Dr Nicola Foster
Lecturer in Marine Biology
School of Biological and Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)
I am a Lecturer in Marine Biology at the University and I study coral populations across a broad depth range, from shallow, tropical coral reefs (<30 m), to the relatively unexplored mesophotic coral ecosystems (30-200 m), and beyond to the cold-water corals of the deep sea (>200 m). I am particularly interested in variation in diversity and community structure along the depth gradient, and the horizontal and vertical connectivity of populations via larval dispersal, and the implications of this on conservation and management of the marine environment.
Currently, I am working on two key projects. I am investigating the changes in diversity and distribution of mesophotic reefs in the British Indian Ocean Territory in relation to depth and oceanographic drivers. In this project, I will assess the genetic connectivity of sessile reef species across the depth gradient from shallow to mesophotic depths to determine the potential of mesophotic reefs to resupply shallow reefs with larvae following mortality. In the second project (DeepLinks), we are investigating how patterns of population connectivity vary with depth in the deep sea, and how this influences species diversity, using a combination of molecular techniques, modelling and community analysis.
2019 Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
2019 Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practise, University of Plymouth
2007 PhD University of Exeter - Population dynamics of the dominant Caribbean reef-building coral, Montastraea annularis.
2002 MSc University of Wales, Bangor - Marine Environmental Protection.
2000 BSc (Hons) University of Wales, Bangor - Marine Biology.
- RV Odyssey (2022) Indian Ocean (Manned submersible Triton 7500/3 series, Triton 3300/3 series)
- MV Tethys Supporter (2022) Indian Ocean (ROV Seaeye Falcon, Drop Camera, PAR Surveys)
- MV Tethys Supporter (2020) Indian Ocean (ROV Seaeye Falcon, PAR Surveys)
- MV Tethys Supporter (2019) Indian Ocean (ROV Seaeye Falcon)
International Society for Reef Studies
Society for Conservation Biology
Marine Biological Association
Deep-sea Biology Society
Roles on external bodies
Member - Challenger 150 Marine Megafaunal Imaging Working Group (2021 - present)
Member - Challenger 150 Indian Ocean Regional Working Group (2021 - present)
Member - Challenger 150 North Atlantic Regional Working Group (2021 - present)
- MBIO505 Marine Conservation Theory
- MBIO001 Issues in Marine Biology
I also teach on the following modules:
- MBIO120 Introduction to Marine Biology
- GEES001 Study and Mathematical Skills for Science
- MAR532 Marine Conservation Practice
- MBIO313 Personal Research Project
- MAR533 MSc Marine Conservation Project
- MAR524 MSc Applied Marine Science Dissertation Project
- MBAM5109 MRes Dissertation Project
I also supervise around 5 undergraduate student projects and 2 Masters student projects every year.
Past MRes/MSc students:
- Maurice Walkes (2022; An investigation of megafauna associated with buttresses of the cold-water coral, Desmophyllum pertusum, on Rost Reef, Norway).
- Taryn Cadena (2022; Coral reef ecosystem resiliency and methods of conservation by coastal indigenous peoples and coastal communities).
My research focuses on coral populations across a broad depth range, from shallow, tropical coral reefs (<30 m), to the relatively unexplored mesophotic coral ecosystems (30-200 m), and beyond to the cold-water corals of the deep sea (>200 m). I am particularly interested in variation in diversity and community structure along the depth gradient, and the horizontal and vertical connectivity of populations via larval dispersal, and the implications of this on conservation and management of the marine environment.
Research degrees awarded to supervised students
Current PhD Students
- Clara Diaz (2019- present; Director of Studies): "Investigating the distribution and diversity of mesophotic reefs in the Chagos Archipelago" (funded by the Garfield Weston Foundation)
- Nils Piechaud (2016-2019; 2nd Supervisor): "The application of autonomous underwater vehicles to challenges in marine habitat mapping and predictive species distribution modelling"
- Poppy Hesketh Best - (2017-2020; 5th Supervisor): "Deep-sea Discovery - mining marine environments for novel biologics".
Grants & contracts
Co-investigator - Garfield Weston Foundation: Oceanographic drivers of ecosystem variability in the Chagos Archipelago (£500,000; 2020-2022).
Co-investigator - Save Our Seas Foundation: Can coral reefs recover at d'Arros? ($15,000 to Plymouth University).
Key publications are highlightedJournals