Project proposal details

Please look carefully through the proposal details below. If you are interested in the project then contact the supervisor, explaining why you are interested and any background which makes you a good fit for the project.

If this is an external project, the lead supervisor may have suggested someone at Imperial College or the NHM who could act as an internal supervisor and you should also contact them. If the project is external and no internal has been proposed then you must find an internal supervisor before starting the project.

Please pay close attention to any extra notes on requirements (such as being able to drive or to speak particular languages) or the application process. There may be specific limitations on the project availability: if there are then they will be clearly shown further down the page.

Project title
Iceland’s shallow-water hydrothermal vents: faunal zonation and taxonomic characterisation
Contact name
Magdalena Georgieva
Project based at
Natural History Museum
Project description
Deep-sea hydrothermal vents (or hot springs) are home to extraordinary, highly-specialised marine animals, adapted in a variety of ways to obtaining their energy from the chemicals that these vents emit. While the sharp temperature gradients, unstable, and toxic conditions typical of hydrothermal vents can make them challenging habitats for marine life, the ready food supply provides a strong incentive for adapting to vents. The majority of Earth’s hydrothermal vents are difficult to access as they are found at over 2 km water depth, however, off the northern coast of Iceland in Eyjafjörður, hydrothermal vents occur at a depth of just 15-70 metres. These vents thus interact with shallow-water marine communities, providing hard substrate for sessile fauna, but it is largely unknown if they influence these marine communities further through the heat and chemicals that they release. Their situation within Arctic marine waters also makes them ideal for investigating the effect of rising ocean temperatures on polar marine fauna. The main vent chimney, known as Strýtan, was originally discovered by fishermen and since 1997 has been frequently visited by SCUBA divers. While the fauna of this region has been inventoried through the BIOICE project (Benthic Invertebrates of Icelandic waters, 1991–2004), a detailed investigation of the communities associated with these chimneys is yet to be performed. This is greatly needed in order to gain insights into the effects of these chimneys on Arctic shallow marine life, as well as to inform management of this unique site - the chimneys are a protected area currently experiencing increasing visitation pressure from a variety of groups.

In June 2019, we performed extensive SCUBA-dive sampling and remotely-operated video surveys of marine fauna associated with the Strýtan and Arnarnesstrýtur vent chimneys in Eyjafjörður, Iceland. Additional comparative samples were also collected from nearby non-vent sites. This project will use the above data to perform a combined morphological and molecular taxonomic characterisation of the fauna associated with Iceland’s shallow water vents.

The student will work at the Natural History Museum under the supervision of Dr Magdalena Georgieva and Dr Adrian Glover, to identify collected samples and explore their zonation along the vent chimneys. The genetic component of this project (DNA extraction, amplification and sequencing) will be performed within the molecular laboratories of the Natural History Museum. There may also be an opportunity for the student participate in shallow-water marine biological fieldwork during an annual lab summer expedition off the Plymouth coast.

References

Marteinsson, V. T., Kristjánsson, J. K., Kristmannsdóttir, H., Dahlkvist, M., Sæmundsson, K., Hannington, M., ... & Stoffers, P. (2001) Discovery and description of giant submarine smectite cones on the seafloor in Eyjafjordur, northern Iceland, and a novel thermal microbial habitat. Appl. Environ. Microbiol., 67(2), 827-833.

Omarsdottir, S., Einarsdottir, E., Ögmundsdottir, H. M., Freysdottir, J., Olafsdottir, E. S., Molinski, T. F., & Svavarsson, J. (2013) Biodiversity of benthic invertebrates and bioprospecting in Icelandic waters. Phytochemistry Reviews, 12(3), 517-529.
Additional requirements
Training will be provided, experience in marine biology and working within a laboratory environment would be beneficial but are not essential.
Selection and eligibility
To apply, please send a CV and a short covering letter explaining why you are interested in the project.
Date uploaded
2020-02-06

Project proposal limitations

The project proposer has indicated that there are some limitations to the availability of this project. It may only be available at certain times of year or suit a specific project length. It may also need skills taught to students on a particular course or courses.

Research project proposals are usually part of an active research programme. If supervisors have stated limitations to a proposal, then they are unlikely to have any flexibility. If you are very interested in the topic but have problems with the stated limitations, the supervisor may still be happy to talk to you about other options around the proposal, but you should not expect that any alternative arrangements can be made.

Project length limitations
3.5 months, 5 months
Available date limitations
Spring (April-May)
Suitable for
Taxonomy and Biodiversity [NHM MSc], Biosystematics [NHM MRes]