Professor Kerry Howell
Professor of Deep-Sea Ecology
School of Biological and Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)
- Marine conservation
- Deep-sea biology
- Deep-water fisheries
- Habitat mapping
- Artificial intelligence
- Deep sea mining
- New antibiotics
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to enquire.
I am deputy programme leader for the BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Oceanography at the University of Plymouth. 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)
- RS 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)
- ILV Granuaile (Ireland) – (2018) NE Atlantic (SeaRovers project, ROV Holland I)
- RRS Discovery (UK) – (2019) St Helena, South Atlantic (Blue Belt Programme, BAS Drop Camera System)
Roles on external bodies
- Co-lead of the UN endorsed Challenger 150 Ocean Decade Programme
- Member of the NERC Marine Facilities Advisory Board
- Member of the NERC Upscaling Autonomy Working Group
- Member of the NOC Association Board
- Member of the Science Advisory Board for Ascension Island MPA
- Member of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea's Working Group on Deep-Sea Ecology
- NERC peer review college member
- Co-Chair of the SCOR working group (2020–2022)
- Chair of the Challenger Society Deep Sea Special Interest Group (2018 to present)
Diving deeper into marine conservation
Kerry has a global reputation for providing critical evidence and innovation solutions for the protection of deep-sea habitats.
Can our coastal experience help us save the deep sea?
COP26: Examining the evidence for global action
More than 70% of our planet is ocean – and 90% of that ocean is deep sea
Those numbers alone offer an insight into the critical importance of understanding what is in these hidden environments. But they don’t even scratch the surface when it comes to the challenges scientists face in trying to achieve that.
What has the deep sea ever done for me?
The deep sea supports our healthy planet, and in turn support us. Our very existence depends on a healthy, functioning deep sea environment, so we must do better at looking after it.
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.
Our overarching aim in this NERC funded project is to develop AI enabled biological observing. This project represents an important step toward that aim in providing knowledge on the most effective methods of application of deep learning to automated interpretation of autonomous underwater vehicle acquired benthic imagery.
Role: Programme co-lead.
This is a global scientific cooperative developed to respond to the needs of the UN Ocean Decade. It is a vehicle for coordination of deep-sea research globally towards a set of common objectives. Those objectives are set out by the UN Ocean Decade but here are set in the deep-sea research context (see Howell et al (2020a) and Howell et al. (2020b) for detail)
Role: Co-Director of the Hub
This is a £20 million project funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) from 2019-2024. There are 24 research partners, and 35 project partner organisations. The Hub’s aim is to predict, harness and share equitably environmental, socioeconomic and cultural benefits from ocean conservation and sustainable use.
Role – Co-I (Plymouth PI)
This is a €10 million EU H2020 research project focused on the sustainable management of the Atlantic ecosystem (2020-2024). The project involves 34 partners from 15 countries. My role is as a contributor to 2 different work packages in the project, but principally in the areas of deep-sea habitat mapping and technological development (AI and autonomy).
Role – Co-I
This is an interdisciplinary project involving oceanographers, marine biologists, hydrographic surveyors and biogeochemists from the University of Plymouth and the Manta Trust. It is part of a wider programme of research within BIOT . Our aim is to learn what processes and interactions sustain a healthy reef ecosystem. My focus is the mesophotic coral reef systems, their composition, connectivity, drivers of their distribution, and processes maintaining overall health.
Role – Co-I (Plymouth PI)
This is a £4 million NERC funded project researching the potential impacts of deep-sea mining on abyssal ecosystems (2021-2025). My role is a as a contributor to a work package, contributing research that will model the connectivity of marine animal populations both inside and outside areas identified for deep-sea mining. This project is in collaboration with industry and other UK research institutes.
Role - project lead
A largely unfunded grass roots initiative to develop a global standardised marine taxon reference image database (SMarTaR-ID) to support image-based analyses. The project consists of an international consortium of scientists from 29 organisations, including academia, industry and Government, from 8 nations bordering the North Atlantic.
Deep-sea discovery - mining marine environments for novel biologics
The aim of this research project is to identify and develop potential new antimicrobials produced by the microbiome of sponges that live in the deep sea.
As Director of Studies
Giulia La Bianca - PhD title "Using ecosystem services mapping in deep-sea marine spatial planning" 2020-2023
Kyran Graves - PhD title "Quantifying the role of deep-sea animal forests in the blue carbon budget" 2022-2025
As other supervisor
Clara Diaz - PhD title "Investigating the distribution and diversity of mesophotic reefs in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT)" 2019-2023
Edward Robinson - PhD title " Oceanographic drivers of ecosystem variability in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT)" 2019-2023
Jazmin Conway - PhD title "Deep sea sponges as a novel source of biologics" 2020-2023
Kudzai Hwengwere - PhD title "Mapping Antarctic marine microbial diversity and identification of bioactive molecules with an emphasis on antimicrobials" 2020-2024
Eleanor Cross - ResM title "The application of artificial intelligence to benthic species identification" - 2022-2023
Research degrees awarded to supervised students
Amelia Bridges - PhD PhD title "Ecological studies of the South Atlantic deep sea to inform sustainable management". 2022
Poppy Hesketh Best - PhD title "Deep-sea discovery - mining marine environments for novel biologics" 2021
Molly James - PhD "Mechanisms of vertical movement in meroplankton: A primer of dispersal" 2021.
Nils Piechaud - PhD "The application of autonomous underwater vehicles to the study of benthic ecology" 2020.
Kirsty McQuaid - PhD The application of predictive modelling to marine spatial planning associated with deep-sea mining, 2020.
Charlotte Marshall - PhD Species distribution modelling to support marine conservation planning, 2011
Jaime Davies - PhD Mapping Deep-Sea Features in UK Waters For Use in Marine Protected Area Network Design. 2011
Rebecca Jefferson - PhD Communicating Marine Environmental Health: Connecting Science, Social and Policy Values, 2010
Grants & contracts
Key publications are highlightedJournals