MBA society logo
RIB Bubbles on Strangford Lough with turbine in the background

Keynote Abstracts

A Photo of Dr Jon Copley from Southampton University

Beyond biogeography: understanding ecological variation at deep-sea hydrothermal vents - Dr Jon Copley

Since the first faunal assemblages were recognised at deep-sea hydrothermal vents in the late 1970s, studies of vent ecology have focused primarily on two goals: determining large-scale biogeographic patterns in these insular chemosynthetic environments, and characterising spatial and temporal variation within individual vent fields. More than 200 vent fields have now observed visually around the world, and more than 400 new faunal species have been described exclusively from vent environments. In this talk, I will summarise some results from recent ecological studies of hydrothermal vents in previously unexplored regions: the Mid-Cayman Spreading Centre in the Caribbean Sea; the East Scotia Ridge in the Southern Ocean; the Southwest Indian Ridge; and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge north of the Azores. Insights from these previous "gaps in the map" of global vent biogeography reveal the influences of life-history biology in the distributions of vent taxa; the environmental drivers of ecological variation within biogeographic provinces; and contribute to an emerging recognition of a “universal functional zonation” at hydrothermal vents, based on holobiont metabolism. After four decades of ecological investigations at hydrothermal vents, we are now on the threshold of global datasets to enable a new synthesis of ecological understanding for these environments, which is urgently needed to inform the management of future human activities such as seafloor mining.

A photo of Dr Louise Firth

Eco-engineering: design with nature - Dr Louise Firth

Coastal defence structures are proliferating as a result of rising sea levels and stormier seas. With the realisation that most coastal infrastructure cannot be lost or removed, research is required into ways that coastal defence structures can be built to meet engineering requirements, whilst also providing relevant ecosystem services - ecological engineering. This approach requires an understanding of the types of assemblages and their functional roles that are desirable and feasible in these novel ecosystems. I summarise research carried out during the THESEUS project (2009–2014) which optimised the design of coastal defence structures with the aim to conserve or restore native species diversity. Native biodiversity could be manipulated on defence structures through various interventions: the team created artificial rock pools and on breakwaters and deployed a precast habitat enhancement unit (the BIOBLOCK) in a coastal defence scheme. Finally, I outline guidelines and recommendations to provide multiple ecosystem services while maintaining engineering efficacy. This work demonstrated that simple enhancement methods can be cost-effective measures to manage local biodiversity. Care is required, however, in the wholesale implementation of these recommendations without full consideration of the desired effects and overall management goals.

A photo of keynote speaker Dr Jon Houghton

Top predators in a changing ocean: how technology can help fill the knowledge gap - Dr Jon Houghton

Pressure upon marine systems continues to mount year on year. Complex issues as overfishing, pollution and climate change seamlessly interweave to bring about wholesale shifts in marine communities over regional and global scales. The challenge facing marine scientists is not only to identify when such changes have occurred, but to do so before it is too late. Within this context we will consider how top-predators can act early warning systems or ‘indicators’ for biologists and help unravel how such species locate their prey in a vast and ever-changing environment. Examples will be drawn from a wide range of species found in British and Irish waters from jellyfish through to leatherback turtles and basking sharks. Recent technological advances in accelerometry and animal borne camera systems will also be brought to light to demonstrate how marine biologists gather data from marine predators that range thousands of kilometres from land and down into the ocean depths.

A photo of Dr Lynn Gilmore

Social, economic and environmental sustainability in fisheries areas important to the Northern Irish fleet: An industry perspective - Dr Lynn Gilmore

 The Northern Irish seafood industry through the Seafish Northern Ireland Advisory Committee are collaborating on a range of projects. The aim is to assist in securing a sustainable and profitable future for the fishing industry and in particular in highly protected zones and areas where designation is likely around the coast of Northern Ireland. This presentation will give details of the results of a recent industry-driven project entitled Fisheries Resource and Activity Mapping Project (FishRAMP) where a range of Irish Sea developments (existing and proposed) have been mapped and their potential economic impacts on the NI seafood industry assessed. Further industry-driven Seafish NI initiatives on Fishermen’s Safety, the use of technology in fisheries protection in the Strangford Lough SAC and promotion of the local seafood industry will be presented.   

Photo of Dr Fergus Kennedy

Blood, Oil & Blubber - Dr Fergus Kennedy

Fergus Kennedy takes a light-hearted look back at 25 years of freelance marine biology and photographic work. Since first graduating from University in 1991, Fergus has never had a 'proper’ job and on his travels has enjoyed and/or endured a variety of ocean-related adventures. Be it diving in cow blood, counting sand hoppers, wading through giant oil spills, swallowing valuable specimens or rescuing trapped whales, Fergus has found himself in some odd situations over the years. In addition to his usual semi-coherent ramblings, the talk will be illustrated with photographs and video clips, and very occasionally peppered with points of scientific interest.

We hope to see you in Belfast later this year! Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for the latest updates on conference news and information.

Conference Logo