Plymouth Pioneers. Professor Jason Hall-Spencer

Jason Hall-Spencer, Professor of Marine Biology, is one of the world’s leading experts investigating the major stressors affecting the health of our seas and the marine organisms impacted by climate change.

Investigating the impacts of ocean stressors

Jason’s pioneering technique of using underwater volcanic areas high in CO2 as natural analogues for future climate change has become a sector standard, adopted in the Pacific, Caribbean and Europe. His research, based largely in coastal waters of the Mediterranean and Asia, has found evidence that high CO2 waters can weaken the skeletons of marine life, reducing marine biodiversity as a result. He has demonstrated how ocean acidification affects fish reproduction and how molluscs adapt and respond to these conditions, sacrificing their shell growth as a trade-off for survival. 

Before working on volcanic seeps, he was awarded a prestigious Royal Society University Research Fellowship in 2003 to study deep-water corals. His research in this area has featured discovering deep-water reefs in UK waters and being one of the first to see pristine reefs in the Arctic basin, gathering critical evidence that led to protection of both environments.

Thought leadership

Ocean acidification ‘could have consequences for millions’

The time is ripe for a ‘Paris Agreement for the oceans’, with the specific target to minimise and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels. Read more about ocean acidification

Jason has also collaborated with Dr Kate Crawfurd to design an Ocean Organ with the aim to help visualise the effects of carbon dioxide on the oceans. Watch the Ocean Organ in action.

A hotbed for invasive species

Jason and his collaborators on RELIONMED are researching methods of tackling invasive lionfish that, due to the widening of the Suez Canal and rising sea temperatures, have populated the Mediterranean and disrupted the local ecosystem. Funded by €1.7 million from the EU Life Programme, the project is coordinating activities including early surveillance and detection and a removal response strategy, plus working with local communities on how they may be able to turn the invasion into opportunities for new markets.

International pioneer

A full professor at the University of Tsukuba, Jason works on the biological effects of rising CO2 levels. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Xiamen University (China) and one of two Principal Investigators on a US$ 400K grant investigating plankton dynamics in a warming acidifies and nutrient-rich coasts. 

The person behind the pioneer

“The weightlessness, moving in three dimensions, is like being an astronaut; there’s no feeling quite like diving.”

Read more about Professor Jason Hall-Spencer

With global problems, we need to focus on solutions rather than just listing what is wrong. We have demonstrated how ocean stressors are having direct impacts on marine life and we have worked with communities and influenced policies to enact better protections.

But how we get our energy and food has to change radically. Cutting carbon emissions and doing what we can to reduce warming of the planet is critical, and we need to work together internationally to make rapid changes.

Professor Jason Hall-Spencer

Getty coral Macro shot of colourful corals
THE Impact Logo, life below water

World number one for marine impact 2021

We are ranked first out of 379 institutions worldwide against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 14: life below water.
The award recognises the quality of our marine research and teaching as well as our efforts to reduce the impact of campus activities on the marine environment. The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings are the only global performance tables that assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Home of marine

Our marine and maritime excellence in world-leading research informs policy agendas for the sustainable management of ocean resources. Our work has significantly improved how to forecast extreme coastal events and their impact on communities. We were the first to study the ecological effects of ocean acidification, and now lead the UK agenda for offshore renewable energy. On national and international levels, we have influenced key policies, conservation practices, responses to climate change, public perception of marine issues, and are defining the pathways toward tangible solutions.

The culture of close collaboration across the city with researchers, policymakers, and local businesses has resulted in Plymouth’s nomination for the UK’s first National Marine Park – an initiative underpinned by research at the University.

Marine Institute

Underwater bubbles