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

The aim of this project is to improve our knowledge of the fundamental taxonomy and distributions of the animals in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone.

The studentship is part of the INSPIRE Doctoral Training Partnerships, funded by NERC, and starts October 2019.

Apply for this course

Read the eligibility criteria and application guidance below, then apply via the Inspire Online Application Service.

Application deadline: 4 January 2019.


Recent years have seen increased expeditions to survey and sample the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), in the central Pacific Ocean, driven by commercial interests in the potential extraction of polymetallic nodules in the region (Glover et al., 2015). 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 expeditions to the region, the recent collection of samples and the identification of new species within them, there are no taxonomic revisions, keys or guides to the amphipods.

The Amphipoda constitute the most important component of the deep-sea mobile scavenging fauna (Horton et al., 2013) 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 cruises to the CCZ (ABYSSLINE 1, ABYSSLINE 2, JPI-Oceans 1, JPI-Oceans 2, NERC NC JC120) and undertake taxonomic studies using combined morphological and molecular data (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 NHM London supervised by PDRA, the student will have the opportunity to contribute to this.

Supervision and training

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 the National Oceanography Centre Southampton and the Natural History Museum, London.

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.


Each INSPIRE project comes with a 3.5 year fully funded studentship for UK students and EU students who meet the RCUK eligibility criteria. Stipend in line with RCUK stipend levels.

To be eligible for a full award (stipend and fees), a student must satisfy all of these conditions:

  • Settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long they can stay.
  • Been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for three years prior to the start of the grant. This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences).
  • Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. (This does not apply to UK or EU nationals.)

Minimum Academic Eligibility Criteria: 

  • BSc/MSci 2:1
  • and/or Masters (MSc or MRes) at Merit/Distinction level (>60%).
  • and/or evidence of significant relevant professional experience equivalent to Masters level.

How to apply

Applications are made through the University of Southampton's Online Application Form. The University has detailed guidance on how to apply.

In summary, please include:

  • A short statement of your research interests and rationale for your choice of project(s) - in the Personal Statement section of the application form
  • Curriculum vitae - giving details of your academic record and stating your research interests.
  • Names of two current academic referees - with an institutional email addresses in the Reference section of the application form. On submission of your online application your referees will be automatically emailed requesting they send a reference to us directly by email.
  • Academic transcripts and IELTS/TOEFL certificate if applicable.

As far as possible please upload all documents in pdf format.

General enquiries should be directed to the  GSNOCS (Graduate School of the National Oceanography Centre Southampton) team on

The deadline for applications is 4 January 2019.

Any questions ?

You are encouraged to contact potential supervisors by email to discuss project-specific aspects of the proposed research at an early stage.

If you have any questions about the project please contact

Main supervisor: Dr Tammy Horton


University of Southampton

Main supervisor: Dr Tammy Horton

Co-supervisor: Dr Phil Fenberg

Natural History Museum

Co-supervisor: 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 is 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 

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