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Dr. J.D.R. Houghton

Jon Houghton
Dr. Jon Houghton
Lecturer in Marine Biology

BSc. Oceanography with Marine Biology, 1996,
National Oceanography Centre,
University of Southampton;
PhD. The Physiological Ecology of Sea Turtles, 2002,
Swansea University.


Contact Information
Tel:  +44 (0)28 9097 2297 (Direct line)
Mobile:  +44 (0) 7837 935865
Fax:  +44 (0)28 9097 5877
Room:  Medical Biology Centre - 6.30

Brief summary of research interests:

Behavioural Ecology, Migration and Diving Behaviour of Marine Vertebrates

Ocean sunfish (Mola mola)
Ocean sunfish (Mola mola)

I am interested in the underlying factors that drive behaviours in marine vertebrates ranging from deep dives and pan-oceanic migrations in leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) through to the fine scale movements and foraging ecology of ocean sunfish (Mola mola).

Gelatinous zooplankton

Barrell jellyfish in the Irish Sea
Barrell jellyfish in the Irish Sea

Both leatherback turtles and ocean sunfish are considered obligate predators of gelatinous zooplankton (jellyfish).  However, very little is known about how such large vetrebrate species survive on such an unlikely food source.  To provide a spatial and temporal backdrop for such investigations I am using a range of ship-borne, aerial surveys and lab-based techniques to understand the distribution, seasonality, energy density and conectivity of jellyfish populations in temperate coastal seas and the deep ocean.  In Northern Ireland this will focus largely on the extensive aggregations of the mauve stinger jellyfish (Pelagia noctiluca) that caused serious salmon fish kills along the County Antrim Coast last November.

Climate change

Sampling jellyfish with NIEA, County Antrim
Sampling jellyfish with NIEA, County Antrim

Climate change is driving shifts in range and seasonality for a great number of marine taxa.  Current efforts are focussed on the increasing use of British and Irish waters by leatherback turtles and ocean sunfish whilst considering the corresponding effects upon the gelatinous prey.  I am also considering the broader effects of climate change upon sea turtles through climatically induced shifts in sex ratios, loss of nesting habitat and long-term cycles in marine productivity.

Hawksbill turtle in the Seychelles
Hawksbill turtle in the Seychelles
Leatherback turtle with satellite transmitter, Dominica, W. Indies
Leatherback turtle, Dominica, W. Indies

Other Information

Review Editor for Endangered Species Research

Member of Turtle Implementation Group (TIG) UK Government Advisory Body.