Denise Swanborn has been awarded the Stanley Gray Fellowship for her PhD research on seabed and habitat mapping in the Indian Ocean, conducted at the University of Oxford between the Department of Earth Sciences and the Department of Zoology as part of the NERC-Oxford DTP in Environmental Research. She is part of the Nekton Foundation; an organisation focused on scientific ocean exploration and protection running activities in the Indian Ocean.
Although the ocean at depths beyond 30m is the largest habitat for life, scientific understanding of life at these depths remains limited. It is necessary to develop efficient research strategies to understand the environmental drivers of healthy ecosystems to inform ocean management. The Indian Ocean is often described as the least known and least protected ocean, and so the application of these frameworks in this area is vital. Systematic research into the relationship between the physical environment and healthy ecosystems is an important field in terrestrial ecology, but its marine equivalent is still relatively young and strongly limited by technological challenges. Consequently, there are uncertainties about the applicability of theories developed on land to deep marine landscapes.
Denise’s multidisciplinary research, supported by the fellowship, contributes to an understanding of how landscape ecology concepts can be applied for the study of the seabed using acoustic (sonar) and optic (photogrammetry) seabed mapping technologies. The outcomes of this research will provide information about the relationship between seabed structure and biodiversity patterns through case studies on seamounts and atoll slopes in the Indian Ocean. Such knowledge is essential to inform area-management tools for the conservation and sustainable management of marine resources in the deep ocean by indicating areas of particular interest for biodiversity.
“Receiving the IMarEST’s Stanley Gray Fellowship has been a tremendous recognition, and I am very proud to be part of a global organisation that joins scientists, engineers and professionals with a passion for the ocean. The Stanley Gray Fellowship will contribute to new study approaches for seabed systems, tested in one of the least-studied areas of the world, with potential to inform their sustainable management. To this end, I am grateful for the opportunities the award provides me to connect with collaborators in different parts of the world, deepen my knowledge on my specific topic as well as strengthen my skills more broadly as a marine scientist. These experiences are not only valuable for the remainder of my PhD research, but equally for my future career. I look forward to continue the exchange of knowledge and ideas with the wider IMarEST community over the years to come.” Denise Swanborn, winner of the Stanley Gray Fellowship