Students and research staff

Marta Cecchetto (PhD student)

DSC_0131Originally from Italy, Marta moved to Scotland in 2013 to study marine science at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (UHI) in Oban. The ocean has always been one of her greatest passions and during her degree she had the opportunity to discover and further explore this environment.

Following a BSc (Hons) in Marine Science at the SAMS, Marta moved to Edinburgh to start her PhD in Deep-Sea Biology in the Deep-Sea Ecology and Biogeochemistry research team at the Lyell Centre in 2017.

Her research is primarily focused on deep-sea ecosystem functioning. Marta is studying two areas of the deep sea, Andvord Fjord, along the West Antarctic Peninsula, and the western side of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the central Pacific Ocean.

Deep-sea environments offer numerous ecosystem services that are crucial to our lives.  These include  fisheries, carbon storage and nutrient cycling. Anthropogenic impacts such as climate change and deep-sea mining will soon significantly alter these environments. Hence, studying how these stressors will alter these environments is fundamental to preserving these deep-sea environments and the services that they offer.  Marta is currently researching ecosystem processes in sediments from these environments, such as carbon and nutrient cycling to better understand and characterise these diverse and unique deep-sea environments, and how climate change and deep-sea mining may alter them in future.  Email:

Danielle de Jonge (PhD student)

2016-06_PelagiaMy PhD research is part of the iAtlantic project, and is focused on how abyssal benthic (=seafloor) ecosystem functioning will react to multiple environmental stressors. Climate change and human activities are predicted to alter the biogeochemistry of seawater, for example the temperature, organic matter quality and quantity, pH (acidity) and oxygen concentration. This may impact ecosystem functioning, which can be measured, for example, as carbon cycling rates and bioturbation activity. Firstly, I will study how ecosystem functioning varies naturally across environmental gradients by studying benthic ecosystem functioning at multiple deep Atlantic study sites with different environmental conditions. Secondly, I will experimentally assess the effect of altered seawater biogeochemistry on bathyal sediments with shipboard incubation experiments.

I am a Dutch marine biologist and I love working in open-ocean and deep-sea ecosystems. Before this PhD project I had the privilege to work on hydrothermal vents, elusive deep-sea squid, and deep-sea mining simulations. I have studied at the Scottish Association for Marine Science and the University of Groningen, and undertaken research internships at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and GEOMAR Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung, Kiel. I have a background in spatial ecological analyses, mathematical modeling (linear inverse models, food-web stability), metabarcoding, and some imagery analysis and population genetics. Anyone with an interest in, or questions about my research is welcome to get in touch!  Email:

Alycia Smith (PhD student)

A. SmithIn 2019, I graduated with an Integrated Master’s Degree in Marine Biology from the University of Southampton. I have long had an interest in deep-sea ecosystems and the species that call these environments home. My Bachelor thesis work involved conducting morphometric analyses to find potential sexually dimorphic traits of the largest deep-sea pycnogonid, Colossendeis colossea.

My Master thesis investigated the physicochemical effects (seabed stability, nutrient availability, sediment properties, etc) of storms on non-cohesive benthic ecosystems under future climate scenarios, and how these may impact on habitat suitability and seafloor ecosystem functioning.

My PhD work will form part of the DeepGreen baseline project, which aims to quantify seafloor biogeochemistry and ecosystem processes in the NORI-D license area of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone before any polymetallic nodule mining begins. This baseline data will then be used to make informed decisions to generate mining technologies that have as little environmental impact as possible.

Dominique Anderson (PhD student)


Originally from the west coast of Canada, I moved to Scotland in 2010.  In 2019, a major career change from a decade in hospitality management saw me complete my BSc in Environmental Resource Management with first class honours from Scotland’s Rural College and the University of Edinburgh.  My research focused on the ecotoxicological effects of increased turbidity associated with sea cage aquaculture on marine sponges, and their potential to act as bioremediators of fish farm waste.  During this time, I worked as a laboratory assistant, contributing to research on deep-sea sponge ecotoxicology for the EC-H2020 ATLAS project.

In 2020, I was awarded a MSc in Marine Resource Development and Protection with distinction from Heriot-Watt University.  My MSc thesis examined the developments in molecular biology that have enabled investigators to obtain complete transcriptomes.  It included the assembly and interrogation of the reference transcriptome for the marine sponge Halichondria panicea, an emerging model species in ecotoxicological studies.

My PhD research is funded as part of the DeepGreen baseline project and seeks to investigate the ecotoxicology of deep-sea organisms from areas targeted for deep-sea mining in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean. I will use laboratory and field experiments to assess toxicological responses at different levels of biological organisation, from molecular to whole-organism levels.

Rachael Hall (PhD student)

DSC_4067  My PhD is funded as part of the One Ocean Hub project, contributing to Research Program 3 which focuses on the sustainable and equitable management of fisheries in an ecosystem context. I will be investigating the impact of mangrove loss on marine biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services in the coastal zone of Ghana. Mangrove forests support numerous ecosystem services, many of which are important to commercial fisheries. To improve the management of Ghanaian fisheries in an ecosystems context it is vital to understand the impact of mangrove deforestation on the provision of key ecosystem services such as C-burial and supporting fish stocks, and consequently people’s livelihoods. I will be quantifying seafloor and pelagic biodiversity, trophic ecology, and biogeochemical cycles with the aim of comparing ecosystem functioning in mangrove forests and deforested habitats along the coastline of Ghana.

I have a keen interest in coastal ecosystem functioning and the influence of anthropogenic activities, sparked by my Undergraduate dissertation research. While studying Environmental Science at the University of Dundee I investigated the impact of coastal development on mangrove forest biomass and extent in Northern Honduras.  In 2019, I graduated with a Master’s in Marine Ecosystem Management from the University of St Andrews. I conducted my dissertation research with the Sediment Ecology Research Group at the Scottish Oceans Institute, assessing the success of salt marsh restoration in the Eden Estuary using benthic community analysis techniques to compare ecosystem functioning between restored and unrestored sites.

Bianca Mata (Undergraduate student)


I am an undergraduate student currently studying for a Physical Geography BSc degree at Heriot-Watt University, but with a strong drive towards marine science. Since my first year studying geography, I encountered subjects related to the marine environment, which absolutely fascinated me.  Connected with the sea since my childhood, the subjects in marine ecosystems, its scientific processes and connection to climate change made me rediscover my passion for this field and research.  In 2019 I started as a volunteer in the DSEB group at the Lyell Centre assisting Marta Cecchetto with sorting microfauna from Andvord Bay (a deep-sea fjord) in Antarctica. I am also learning about other scientific processes and looking to get involved in more projects with the group and gain more marine science expertise.

Dr. Rob P. Harbour (Postdoctoral researcher)

Screenshot 2019-09-16 at 11.22.07Rob Harbour received a First Class Marine Biology BSc (Hons) in 2017, and his PhD from Heriot-Watt University in 2020.  His PhD was undertaken in the Deep-Sea Ecology and Biogeochemistry research group and focused on faunal biodiversity and food-web structure of organic falls in the deep sea. In recent decades there has been a resurgence of interest in kelp harvesting in Norway, which along with the effects of climate change and urchin grazing events, has resulted in an unprecedented loss of kelp habitat. In contrast to this, distribution of terrestrial boreal forests in Norway is rising year on year. Both wood and kelp make their way into deep-sea habitats and are thought to be important substrates for unique fauna living there. Rob’s research utilised benthic landers, placed in situ in a deep Norwegian fjord, and quantified colonisation and trophic structure of fauna on wood and kelp falls.  Rob also deployed a baited-camera lander in the Arctic circle and the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean to depths of up to 4300 m to study assemblages of deep-sea scavengers attracted to fish falls.  Rob is now undertaking a 2.5 yr post-doc on the DeepGreen project and focusing on the ecology and biodiversity of deep-sea scavengers in the NORI-D claim area of the CCZ. Email:

Rory Davis (Senior lander technician)

Originally from the Scottish Highlands, Rory moved down to Edinburgh in August 2020 after leaving his job as an offshore electronics technician in the N. Sea oil and gas industry.  He has joined the deep-sea group as a senior deep-sea equipment technician.  His roles will include servicing and maintaining the deep-sea lander facility of the group, deploying them on numerous deep-sea research cruises that the team will be involved with over the coming years, as well as deep-sea equipment development. Email: