Dr Kirsty McQuaid

Dr Kirsty McQuaid

One Ocean Hub Research Fellow

School of Biological and Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)



I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Plymouth, in the Marine Conservation Research Group. I work on deep-sea ecosystems, trying to better understand the environmental drivers of biological variation in megafauna communities, and using this information to support habitat classification, mapping and Marine Spatial Planning. I am currently working on One Ocean Hub, a large, collaborative, transdisciplinary project aimed at transforming our approach to ocean governance and research. As part of this work I will be exploring epibenthic megafauna communities in South Atlantic Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, and carrying out habitat classification and MSP.


2019  PhD, University of Plymouth, England: Ecological Studies of an Abyssal Nodule Province to Inform the Management of 
          Deep-sea Mining
2013  MSc in Applied Marine Science, University of Cape Town, South Africa   
2011  BSc Hons in Marine Biology, Rhodes University, South Africa
2010  BSc in Zoology and Botany, Rhodes University, South Africa

Professional membership

Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI) Minerals Working Group member (2019 - present)

Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI) BBNJ Working Group member (2020 - present)

Deep-sea Biology Society

UN Early Career Ocean Professionals Programme Africa Node member (2021 - present)

Roles on external bodies

South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Marine Ecosystem Classification & Mapping Committee (2020-2025)

Challenger 150 Regional Scientific Research Working Group co-Coordinator for the Central & South Atlantic, and Early Career Focal Point



Research interests

My research focuses on deep-sea benthic ecology, habitat classification and habitat mapping, aimed at improving environmental management of human activities in the deep sea, particularly through marine spatial planning. This work is focused mainly in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction.

My PhD research was aimed at improving understanding of the epibenthic megafauna communities in abyssal areas targeted for deep-sea mining of polymetallic nodules, and supporting the environmental management of mining activities through recommendations on environmental survey design and spatial planning. I explored the megafauna community associated with nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone (CCZ, eastern central Pacific) through analysis of historic black and white imagery, and investigated appropriate sampling units to support baseline environmental sampling in this area. I also produced a habitat classification of the CCZ management area and assessed the habitat representativity of the current protected area network in this region.

This PhD research was funded by UK Seabed Resources Ltd, as part of the International Seabed Authority’s training programme for capacity building in developing nations. My supervisory team consisted of Prof Kerry Howell (Plymouth University), Prof Martin Attrill (Plymouth University), Dr Adrian Glover (Natural History Museum), and Prof Craig Smith (University of Hawai’i at Manoa).

I am also part of the Marine Conservation Research Group at the University of Plymouth and the Deep Sea Conversation Research Unit.




  • Strand M, Ortega-Cisneros K, Niner HJ, Wahome M, Bell J, Currie JC, Hamukuaya H, La Bianca G, Lancaster AMSN, Maseka N, McDonald L, McQuaid K, Samuel MM & Winkler A. 2022. Transdisciplinarity in transformative ocean governance research - reflections of early career researchers. ICES Journal of Marine Science 79(8): 2163-2177. DOI: 10.1093/icesjms/fsac165.
  • Bribiesca-Contreras G, Dahlgren TG, Horton T, Drazen JC, Drennan R, Jones DOB, Leitner AB, McQuaid KA, Smith CR, Taboada S, Wiklund H & Glover AG. 2022. Benthic megafauna of the western Clarion-Clipperton Zone, Pacific Ocean. ZooKeys 1113: 1-110. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.1113.82172.
  • Harden-Davies H, Amon DJ, Vierros M, Bax NJ, Hanich Q, Hills JM, Guilhon M, McQuaid KA, Mohammed E, Pouponneau A, Seto KL, Sink K, Talma S & Woodall L. 2022. Capacity development in the Ocean Decade and beyond: Key questions about meanings, motivations, pathways, and measurements. Earth System Governance 12: 100138. DOI: 10.1016/j.esg.2022.100138.
  • Niner HJ, Barut NC, Baum T, Diz D, Laínez del Pozo D, Laing S, Lancaster AMSN, McQuaid KA, Mendo T, Morgera E, Maharaj PN, Okafor-Yarwood I, Ortega-Cisneros K, Warikandwa TV & Rees S. 2021. Issues of context, capacity and scale: Essential conditions and missing links for a sustainable blue economy. Environmental Science & Policy 130: 25-35. DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2022.01.001.
  • Bribiesca-Contreras G, Dahlgren TG, Drazen JC, Drennan R, Horton T, Jones DOB, Leitner AB, McQuaid KA, Smith CR, Taboada S, Wiklund H & Glover AG. 2021. Biogeography and connectivity across habitat types and geographical scales in Pacific abyssal scavenging amphipods. Frontiers in Marine Science 8:705237. DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2021.705237.
  • McQuaid KA, Attrill MJ, Clark MR, Cobley A, Glover AG, Smith CR & Howell KL. 2020. Using habitat classification to assess representativity of a protected area network in a large, data-poor area targeted for deep-sea mining. Frontiers in Marine Science 7: 1066. DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2020.558860.  
  • Dunn et al [& workshop participants, including McQuaid K]. 2018. A strategy for the conservation of biodiversity on mid-ocean ridges from deep-sea mining. Science Advances 4(7). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar4313.
  • Glover AG, Dahlgren TG, Taboada S, Paterson G, Wiklund H, Waeschenbach A, Cobley A, Martínez P, Kaiser S, Schnurr S, Khodami S, Raschka U, Kersken D, Stuckas H, Menot L, Bonifacio P, Vanreusel A, Macheriotou L, Cunha M, Hilário A, Rodrigues C, Colaço A, Ribeiro P, Błażewicz M, Gooday AJ, Jones DOB, Billett DSM, Goineau A, Amon DJ, Smith CR, Patel T, McQuaid K, Spickermann R & Brager S. 2016. The London workshop on the biogeography and connectivity of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone. Research Ideas and Outcomes 2: e10528. DOI: 10.3897/rio.2.e10528.
  • McQuaid KA Griffiths CL. 2014. Alien reef-building polychaete drives long-term changes in invertebrate biomass and diversity in a small, urban estuary. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecss.2013.12.016.
  • Cole VJ, McQuaid KA & McQuaid CD. 2012. Examination of small- and large-scale influences on the diet of an omnivorous polychaete indicates weak effects of upwelling. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 436-437: 28-35. DOI: 10.1016/j.jembe.2012.08.013.