rare soft-shelled gastropod Tacita zenkevitchi, the first ever in situ observations of the holothurian Elpidia atakama, various species of ophiuroidae, and hundreds of amphipods from as deep as 8074 m.
On this trip the HADEEP comprised Alan Jamieson from Oceanlab, Niamh Kilgallen from NIWA (New Zealand) and Kota Kitazawa from AORI, (Japan)

For more information check out:
BBC News: Deep void yields new fish species, Oct 2010 (Click here),
Planet Earth On Line website: Ocean trench cruise finds brand new fish. Oct. 2010 (Click here),
National Geographic New deep-sea pictures: Snailfish, eels found in trench, Oct 2010 (Click here)

A collection of some of the interesting species observed between 4500 and 8000m in the Peru-Chile Trench.

'Mudclub' News

Martin Solan has accepted a new role as a member of the Census of Marine Life Scientific Advisory Commitee. He will contribute to tasks assocated with guiding and supporting the development and implementation of a follow-up programme to the first Census of Marine Life.

Martin Solan has become a member of the ICES Marine Biodiversity working group, tasked with identifying the biodiversity reporting and advisory needs of countries, regions and commissions and the development of mechanisms and protocols to support national, regional and pan-regional needs for reporting biodiversity. Martin will attend the first meeting of this group in Copenhagen in February.

Martin Solan has recently contributed to the NERC Marine Ecosystems working group discussions aimed with developing the next generation biodiversity research programmes.

Jasmin Godbold and co-authors receive media interest (press and radio) following the publication of "Habitat structure mediates biodiversity effects on ecosystem properties" in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B. The findings demonstrated the importance of habitat structure for the behaviour of marine organisms and their impacts on ecosystems.

Will Gilbertson attended the Microbial Molecular Ecology Group meeting at Warwick University in December. At this annual event, early career researchers present latest research in microbial ecology and provide opportunities for discussion and networking.

Martin Solan becomes a member of the editoral board for the new high profile journal, Nature Scientific Reports.

Martin Solan was interviewed by the Press and Journal about the upcoming World Conference of Marine Biodiversity being hosted in Aberdeen later this year. Link to the article can be found here.

HADEEP events and the ‘Trench Connection’

The five year project HADEEP comes to an end in just 4 months time.  To mark the end of the project we, in collaboration with the University Tokyo held the first hadal symposium entitled ‘Trench Connection’ in Tokyo on the 10th to 13th of November 2010.  The symposium provided a fascinating and enjoyable venue where trench fans from around the world met to discuss all things really really deep.  The symposium ended with a public exhibition at the Nippon Foundation building where the public and particularly children could spend the day examining deep-sea creatures, enjoying some of our videos and trying some sushi made from deep-sea fish.

 Between now and the end of HADEEP there are a series of events happening to mark the end of this successful project.  There are three presentation events happening in the coming months:

1 - British Science Association: Public Lecture on Tuesday 8 February. “Creatures from beyond the abyss” by Alan Jamieson: Kydd Building, University of Abertay, Dundee, 7pm, entry free

2 - Newcastle University seminar series on Friday 11th February “Beyond the Abyss: life in the deepest places on earth” by Alan Jamieson, staff and students only.

3 – Edinburgh International Science Festival on Monday 18th of April. “Beyond the Abyss: life in the deepest places on earth” by Alan Jamieson: Informatics forum, 10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh, 6pm, £8/£6.

We also have one more cruise:  Toyonobu Fujii and Alan Jamieson, joined by Niamh Kilgallen from New Zealand and our colleagues from AORI in Tokyo will embark on a one week voyage to the hadal depths of the Japan Trench on the RV Tansei-Maru.  There they aim to deploy their lander and a brand new fish trap to target the snailfish Pseudoliparis amblystomopsis in the hope to discover more about its biology and ecology.

Also, the latest HADEEP paper is now out, check out: Jamieson, A.J., Kilgallen, N.M., Rowden, A.A., Fujii, T., Horton, T., Lörz, A-N., Kitazawa, K., Priede, I.G. (2011) Bait-attending fauna of the Kermadec Trench, SW Pacific Ocean: evidence for an ecotone across the abyssal-hadal transition zone. Deep-Sea Research I 58, 49-62

Oceanlab staff feature in BBC Scotland documentary

Dan Mayor and Martin Solan have recorded an interview with BBC Scotland for a documentary investigating the environmental impacts of aquaculture. The 30 minute programme was broadcast on Sunday 30th January.

New Hadal project funded by Total Foundation

Following on the from the HADEEP project, a new 2 –year project has been awarded to Alan Jamieson, Stuart Piertney and Peter Fraser entitled, “Multi-disciplinary investigations of the deepest scavengers on earth( 7000-10,000m deep)” funded by the Total Foundation in France and supported by NIWA in New Zealand.  This 240,000 euro project will see two trench sampling campaigns on board NIWA’s RV Kahaora to the Kermadec Trench (SW Pacific Ocean) and the construction of 6 bespoke 11km-rated free-fall baited traps.  The project is focused on the hadal amphipod Hirondellea dubia and the scientific objectives are to 1) investigate spatio-temporal variation in population abundance, ontogenetic structure and environmental variables, 2) indentify the physiological basis of pressure detection, 3) determine phylogenetic and phylogeographic structure of amphipod communities and comparative genomics and 4) to detect potential signatures of anthropogenic contamination in hadal communities.

UK Ocean Acification Consortium

Jasmin Godbold and Martin Solan attended the UK Ocean Acidification Consortium meeting in Cambridge (January 3-5th) to present the first findings from long term experiments investigating the effects of ocean acidification on benthic invertebrates. Download poster from here.




Long term experiments investigating the effects of ocean acidification on benthic invertebrates.

Marine Renewable Energy

Mark Shields attended the NERC/Defra Marine Renewable Energy Sandpit aimed at addressing some of the major environmental concerns associated with the developing marine renewable industry in the UK.

Check out the most recent marine renewable energy related publication: Shields, Woolf, Grist, Kerr, Jackson, Harris, Bell, Beharie, Want, Osalusi, Gibb and Side (2011) Marine Renewable Energy: The ecological implications of altering the hydrodynamics of the marine environment. Ocean and Coastal Management 54: 2-9  doi:10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2010.10.036 

Society for Underwater Technology Lecture

Deborah Crockard gave a Christmas lecture on exploring the deep-sea to school children from the Aberdeen area. The Christmas lecture series was organised by the Society for Underwater Technology and Deborah gave an insight into her own experiences of the HADEEP and ECOMAR projects.


November 2010

New arrivals at Oceanlab

Deborah Crockard

Deborah  joined Oceanlab in October 2010 as a research assistant on the ECOMAR project after having completed her MSC in Applied marine and fisheries ecology through the University of Aberdeen. Deborah’s Masters thesis was a part of the ECOMAR project looking at the ecosystems of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where she  analysed and compared demersal fish trawl data from the Mid-Atlantic ridge and the Porcupine Seabight. Deborah was a participant on the final ECOMAR cruise on board the RRS James Cook, where the ROV ISIS was deployed. Deborah has previously worked with Oceanlab as a research assistant in Tokyo on board the R.V. Hakuho Maru a part of the HADEEP project.   Previous to this she completed her BSc in Marine biology at the University of Aberdeen and volunteered as a coral reef researcher and conservationist in Fiji, through Frontier.

Jasper Kenter

Jasper Kenter has joined Oceanlab to do an interdisciplinary NERC funded PhD on implementation of the ecosystem approach, under the supervision of Dr Martin Solan. This approach has become increasingly important in conceptualising how human wellbeing depends on ecosystem services and biodiversity. There is an urgent need for novel tools that integrate the social and ecological components of the approach, so that it can be implemented in environmental management, conservation and policymaking on the ground. Jasper is planning to undertake participatory work in the Ythan estuary, as well as assess attitudes to coastal ecosystem services on a national scale. Before joining Oceanlab, he attained an honours degree in Countryside Conservation at Aberystwyth University in Wales. As part of his degree he spent several months in the Solomon Islands, where he developed new tools for social valuation of ecosystem services in a subsistence society context.

Begoña Santos

Dr Begoña Santos has temporarily joined Oceanlab as a visiting researcher with a grant from the Galician government to work on modelling sardine populations.

Deborah Crockard

Deborah Crockard

Jasper Kenter

Jasper Kenter


The cruise report for the final ECOMAR cruise onboard the RRS James Cook (JC048) can be found here. The cruise to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge marked the first time that the ROV Isis was deployed during the ECOMAR project.

Dr Mark Shields gave a presentation of the initial findings of the most recent ECOMAR cruise (JC048) at the British Ecological Society's Annual Meeting 2010 at the University of Leeds.

Prof. Monty Priede attended the Census of Marine Life: decade of discovery cellebrations at the Royal Society, London.

MAR-ECO workshop was hosted by Oceanlab (27-29th October 2010) and attended by Prof Monty Priede, Dr Mark Shields, Dr Tomasz Niedzielski, Jessica Craig and Deborah Crockard.

Thomas Linley in the Gulf of Mexico

From September to October 2010 Thomas Linley was out in the Gulf of Mexico collaborating on the initial response to the Deepwater Horizon spill.

The ROBIO (RObust BIOdiversity) lander captured some fantastic images including the Gulf's famous giant isopod; a relation of the woodlouse the size of a small cat! Some of the images and further information can be found on the NOAA blog of the response.

Trench Connection conference in Tokyo

Alan Jamieson, Toyo Fuji, Stuart Piertney, Dan Mayor, Martin Solan and Monty Priede attended the Trench Connection conference in Tokyo,10-13th November 2010. The international symposium was focusing on the deepest environment on earth and was composed of sessions on new technology, hadal biology and ecology and physical environment.

Marine Renewable Energy

Mark Shields organised and chaired a thematic session entitled "Marine Renewable Energy - the ecological implications of altering hydrodynamics" at the British Ecological Society Annual Meeting 2010 hosted by the University of Leeds, September 2010. The session proved to be very successful with all speakers giving an excellent insight into current and future research activities focusing on wave and tidal energy. The thematic session was funded by the British Ecological Society and more information on the session and speakers can be found here.

Mark Shields attended MASTS Future Research Workshop - Marine Renewables hosted by Heriot Watt University, Orkney (20-22 October).

Marine renewables stakeholder workshop report entitled "Wave and Tidal Energy in the Pentland Firth Area - how much environmental monitoring is enough?" has been published and includes Mark Shields on the authorship. The report can be found here.

UK Ocean Acidification Consortiun

In June 2010 Martin Solan and Jasmin Godbold attended the kick-off meeting for the UK Consortium Acidification Meeting at the Scottish Association for Marine Science, Oban.

In October 2010 Jasmin Godbold completed the set-up of the UK Ocea Acidification experiments, which will be running for 18 months.

The first ocean acidifcation experiments were completed in November 2010. Jasmin Godbold hosted colleagues from the UK Ocean Acidification Consortium at Oceanlab to measure physiological responses to acidfications.

World Conference on Marine Biodiversity

Martin Solan was invited to the Census of Marine Life: decade of discovery celebration events at the Royal Society, London to promote the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity.

'Mudclub' news

Martin Solan was an invited speaker at Aquaculture UK, Aviemore, Scotland (May 2010).

Martin Solan was awarded a scholarship to visit Australia by the Australian National Network in Marine Science. Visits took place over 7 weeks and included James Cook University in Queensland, University of Western Australia in Perth, University of Tasmania, Australian Antarctic Division, Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (Townsville and Perth), and CSIRO (July-August 2010).

Jasmin Godbold received an award to visit Australia and give a talk at the UK-Australian Frontiers of Science - Marine Science Meeting which was held in Perth Australia and was organised by The Royal Society and the Australian Academy of Science.  

Martin Solan attended the MASTS Coastal Zone theme workshop in St. Andrews (21-22nd September).

Jasmin Godbold participated in CEFAS research cruise off the west coast of Scotland to perform bioturbation experiments (September 2010).

'Mudclub' publications:

Maire O, Merchant JN, Bulling M, Teal L, Grémare A, Duchêne JC, Solan M (2010) Indirect effects of non-lethal predation on bivalve activity and sediment reworking. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 395, 30-36.

Wilkinson A, Solan M, Taylor AFS, Alexander IJ, Johnson D (2010) Intraspecific diversity regulates fungal productivity and respiration. PLoS ONE 5(9): e12604.

Teal LR, Parker ER, Solan M (2010) Sediment mixed layer as a proxy for measuring benthic ecosystem process and function. Marine Ecology Progress Series 414, 27-40.

MASTS Annual Meeting

Monty Priede, Phil Bagley, Ursula Witte, Martin Solan, Alan Jamieson, Stewart Chalmers, Jasmin Godbold, Evina Gontikaki, John Polanski, Fiona Murray and Will Gilbertson will be attending the MASTS Annual Science meeting to be held in Oban from 29th November till the 1st December, 2010.

CoralFISH Annual Science Meeting

Mark Shields, Thomas Linley and Toyo Fuji will be attending the CoralFISH annual science meeting in Milan between the 29th November and 3rd of December, 2010.


May 2010

May 31, 2010 ECOMAR Blog

On the 26th May 2010 a team from Oceanlab - Prof. Monty Priede, Dr Phil Bagley, Dr Mark Shields, Thom Linley and PhD student Jessica Crag boarded the RRS James Cook in St. John’s, Canada and set sail on Cruise JC048 towards the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Over the next few weeks you can gain an insight into what life at sea is like for a group of marine scientists studying deep-sea organisms found living in and around the Mid-Atlantic Ridge by clicking on the link above and following the Blog page.

Gallery update

More videos are being added to the Gallery page of the Oceanlab Web site. The objective is to gather as many as possible into one area with links where possible to their original location on our website.

It has been a busy year so far at Oceanlab, from the official opening of the new Oceanlab 2 building through to the latest CoralFish Project Cruise.

Upcoming ECOMAR cruise to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

On the 26th May 2010 ECOMAR scientists will set sail on the RRS James Cook from St. John’s in Canada for the Mid-Atlantic Ridge on Cruise JC048. For the first time during the ECOMAR project the ROV ISIS will be deployed carrying a range of video, photographic and sampling systems providing further insight into life of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. In addition, ECOMAR scientists will deploy a variety of sampling equipment including the photographic acoustic lander, ICDeep camera and the amphipod trap. Daily updates, including photographs of deep-sea life, will be provided via the cruise blog and twitter pages. The cruise will end on the 3rd of July when the RRS James Cook docks in Vigo, Spain.





Congratulations to Evina Gontikaki who passed her Viva. Her PhD focused on the role of macrofauna in the short-term carbon degradation (diagenesis) in deep-sea sediments.





Thomas Linley and Sakchai McDonough took part in a CoralFISH cruise off the Southern coast of Italy on the research vessel Universitatis. It was initially thought that Italy may have lost it's cold water corals as a result of its large fishing industry, however reef forming corals (Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata) were recently rediscovered at the Santa Maria De Leuca seamount.

Despite the complete destruction of Thom's luggage on the outgoing journey, changes to the cruise dates and the travel chaos caused by Iceland's volcano, spirits remained high. No doubt helped by the sunny weather and Italian ice-cream. The Biogenic Reef Ichthyofauna Lander (BRIL) worked well and collected data at a reference area between coral mounts and on the mounts themselves over five deployments.

As ever, the wildlife didn't disappoint. Animals soon arrived at the bait and were willing to pose for photos while feeding. The only problem being slowing them down. The Conger eels in particular could take a large amount of bait in a single attack. Most of the 500g of mackerel was gone within the first hour.

This data will feed into the CoralFISH program; comparing fish abundances, size and species composition between coral and none coral habitats. The eventual hope being to produce effective habitat biased protection of these species.
Shark & eel
A standoff as a Kitefin Shark (Dalatias licha) and Conger eel (Conger conger) arrive at the bait at the same time.
A redfish. possibly a Helicolenus dactylopterus dactylopterus, seems more intent on attacking the fabric used to indicate current than the bait. Clearly more interested in movement than the smell of the bait.


Internship for Martin Solan

Martin Solan has accepted an offer from the Australian National Network in Marine Science for an internship as a Marine Science Scholar for 2010. Martin will visit James Cook University, the University of Western Australia, University of Tasmania, CSIRO, and the Australian Antarctic Division through the course of 2010.

Factors Affecting Benthic Impacts at Scottish Fish Farms

A recent publication on the environmental impact of fish farming by Dan Mayor, Martin Solan and others  has received media and online interest, including interviews for national television and international press. The study, published in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Technology, used data from over 50 scottish fish farms to examine how the size of a fish farm related to its environmental impact. They found that larger fish farms do not necessarily have a greater effect than smaller fish farms.

Press release available at: Martin Solan

Publications by Dan Mayor, Martin Solan and others on the impacts of fish farming have been used by the Pew Charitable Trust in a letter to the US Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration regarding the use of drugs in fish farming.

A manuscript entitled "Bacterial biodiversity-ecosystem function relations are modified by environmental complexity" by Mark Bulling, Martin Solan and others has been accepted for PLOS One. The work shows that species diversity and environmental complexity both increase levels of ecosystem funcitoning.

One of Martin Solan's PhD students, Fiona Murray will visit Plymouth Marine Laboratory to collaborate with Steve Widdicombes research group. Fiona is looking at how species perform in present day versus future marine environments and will be running a series of experiments investigating how ocean acidification may affect benthic invertebrate behaviour.

Forvie Shell Midden Project

This month, a team of archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen, led by Gordon Noble, carried out an excavation of one of the ancient shell middens in Forvie National Nature Reserve. The site is situated on the east shore of the Ythan estuary, barely one mile from OceanLab.  Although it has been a recognised feature of Forvie for many years, it has never been properly investigated.  The midden contains thousands of mussel shells that were harvested by early human settlers in the area.  The team found flint tools at the base of the midden and evidence that some of the mussels were steam-cooked using large stones pre-heated in a fire, using a basic technique that is still used by indigenous peoples in some parts of the world.  Accurate age-estimates will not be available for several months.  However, the evidence already obtained indicates that the midden is prehistoric, possibly 6000-7000 years old.

This exciting pilot study will help to develop links and collaborative research between the Schools of Biological Sciences and Geosciences at the University of Aberdeen.  The team is using some of the facilities at OceanLab and Lee Hastie will be conducting a biological analysis of samples of the ancient shells. The growth characteristics of the shells will be analysed and compared with those of living mussels in the estuary. It is also planned to measure stable isotope ratios of the shells, which may give insights into long-term climatic change and anthropological effects in the Forvie area.

The local press also produced a short article on the dig. Click to see a PDF of the Article

Deep sea fish 'eat their greens'

Oceanlab's Thom Linley along with Dr Rachel Jeffreys and colleagues at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and Oceanlab at the University of Aberdeen, in Aberdeenshire, UK, study where deep sea creatures get their nutrition from and how biodiversity in the ocean deep is linked to the abundance of food. Read all about it on the BBC's Earth News page

Oceanlab 2 official opening

Oceanlab 2 was officially opened by Richard Lochhead MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment on Tuesday the 26th January.

Senior Vice Principal, Prof Stephen Logan (Left) and the Oceanlab Director Prof. Monty Priede (Center) welcome Richard Lochead to Oceanlab.
Click on the image to see the whole album

March 2010

New arrival at Oceanlab

Dr Mark Shields

Dr Mark Shields

Mark has joined Oceanlab to work as a research fellow on the ECOMAR deep-sea project ( Mark is a benthic ecologist with particular interests in macrofaunal invertebrates. He arrives from the Environmental Research Institute-UHI in Thurso, where he has spent the last two years working as a post-doctoral research associate on the environmental implications of wave and tidal energy installations within the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters.

He completed his PhD on macrofaunal community structure and bioturbation potential in the deep Nordic Seas at the Scottish Association for Marine Science. His research focused on animal-sediment interactions, macrofaunal species identification and functional ecology along the eastern continental margin of the Norwegian Sea.




January 2010

Oceanlab in the news again

Oceanlab's Dr Alan Jamieson work with the Hadal-Lander which has high-resolution camera equipment encased in a titanium body with sapphire windows, is featured on the latest BBC Science & Environment web pages.

New arrival at Oceanlab

Kate BrookesKate Brookes

Kate is currently based at Oceanlab, although she works within the research group based at the Lighthouse Field Station in Cromarty ( 

Broadly, her research interests are in human interactions and impacts on wildlife and much of her recent work has involved marine predators.  The project that she is currently working on is funded by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and investigates the potential impact of seismic surveys for oil and gas on cetaceans.  The work is based in the Moray Firth and so the main species of interest are bottlenose dolphins, for which the Moray Firth contains a Special Area of Protection, and harbour porpoise.  The aim is to assess the time spent in different areas by the two species before, during and after seismic surveys, which may go ahead in the summer of 2010.  To accomplish this, two main techniques will be used; acoustic loggers and visual line transect surveys. 

Kate's PhD looked at techniques for assessing seabird movements and potential impact of offshore wind farm developments. The case study was the Beatrice wind farm in the Moray Firth (, as part of the EU (Framework 7) supported DOWNVInD project.  Much of the work involved testing and validating the use of marine surveillance radar for tracking birds from an offshore oil platform.  Other field work involved conducting line transect surveys for seabirds along a gradient of potential impact.  The recommendations from the study will be of use to all new offshore wind developments taking place in the UK’s Round 3 and the Scottish Territorial Waters Round of offshore wind (


For 2009 News and earlier see Archives


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