Dr Kerry Howell
Associate Professor (Reader) in Marine Ecology
School of Biological & Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science & Engineering)
I am deputy programme leader for the Marine Biology and Oceanography degree course at Plymouth University. I am also an active academic researcher working on various topics related to conservation and sustainable management of the deep sea and High Seas, and marine habitat mapping.
- RRS Challenger C142 (UK) – (1999) NE Atlantic (trawls, grab, corers, landers)
- RRS Discovery D250 (UK) - (2000) NE Atlantic (trawls, grab, corers, landers)
- RRS Discovery D252 (UK) - (2001) NE Atlantic (trawls, grab, corers, landers)
- R/V Seward Johnson II (USA) – (2002) Gulf of Mexico (Manned submersible Johnson SeaLink)
- RV Celtic Voyager (Ireland) – (2005) Irish Sea (bedhop camera system, grabs)
- R/V Endeavour CEND12/05 (UK) – (2005) Eastern English Channel (Towed camera system, grabs, cores)
- FRV Scotia (UK) – (2005) NE Atlantic (Towed camera system)
- MV Franklin 0206 (Sweden) – (2006) NE Atlantic (Seatronics towed camera system)
- FRV Scotia (UK ) – (2006) NE Atlantic (Towed camera system)
- MV Franklin 0406 (Sweden) – (2006) NE Atlantic (Seatronics towed camera system)
- R/V Belgica 2014/16 (Belgium) – (2014) Bay of Biscay, NE Atlantic (DS1 Towed camera system)
- R/V Belgica 2015/15 (Belgium) – (2015) Bay of Biscay, NE Atlantic (DS2 Towed camera system)
- RVCeltic Explorer CE05011 (Ireland) – (2015) NE Atlantic (ROV Holland I)
- RRS James Cook JC136 (UK) - (2016) NE Atlantic (DeepLinks project, ROV Isis, AUV Autosub6000)
- ILV Granuaile (Ireland) – (2017) NE Atlantic (SeaRovers project, ROV Holland I)
Roles on external bodies
From an academic perspective my research is focused on understanding biodiversity patterns in the deep sea. I am interested in faunal zonation and species turnover with depth, as well as speciation along the depth gradient. More recently I have been investigating patchiness and faunal changes along isobaths, and trying to understand environmental drivers of deep-sea diversity and species distributions. From an applied perspective my research is focused on sustainable management of the deep-sea ecosystem. In particular I am interested in research to support the design of effective marine protected area networks, including the creation of reliable habitat maps, and models of population connectivity that under-pin the design. See our group website www.deepseacru.org for more details.
DEEPLINKS - Influence of population connectivity on depth-dependent diversity of deep-sea marine benthic biota .
Knowledge of how populations are connected is central to our understanding of population persistence, isolation, divergence, speciation and radiation. The bathyal region has been identified as the primary site of adaptive radiation in the deep-sea from molecular and morphological studies and is also where the peak in species diversity occurs in many ocean basins. Gene-flow is low over the depth gradient suggesting limited larval exchange occurs in the vertical. Recent research has suggested that larval dispersal potential may vary with depth.This variation, given the limited vertical exchange, may provide a mechanism for population isolation, divergence and speciation in the bathyal region. This study will adopt a multidisciplinary approach to investigate connectivity among deep-sea populations at different depths and spatial scales using: 1) larval dispersal modelling using Lagrangian particle tracking, driven by hydrographic models 2) population genetics/genomics and 3) benthic community analysis, using examples of sessile (scleractinian corals) and limited mobility (echinoid) species as test subjects. We will examine changes in larval dispersal, gene-flow,gene expression and community and taxonomic patterns with depth to identify possible variation in population connectivity down the vertical gradient. We will also examine patterns of connectivity at different spatial scales. Critically we will investigate whether the changes in connectivity from the shelf break to bathyal depths are correlated to current flow as predicted by hydrodynamic models and whether this physical mechanism significantly contributes to current patterns of diversity, potentially driving speciation at large spatial scales or, alternatively, whether other factors are influencing genetic structure.
The application of predictive modelling to marine spatial planning associated with deep-sea mining
The PhD project is focused on informing the development of effective spatial management of the deep sea. Research will focus on a polymetallic nodule-rich area of the Pacific Ocean called the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone. We will create broad- and fine-scale models to classify the physical habitat of the area, which will then be validated using biological samples collected in recent years. We will also compare the accuracy of bottom-up and top-down approaches to predictive modelling, and will investigate the accuracy of models transfered to new areas. This work will address several key questions in the spatial management of deep-sea mining.
The application of autonomous underwater vehicles to challenges in marine habitat mapping and predictive species distribution modelling
PhD project aimed at assessing how the biological and oceanographic data provided by autonomous vehicles (AUVs and gliders) can be used for predictive habitat mapping in the deep sea and what advantage these technologies offer compared to other methods used to survey the sea-bed. As part of this work we are investigating the use of artificial intelligence to identify taxa from sea-floor image data.
Nicola Foster - DeepLinks: Influence of population connectivity on depth-dependent diversity of deep-sea marine benthic biota
Rebecca Ross - DeepLinks: Influence of population connectivity on depth-dependent diversity of deep-sea marine benthic biota
Nils Piechaud - PhD title "The application of autonomous underwater vehicles to challenges in marine habitat mapping and predictive species distribution modelling." 2015-2018
Kirsty McQuaid - PhD title "The application of predictive modelling to marine spatial planning associated with deep-sea mining." 2015-2019.
Molly James - PhD title "Predicting species dispersal in marine systems: A multi-disciplinary approach." 2017-2020
Poppy Hesketh Best - PhD title "Deep-sea discovery - mining marine environments for novel biologics" 2017-2020
Matthew Koch - PhD title "Deep-sea discovery - mining marine environments for novel biologics" 2017-2020
Amelia Bridges - "Use of predictive habitat modelling to assess the distribution and extent of selected Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems in the South Atlantic deep sea" 2017-2018
Joseph Augier - Incorporating backscatter into predictive habitat mapping.2016-2017
Research degrees awarded to supervised students
Rebecca Ross - PhD title "Investigating the role of larval dispersal models in the development of an 'ecologically coherent' network of deep sea marine protected areas” 2016
Charlotte Marshall - PhD title "Species distribution modelling to support marine conservation planning" 2011
Jaime Davies - PhD title "Mapping Deep-Sea Features in UK Waters For Use in Marine Protected Area Network Design" 2011
Rebecca Jefferson - PhD title "Communicating Marine Environmental Health: Connecting Science, Social and Policy Values" 2010
Grants & contracts
Key publications are highlightedJournals