Dr Nicholas Higgs

Dr Nicholas Higgs

Deputy Director of the Marine Institute

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


As Deputy Director, I am responsible for the academic operational management of the Marine Institute. I work in support of the Director in leading and championing the provision of high quality research, scholarship and external engagement within Marine Institute.

I also maintain a research portfolio and am an active researcher in the Marine Biology, Ecology and Conservation theme.

You can find out more about me and my research at nickhiggs.com

Professional membership

Marine Biological Association of the UK

Challenger Society for Marine Science

British Ecological Society

Roles on external bodies

I coordinate the Deep-Sea Ecosystems special interest group in the Challenger Society for Marine Science

Teaching interests

I have completed the General Teaching Associates course and am in theprocess of obtaining accreditation as Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

I currently teach on the Biological Oceanography (level 3) and CoastalHabitats field-course (level 2) modules at Plymouth University.

I also supervise students for their independent research projects atundergraduate honours and masters level.

Research interests

My research interests are broadly based around the ecology of the sea-bed environment, most recently that of the deep-sea.

My latest work has been looking at the ecology of of communities that form around dead-whale carcasses in the deep-sea, especially the unusual Osedax bone-worms. Much of this work has been interdisclipinary, at the interface of marine biology and palaeontology, investigating how biological processes affect the fossilisation of organic remains in the marine realm, especially large vertebrate carcasses such as whales and dolphins.

I have also helped to develop the World Register of Deep-Sea Species; a subsection of the World Register of Marine Species database. This portal contains a taxonomic database of deep-sea species with an image gallery and links to identification keys and guides. This database will soon be released as a portable app for iOS devices: Deep-Sea ID.

Other research

I have also worked on the reproduction of brooding bivalves in the Antarctic, wood-boring bivalves from the deep-sea and species richness patterns in deep-sea brittle stars.

Key publications are highlighted

Higgs ND, Newton J & Attrill MJ 2016 'Caribbean Spiny Lobster Fishery Is Underpinned by Trophic Subsidies from Chemosynthetic Primary Production' Current Biology 26, Publisher Site , DOI
Higgs ND & Attrill MJ 2015 'Biases in biodiversity: wide-ranging species are discovered first in the deep sea' Frontiers in Marine Science 2, , DOI
Higgs ND 2015 'Dark eaters: The animals living an alternative lifestyle' New Scientist 3015, 41-43 Author Site Publisher Site
Higgs ND, Gates AR & Jones DOB 2014 'Fish food in the deep sea: revisiting the role of large food-falls' PLoS One 9, (5) Author Site , DOI
Higgs ND, Glover AG, Dahlgren TG, Smith CR, Fujiwara Y, Pradillon F, Johnson SB, Vrijenhoek RC & Little CTS 2014 'The morphological diversity of Osedax worm borings (Annelida: Siboglinidae)' JOURNAL OF THE MARINE BIOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OF THE UNITED KINGDOM 94, (7) 1429-1439 Author Site , DOI
Anderung C, Danise S, Glover AG, Higgs ND, Jonsson L, Sabin R & Dahlgren TG 2013 'A Swedish subfossil find of a bowhead whale from the late Pleistocene: shore displacement, paleoecology in south-west Sweden and the identity of the Swedenborg whale (Balaena swedenborgii Liljeborg, 1867)' Historical Biology 1-11
Higgs ND, Little CTS, Glover AG, Dahlgren TG, Smith CR & Dominici S 2012 'Evidence of Osedax worm borings in Pliocene ( 3 Ma) whale bone from the Mediterranean' Historical Biology 24, 269-277
Higgs ND, Glover AG, Dahlgren TG & Little CTS 2011 'Bone-Boring Worms: Characterizing the Morphology, Rate, and Method of Bioerosion by Osedax mucofloris (Annelida, Siboglinidae)' Biological Bulletin 221, 307-316
Higgs ND, Little CTS & Glover AG 2011 'Bones as biofuel: a review of whale bone composition with implications for deep-sea biology and palaeoanthropology' Proc R Soc B 278, 9-17
GLOVER A, HIGGS N & BAGLEY P 2010 'A live video observatory reveals temporal processes at a shelf-depth whale-fall' Cahiers de biologie …
Higgs ND, Glover AG, Dahlgren TG & Little CTS 2010 'Using computed-tomography to document borings by Osedax mucoflorisin whale bone ' Cahiers De Biologie Marine 51, 401-405
Higgs ND, Reed AJ, Hooke R, Honey DJ, Heilmayer O & Thatje S 2009 'Growth and reproduction in the Antarctic brooding bivalve Adacnarca nitens (Philobryidae) from the Ross Sea' Marine Biology 156, 1073-1081
Higgs ND & Pokines JT 2013 'Marine Environmental Alterations to Bone' in Pokines J; Symes SA Manual of Forensic Taphonomy CRC PressI Llc 143-180 Author Site Publisher Site

Additional information

You can find out more about me and my research on my website: