Ocean Biology

Ocean Biology

Our ocean is a huge heat sink and absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide. The ocean plays a central role in mitigating climate change. Researchers from the Marine Biological Association focus on the impact this has on ocean biology, from plankton to sharks. Our research on spatial dynamics of marine life, environmental changes and human impacts provides scientific evidence that can improve our understanding of the marine food web and environment; and help the effective management of the ocean.

Movement Ecology and Conservation of Ocean Predators – Sims


Tracking the movements and behaviour of ocean predators to understand responses to changing environments and human threats

Professor David Sims

We track individual free-ranging sharks and other top predators using advanced telemetry and bio-logging techniques integrated with environmental data to develop models and simulations for understanding movement patterns, behavioural strategies and drivers of distributions. Understanding the complexities of shark movements and distributions with respect to changing environment and anthropogenic threats is crucial for improving conservation. 

Global Shark Movement Project bringing together 40 shark research teams spread across more than 100 institutes in 26 countries. 

OCEAN DEOXYFISH project funded by a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant. Read more about the project here and watch a video here.  

Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey – Johns


Long-term large-scale plankton monitoring programme tracking impacts of environmental change on ocean health.

David Johns

The CPR Survey is a global leader in assessing the impacts of environmental change on our oceans. Using a mechanical sampling device, a Continuous Plankton Recorder, monthly plankton samples have been collected across vast swathes of ocean since 1931. The Survey has operated in every ocean, covering more than 7 million nautical miles, and in 2021 was awarded a Guinness World Record for the greatest distance sampled by a monitoring programme. CPR data are freely available, driving better understanding of themes including climate change, human health, fisheries, biodiversity, invasive species and ocean acidification, and better management of the marine environment.


Ocean Biology Research Fellows

David Johns

David Johns

Head of Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey, Chair NMBAQC

David Johns

Head of Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey, Chair NMBAQC

David Johns

djoh@mba.ac.uk

Growing up in the South West UK, I have always been interested in marine life, and could usually be found when young either rock pooling, fishing or foraging. I started work with the CPR Survey in 1997, initially as a plankton analyst, and built on my taxonomic knowledge to investigate changes in the plankton community. Now I am lucky enough to be the Head of the CPR Survey, the fact it has been running since 1931 makes it more of a current custodian role! I’m also a member of the Senior Management Team here at the MBA, also representing the Research Vessels. My recent work has focussed on applying plankton data to the question of marine ecosystem health, and how we can monitor the key trophic layers which all marine life is ultimately dependent upon. I still occasionally look down the microscope, curiosity at looking at microscopic life has never left me – seeing a good example of something quite common can be as exciting as an exotic specimen – I am fascinated with all aspects of natural history. Externally I chair the NMBAQC committee, promoting best practice in marine biological monitoring, making sure data collected are as robust and reliable as possible. 

Professor David Sims

Professor David Sims, Mem.MBA, MAE

Senior Research Fellow

Professor David Sims, Mem.MBA, MAE

Senior Research Fellow

Professor David Sims

dws@mba.ac.uk

I have a lifelong interest in the behaviour, ecology and conservation of ocean predators. My research career began in 1991 with studies on the ecophysiology of feeding in small-spotted catsharks, completed in part at the Marine Biological Association. I embarked in 1995 on what has become a 25 year study of basking shark behavioural ecology. In 2001, shortly after joining the MBA as Research Fellow, we obtained the first long-term satellite trackings of basking sharks showing that they do not hibernate in winter, exhibit regional annual site fidelity, and cross national boundaries frequently, results which contributed to their international protection under CITES (2003) and CMS (2006) listings. Since 2001 I have studied the movement ecology of oceanic sharks and other threatened fish in relation to climate change and fishing. In 2016 I initiated the Global Shark Movement Project, a collaboration of over 150 scientists across 26 countries, aimed at tracking movements and changing habitats of pelagic sharks and quantifying the threats they face. We revealed where large spatial overlaps between sharks and longline fisheries and shipping occurred, demonstrating how threatened populations are most impacted. Awards for our research include the FSBI Medal (2007) and the Marsh Award for Marine Conservation (2019).

Our Science

Coastal

Ecology

OCean
Biology