Projects looking for someone to make their own:

MSD (1 yr Masters project) – Stylasteridae habitat suitability modelling

Stylasteridae, lace corals, are the second most speciose group of calcifying corals (290 species; Linder et al., 2014, Zootaxa) with a global distribution (Arctic to Antarctic) and living from shallow (0m) to deep areas (2789m; Cairns, 2011, PLoS ONE). They are classified as forming vulnerable marine ecosystems (United National General Assembly UNGA, 2007; 2009) and play a central role in deep-sea ecosystems and the carbon cycle. Fishing interactions with VMEs are an ever-increasing problem in deep-sea areas (Victorero et al., 2018, Front. Mar. Sci) and there is strong evidence that stylasterids are especially vulnerable to fishing damage (Taylor, 2013, Imperial College London). With stylasterids living at or below the aragonite saturation horizon they may be close to their environmental tolerances – an important consideration with ongoing ocean acidification. Learning more about what environmental factors define where stylasterid coral exist is therefore an important undertaking. One method would be to look the drivers of habitat suitability. Habitat suitability models involves investigating what common environmental factors occur in locations where stylasterids are found and then projecting where other similar areas are located.

To START in Oct – email me now: Michelle.taylor@essex.ac.uk

Project activities

Global environmental data layers e.g. bathymetry (for aspect, roughness etc), oxygen concentration, temperature etc, will be collected. Stylasterid locations from the database will be used to investigate what factors are driving stylasterids presence.


Student will learn data harvesting, data collection, database creation, map creation programmes (ARCgis and /or QGIS), presence-only habitat suitability modelling analyses (ENFA, Maxent). This project would suit a candidate who is interesting in large-scale global processes, the deep-sea, and whom has an interest in mathematical modelling.

Masters research projects

1. An octocoral nursery: Using barcoding to investigate species ID of eggs found on deep-sea octocorals.

Involves genetic barcoding of deep-sea samples. Laboratory-based.

2. Are seamounts shark nursery habitats? Using video analysis to look at shark habitat in the deep sea.

Involves video analysis so is office-based. Work links with colleagues at the National Oceanography Centre.

Email Dr Taylor for more info : michelle.taylor@essex.ac.uk

PhD self-funded research projects

I have a wealth of deep sea specimens and several PhD projects ready to go. At the moment these include:

Does variation microbial populations match host population connectivity in a deep-sea coral?

Deep-sea population genomics and seascape genomics of bivalve across the North Atlantic

A global study of deep-sea connectivity of the solitary coral, Desmophyllum

Ocean-scale population genomics – from north to south Atlantic.


The above plethora of samples, with some sequencing and consumable finance, could answer are some interesting ecological questions. If you are interested in my field of research and join our lab as a postdoc here is a link to a list of fellowships: https://asntech.github.io/postdoc-funding-schemes/

Email me to discuss ideas.

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