Taxonomy and biogeography of the world’s largest ecosystem based on combined morphological and molecular studies of amphipods

Mallacoota insignis

Mallacoota insignis, an amphipod © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Knowledge of the identity and natural history of animals in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone is essential to inform our understanding of the biogeography, population connectivity and ultimately our management of the region.

Project rationale

Expeditions to survey and sample the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), in the central Pacific Ocean, are increasing, driven by commercial interests in the potential extraction of polymetallic nodules in the region.

A major gap in our knowledge of the region is of the fundamental taxonomy and distributions of the animals there. Knowledge of the identity and natural history of animals in the CCZ is essential to inform our understanding of the biogeography, population connectivity and ultimately our management of the region.

Despite increased sample collection and the identification of new species within them, there are no taxonomic revisions, keys or guides to the amphipods of the region. The Amphipoda constitute the most important component of the deep-sea mobile scavenging fauna and are also dominant in the infauna, and epifauna of the CCZ.

Research conducted during this PhD program will contribute directly to the improved understanding of taxonomy, biodiversity and biogeography in the world’s largest ecosystem, and a region targeted for major sustainable development to support a new blue economy. 

This can only be achieved through fundamental taxonomic work using a range of modern techniques.


The candidate will study all available materials collected as part of a large number of recent expeditions to the CCZ (ABYSSLINE 1, ABYSSLINE 2, JPI-Oceans 1, JPI-Oceans 2, NERC JC120, RC01) and future expeditions (through commercial and scientific cruises) and undertake taxonomic studies using combined morphological and molecular approaches (Glover et al., 2015).

This will include new species descriptions, generic revisions and keys and guides to deep-water fauna. The student will also lead studies on the broader biogeographic range of the fauna using the revised taxonomy.

Specific methods to be included will be at-sea collecting of marine fauna using box core, sledge, ROV and baited trap, light and scanning electron microscopy, drawing, high-resolution specimen photography, modern museum data management, taxonomic descriptions, generic revisions, production of keys and data synthesis across online sources (OBIS, WoRMS) using DarwinCore. Molecular work will be undertaken in the Natural History Museum, London supervised by PDRA, the student will have the opportunity to contribute to this.


The INSPIRE DTP programme provides comprehensive personal and professional development training alongside extensive opportunities for students to expand their multi-disciplinary outlook through interactions with a wide network of academic, research and industrial/policy partners. The student will be registered at the University of Southampton and hosted at NOC & Natural History Museum.

Specific training will include:

At-sea specimen collecting, light and scanning electron microscopy, dissection, biological drawing and digital Inking (Photoshop/Illustrator), high-resolution specimen photography data management (DELTA, DarwinCore, OBIS, WoRMS), molecular barcoding techniques & phylogenetic analyses.

Eligibility and how to apply

Read how to apply on the INSPIRE website.

The deadline for applications is 4 January 2021.

Apply for this project

Please check the INSPIRE website for details on how to apply.

Application deadline: 4 January 2021.


University of Southampton

Dr Tammy Horton

Dr Phillip Fenberg

The Natural History Museum, London

Dr Adrian Glover


Glover, A., et al., (2015) An End-to-End DNA Taxonomy Methodology for Benthic Biodiversity Survey in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, Central Pacific Abyss. J. Mar. Sci. Eng. 2016, 4, 2.

Horton T., et al., 2013. Community composition of scavenging amphipods at bathyal depths on the Mid Atlantic Ridge. Deep-Sea Research, Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, 98: 352–359. 

Interdisciplinary Southampton Partnership for Investigators Researching the Environment

This a joint PhD training partnership between the Natural History Museum and INSPIRE a NERC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) creating an innovative multi-disciplinary experience for the effective training of future leaders in environmental science, engineering, technology development, business, and policy.

Funded by