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7 Posts tagged with the marine_biodiversity tag

Adrian GloverDeep-Sea Systematics and Ecology Group, Department of Life Sciences

Wednesday 28 January 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

The deep oceans contain a vast and untapped wealth of minerals useful to humans. In geological terms, there is much known with regard the distribution of these minerals at different types of deep-sea environment. The first polymetallic (or manganese) nodules were recovered by the Challenger expedition in 1873, in the deep Atlantic. In the 1960s, the first estimates were made of the total mineral wealth of the oceans, and the first surveys undertaken. In 1978, the first fully integrated mining trials recovered several hundred tonnes of nodules from the central abyssal Pacific at depths of 5500m; in the preceding year, hydrothermal vents were discovered on the Galapagos rift. Since then, an average of 5 hydrothermal vent fields have been discovered every year, and 19 exploration licences for deep-sea minerals in both abyssal nodule and deep-sea vent environments have been issued by the United Naitons International Seabed Authority, 5 of these in 2014 alone. The United Kingdom government is sponsor to 2 exploration licence claims in the central Pacifc covering 267,000 square km, an area larger thant the UK itself.

Despite our accumulated knowledge of the mineral wealth of deep-sea ecosystems, our biological data remains extremely patchy. The central Pacific nodule regions have been well-sampled for nodules, but the majority of species are undescribed and fundamental questions such as the biogeographic distributions of animals unstudied. The diversity and ecological resilience of species to disturbance regimes are largely untested. At hydrothermal vents, critical data such as degrees of endemicity and gene-flow between vent fields is lacking.

The NHM is in a unique position to provide advice to industry and government, as well as academic research, in deep-sea mining from both the geological and environmental point of view. This has potential to be a key area in our Sustainable Futures strategy. In my research group, we have been working with an industrial contractor on the UK-1 deep-sea mining claim in the central Pacific for the last 18 months and are part of an EU FP7 deep-sea mining project. In this talk I will outline some of the history of deep-sea mining, the fundamental science at stake, our role in current projects, the importance of taxonomy, open data and bioinformatics and some of our plans for our forthcoming fieldwork (we sail for a 2-month trip on Feb 12).


More information on attending seminars at


Deep Diving, New Species Discovery and the Greatest Library on Earth


Special Science Seminar on communicating how biodiversity is the Earth's most valuable asset


Richard L. Pyle

Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii


Wednesday 14 January, 4pm Flett Theatre, NHM London


Preceded by coffee & tea in Flett Foyer from 3:15pm


The number of species on planet Earth that remain unknown to science exceeds (perhaps vastly) the number of species that have so far been discovered, let alone formally documented. Earth's biodiversity, which represents a library of accumulated information shaped by nearly four billion years of evolution, is arguably the most valuable asset on the planet for the long-term survival of humanity. Within the global biodiversity library, we are at this point in human history like toddlers running through the halls of the Library of Congress, largely unaware of the true value of the information that surrounds us. At the current pace of species discovery and documentation, in the context of what appears to be the dawn of the sixth great extinction, we are losing the race to document this enormous wealth of information before it is lost forever. Taxonomists are the librarians, developing new tools to build the card catalog for the Greatest Library on Earth. The tools include new research and means to access and integrate information. What we accomplish within the next twenty years will impact the quality of life for humans over the next twenty thousand years. 


Rich Pyle is globally recognised as an ichthyologist exploring extreme deep reef habitats, a bioinformatician and an ICZN Commissioner, a SCUBA re-breather engineer and and a two-time, two-topic TED Speaker. Here’s his TED blurb:

  • Ichthyologist Richard Pyle is a fish nerd. In his quest to discover and document new species of fish, he has also become a trailblazing exploratory diver and a pioneer of database technology.  A pioneer of the dive world, Richard Pyle discovers new biodiversity on the cliffs of coral reefs. He was among the first to use rebreather technology to explore depths between 200 and 500 feet, an area often called the "Twilight Zone." During his dives, he has identified and documented hundreds of new species. Author of scientific, technical and popular articles, his expeditions have also been featured in the IMAX film Coral Reef Adventure, the BBC series Pacific Abyss and many more. In 2005, he received the NOGI Award, the most prestigious distinction of the diving world.
  • Currently, he is continuing his research at the Bernice P. Bishop Museum, outside Honolulu, Hawai'i, and is affiliated with the museum's comprehensive Hawaii Biological Survey. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Association for Marine Exploration, of which he is a founding member. He continues to explore the sea and spearhead re-breather technology, and is a major contributor to the Encyclopedia of Life.

Chris Yesson


Department of Life Sciences, NHM


Friday 13 June 11:00


Earth Sciences (Mineralogy) Seminar Room, Basement, WEB 05


Chris Yesson will be talking about his two concurrent research projects.  On first sight it may seem that examining the distribution of coastal seaweeds of the UK may not have much overlap with a study assessing the impact of trawling on benthic habitats on the continental shelf of west Greenland, but commonalities in approaches to spatial and imaging analysis means there is more overlap that just one researcher jumping between topics.


More information on attending seminars at


Suzanne Williams

Department of Life Sciences, NHM

Wednesday 30 April 11:00


Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

The deep-sea accounts for approximately 60% of the Earth's surface, and yet little is known about its rich diversity. This fragile ecosystem is under threat from habitat destruction and over-exploitation from fishing and mining ventures. It is vital we learn more about the diversity of the deep-sea biota and their evolution before these habitats suffer further destruction.


Understanding their evolution involves answering significant questions such as how have deep sea organisms adapted to cope with the demanding nature of this extreme environment, where problems include high pressure, limited food resources, low light and the difficulty of producing and maintaining a protective shell.

A new species of deep-sea trochid


I investigate the effects of three separate factors and their effects on diversification in two families of deep-sea gastropods: 1) global climate change, 2) tectonic events and 3) key innovations including the loss of eye function and changes in trophic level.


For more information on Suzanne's research, see her project pages.




Juliet Brodie and Jo Wilbraham: Department of Life Sciences, NHM


Friday 7 February 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

The seashores and shallow seas around Britain support an important component of UK biodiversity with over 650 species of red, green and brown seaweeds which represent c. 7% of the described seaweed flora of the world.  However, over 55% are Data Deficient according to IUCN criteria, there is increasing evidence that large brown habitat-forming seaweeds (kelps and fucoids) are disappearing, and invasive seaweeds species are increasing.  Seaweeds remain an under-recorded group with over 50% data deficient, yet there is an urgent and increasing need for good quality, verifiable data on past and present species occurrence to inform on e.g. environmental change, potential pressures from harvesting, loss of habitats, increases in non-native species (currently c. 6% of the UK flora). 


Data from the NHM seaweed collection provide crucial evidence points for mapping changing patterns in species distribution around the UK but regional museums often hold important collections from their local area which will help fill in current spatial and temporal data gaps.  So we set about capturing from UK national and regional museum collections specimen data against a target list of seaweed species in order to provide data on distribution of species over time around the UK, and to make these data widely available via a purpose built website which provides a unique resource for disseminating information about these species.  Fourteen institutions participated, 8334 records were received of which 4334 were newly generated. 


We will describe this model project, discuss the findings in relation to temporal and spatial change, detective work, social history, taxonomy, the role of Queen Victoria and her children, and the detrimental impact that the Victorian collectors had on some of our more charismatic seaweeds.  We will also demonstrate the web site:


This project was funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund.


For additional details on attending this or other seminars see


Deep Sea ID: creating an iPhone and iPad app for science


Adrian Glover

AQUID (Aquatic Invertebrates Division), Dep. of Life Sciences, NHM


Wednesday 19th June 11:00 Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)


Deep Sea ID is the first iOS (iPhone and iPad) app from the NHM science group, released in March this year. It is a field guide interface to the World Register of Deep-Sea Species (WoRDSS) that currently stores on your device (for offline access) the taxonomic information for over 20,000 deep sea species, over 350 high resolution photographs of deep-sea specimens as well as links to online taxonomic tools, sources and important references.In this talk and demo I will explain why we made this app, how we did it, the importance of open data and take you on a visual tour through some of the amazing creatures of the deep sea.


For additional details on attending this or other seminars see


64117_bathykurila-guaymasensis.jpgBathykurila guaymasensis

Credit: Adrian Glover.  CC-BY-NC-SA


Friday 24 of May 11:00
Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)



Octocorals of the family Xeniidae in Red Sea and beyond



Yehuda Benayahu - Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv,  Israel



Octocorals are common throughout the Indo-Pacific reefs and play an important role in the ecology of the ecosystem, yet they remain dramatically understudied. The seminar will deal with octocorals of the family Xeniidae, a highly abundant component of Indo-Pacific coral reefs, particularly in the Red Sea. Aspects concerning their life history and acquisition of symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) at early ontogenetic stages will be addressed. Opportunistic Xeniidae are taking over degraded reefs but taxonomic difficulties force researchers to recognize them as a group whichprecludes detailed understanding of the reef environment and processes on impacted reefs by genera or even species. Our ongoing project deals with phylogeny of the family including provision of species identifications based on their morphological characters. Recent findings reveal that novel microstructural features of their sclerites might be critically important in resolving taxonomic difficulties. Such a study requires introduction of high resolution scanning electron microscopy at magnifications never used before by octocoral taxonomists. Insights on microstructural features of xeniid sclerites also enabled us to examine the effect of ocean acidification on these octocorals and understand the possible function of their living tissue in protection against deteriorating effects of acidic conditions.  It is anticipated that studies on xeniids will facilitate future surveys aimed at the maintenance and greater understanding of coral reef diversity and reef-environment function and sustainability.


For additional details on attending this or other seminars see