My research on ‘Marine environmental change’ covers three key areas: (1) conservation, urban ecology and ecological engineering; (2) biodiversity and climate change; and (3) marine community ecology.
1. Conservation, urban ecology & ecological engineering
As a direct result of my involvement in the EU FP7 and Esmee Fairbairn funded projects THESEUS (www.theseusproject.org) and URBANE (www.urbaneproject.org), I develop novel engineering interventions for habitat creation to conserve native biodiversity in the built environment (e.g. Firth et al. 2014, Coastal Engineering). I test hypotheses about how heterogeneity and complexity determine community structure and functioning (e.g. Firth et al. 2013, Diversity & Distributions). I am actively involved in the World Harbour Project (http://sims.org.au/research/long-term-projects/world-harbour-project/
2. Biodiversity and climate change.
I have long been interested in the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events on the distribution and biotic interactions of marine species (e.g. Firth et al. 2009, Glob Chan Biol). I am actively involved with the MarClim project (www.mba.ac.uk/marclim) in collaboration with Dr Nova Mieszkowska (MBA, Plymouth) and Prof. Steve Hawkins (University of Southampton). I test hypotheses about responses of marine ecosystems to multiple stressors related to climate change (e.g. Firth & Williams, 2009, JEMBE). I lead an on-going collaborative project "EuroNads" comprising 14 partners across Atlantic Europe. We are assessing spatio-temporal variation in breeding phenology of limpets in response to extreme weather events and climate change.
3. Marine community ecology.
My overarching research interest marine community ecology. I am interested in testing hypotheses about the processes that shape patterns of distribution of organisms (e.g. Firth & Crowe, 2010, Oecologia). Current PhD studentsMs Rebecca Morris (2013-2017), Faculty of Science, University of Sydney in association with Prof. Ross Coleman and Prof. Gee Chapman Ms Aimee Walls (2013-2017), Ryan Institute, National University of Ireland Galway, “An Ecosystem approach to seaweed farming” in association with Prof. Mark Johnson (Ryan Institute) and Dr Maeve Edwards (Carna Research Station) Ms Alison Evans (2011-2015), Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, “Artificial defence structures as surrogate habitats for natural rocky shores: giving nature a helping hand” in association with Dr Pippa Moore (Aberystwyth University), Liz Morris and Harry Goudge (Marine Ecological Solutions) and Prof. Steve Hawkins (University of Southampton)
Research degrees awarded to supervised students
Ms Aimee Walls, PhD, Zoology, National University of Ireland Galway, 2017 (co-supervisor). "An ecosystem approach to kelp farming".
Ms Kathryn O'Shaughnessy, PhD, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science, Plymouth University, 2016-2019. (Director of studies). "Green engineering of coastal infrastructure: a design for life"
Ms Axelle Amstutz, PhD, School of Biological Science, Plymouth University, 2016-2019. (co-supervisor). "Facing up to climate change: the role of aspect in species colonisation, persistence and ecosystem processes"
Ms Amelia Curd, PhD, IFREMER and University of West Brittany, 2016-2019. (co-supervisor). "Assessment of the distribution and ecological status of Sabellaria alveolata reefs in Europe"
Dr Rebecca Morris, PhD, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, 2016 (co-supervisor). "Retrofitting biodiversity: Ecological engineering for management of urbanised systems".
Dr Ally Evans
, PhD, Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, 2015 (co-supervisor). "Artificial coastal defence structures as surrogate habitats for natural rocky shores".
Ms Meredith Schofield
, MSc Marine Biology, School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, 2012 (main supervisor). "Effect of environmental heterogeneity on biological communities of intertidal rock pools".
Ms Freya White, MSc Marine Environmental Protection, School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, 2012 (main supervisor). The effects of substratum type and surface heterogeneity on rocky intertidal assemblages".
Grants & contracts
Firth LB, Chee SY. Royal Society International Exchanges. "Eco-engineering of artificial habitats in Penang, Malaysia". 2016/2018. £12,000.
, Chee SY. British Ecological Society Small Grant. "Eco-engineering: design with nature, Malaysia". 2015/2018. £5000.
Dubois S, Davies AJ, Lima FP, Firth LB. Total Fondacion, "REEHAB - Assessment of the distribution and ecological status of Sabellaria alveolata reefs in Europe". 2015-1019. €150,000.
Firth LB. Linnean Society Percy Sladen Memorial Fund. "On the distribution and biodiversity associated with Sabellaria alveolata (L.): the Irish case study". 2015/2016. £800.
Hawkins SJ, Powrie W, Nicholls RJ, Thompson, RC, Firth LB
. University of Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute, HEIF Research Collaboration Stimulus Fund 2014/15. £18,000
Walls A, Firth LB. The Marine Institute Marine Research Programme (Networking & Travel Grant: NT/14/10), “UPMC Roscoff, Marine Summer School – taxonomy of marine fauna”, 2014. €750
Firth LB. Irish Research Council New Foundations Scheme. “ShorTIE: Shore Thing Ireland”, 2014. €6000
Firth LB. LabexMer, Visiting researcher to Dr Stanislas Dubois, IFREMER Brest, France, 2014. €3200
Firth LB. National University of Ireland Galway, School of Natural Science Project Call, “Biodiversity of biogenic habitats”, 2013. €1500
Firth LB. Environment Fund for Biodiversity Awareness Grant Scheme 2013 (Notice Nature). “Eco-engineering: Design with Nature”, 2013. €5000
Walls A, Firth LB, Edwards M, Johnson MJ. “An ecosystem approach to seaweed farming”, 2013-2017. €64,000
Firth LB. The Marine Institute Marine Research Programme (Networking & Travel Grant: NT/13/40), “MarClim, Lofoten”, 2013. €750
Spain-Butler A & Firth LB. National University of Ireland, Galway, College of Science Summer Internships, 2013. €3500
Firth LB. The Marine Institute Marine Research Programme (Networking & Travel Grant: NT/13/16), “Sabellaria alveolata: distribution and associated biodiversity in Ireland”, 2013. €750
Browne K & Firth LB. National University of Ireland, Galway, College of Science Summer Internships, 2013. €3500
Firth LB & Geffen A. Royal Irish Academy Mobility Grants Scheme: “Phenology & biogeography: key grazers in a changing world”, 2013. €2500
Firth LB & Noel L. Irish Research Council and Campus France Ulysses Programme: “Sabellaria alveolata: distribution and associated biodiversity in Ireland and France”, 2012. €5000
Firth LB & Mieszkowska N. Porcupine Marine Natural History Society Small Grant Scheme: “Sabellaria alveolata in northwest Britain: an assessment of the distribution and abundance following two consecutive cold winters", 2012. £1000
Grant L & Firth LB. National University of Ireland, Galway, College of Science Summer Internships, 2012. €3500
Hawkins SJ & Firth LB. Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Scientific Diving Facility in support of dive surveys of the Liverpool Dock Complex: “Long-term studies of dock ecosystems following restoration: contribution of urban biodiversity to ecosystem services”, 2012. £30,000
Firth LB & Moore P. Biosciences and Environment and Agriculture Alliance (BEAA) and Climate Change Consortium Wales (C3W) in support of collaborative project on phenology and climate change, 2011-2012. £650
Moore P & Firth LB. Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship (KESS) PhD studentship: “Artificial defence structures as surrogate habitats for natural rocky shores: giving nature a helping hand”, 2011-2013. £70,000
Firth LB. Wirral Council. Biodiversity experiment on the coastal defences at New Brighton, 2010, £1500
Firth LB & Crowe TP. The Marine Institute Networking and Transfer of Technology Scheme (Other grant: NTT/05/10) 2005, €2000
Firth LB. The Irish Research Council for Science and Engineering Technology (RS/2003/115) Population dynamics of key species in rocky intertidal habitats – patellid limpets in a warming world, 2003-2007. €70,000