Research Themes

My research examines the impacts of climate change on life in the ocean.  We focus on developing knowledge about the linkages between the physical and biological environments in the ocean, and thereby understand the climate change impacts that we have seen thus far. Furthermore, when combined with projections of the future physical environment, such knowledge can then be used to make predictions on the short, medium and long-time scales. Such understanding is also key to separating the effects of climate change from other processes, such as the natural variability of the environment and processes such as population dynamics and fishing, which can cloud and confuse the issue.

My group has a number of key, interlinked, research themes as follows: 

Marine Ecological Climate Services

 Modern oceanographic circulation models are approaching a level of precision and accuracy whereby 5 year or longer forecasts of key oceanographic variables are becoming feasible, especially in the North Atlantic. However, translating these forecasts of physical properties into biological outcomes remains challenging. We aim to pioneer a set of methods and tools to take advantage of this opportunity and generate some of the first forecasts of biological systems.

Distributional shifts in response to climate change

 Anthropogenically-driven climate change is rapidly modifying the environment in which marine organisms live, with changes in temperature, salinity, oxygenation, circulation, pH, and stratification of the ocean already occurring. But what will this mean for the organisms that live there? For many species the answer is to shift their distribution, and attempt to follow the shifting envelope of favourable habitat. In this theme we attempt to understand the changes in distribution that have already occurred, and elucidate the processes the drive the distribution of species in the ocean. We can then use this knowledge identify the changes that we can expect to see in the future.

Phenology - the timing of key events in the ocean

 Phenology is the study of the timing of key events in the life cycle of an organism, such as when they migrate, spawn or when their growing season starts. The timing of such events is typically cued by the physical environment, and as such, changes in phenology have already been reported in response to climate change. Phenology is also thought to have an important impact on the recruitment of fish stocks via the so-called Match-Mismatch hypothesis. However, phenology is also the poor--cousin of climate impact research in the ocean, mainly due to the limited availability of datasets. We therefore attempt to identify and analyse datasets that can provide new insights into these vital processes.

Recruitment to fish stocks

Variations in the recruitment processes in fish are traditionally explained in terms of large-scale physical variability. Whilst this approach has not been particularly successful in the past, technological advances are opening up new avenues of investigation. In particular, the development of oceanographic circulation models provides the potential to perform investigations (particle tracking experiments, reanalysis of existing observations, scenario analysis) that were not previously possible, and thereby generate new insights into this perplexing question.