Dr Nicholas Higgs

Dr Nicholas Higgs

Postdoctoral Research Fellow to the Director of the Marine Institute

Marine Institute (Faculty of Science and Engineering)


I work within the Marine Institute, supporting its research projects and undertaking my own research in collaboration with the director, Martin Attrill. Additionally, I act as the research link within the Marine Institute team to help promote the excellent research that is carried out by its members across the university.

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

Member of the local & national organising committees for Challenger 2014 conference

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.

Anderung C, Danise S, Glover AG, Higgs ND, Jonsson L, Sabin R and 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 (Online First)

Higgs N D, Little C T S, Glover A G, Dahlgren T G, Smith C R and Dominici S (2012) Evidence of Osedax worm borings in Pliocene (~3 Ma) whale bone from the Mediterranean. Historical Biology 24:269-277. Featured in Nature Research Highlights, Nature 479:153

Higgs N D, Little C T S and Glover A G (2011) Bones as biofuel: the composition of whale bones with implications for deep-sea biology and palaeoanthropology. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 278:9-17.

Higgs N D, Glover A G, Dahlgren T G and Little C T S (2011) Bone-Boring Worms: Characterizing the Morphology, Rate, and Method of Bioerosion by Osedax mucofloris (Annelida, Siboglinidae). Biological Bulletin 221:307-316.

Higgs N D, Glover A G, Dahlgren T G and Little C T S (2010) Using computed-tomography to document borings by Osedax mucofloris in whale bone. Cahiers de Biologie Marine 51:401-405.

Glover A G, Higgs N D, Bagley P M, Carlsson R, Davies A J, Kemp K M, Last K J, Norling K, Rosenberg R, Wallin K A, Källström B and Dahlgren T (2010) A live video observatory reveals temporal processes at a shelf-depth whale-fall. Cahiers de Biologie Marine 51:375-381.

Higgs N D, Reed A J, Hooke R A, Honey D J, Heilmayer O and Thatje S (2009) Growth and reproduction in the Antarctic brooding bivalve Adacnarca nitens (Philobryidae) from the Ross Sea. Marine Biology 156:1073-1081.

Reports & invited lectures

Imagining the Deep: the future of deep-sea science. Invited Lecture given on 30th July 2013 at the Nottingham Contemporary.

Additional information

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