Oliver processes material with Dr Laura Robinson (Reader in Geochemistry, University of Bristol) gathered from an Agassiz trawl. [© Melanie Mackenzie]

Report: A research cruise on the Southern Ocean

With help from a Graduate Research Grant from Merton, DPhil student Oliver Ashford spent over a month on the British Antarctic Survey South Orkneys State of the Antarctic Ecosystem research cruise on the Southern Ocean in early 2016.

The expedition took samples from depths of between 200 and 2000 metres, and the team have been able to identify more than 15 species new to science, as well as suggest key areas of the seafloor around the South Orkney Islands particularly deserving of protection.

Oliver says:

"This research cruise has given me the opportunity to meet some of the world’s foremost polar biologists. In particular, I have been working closely with Professor Angelika Brandt – a leading isopod taxonomist and deep-sea scientist. She has generously given her time training me in the physical processes of sample collection, taxonomy and report writing. Important links such as this will both help to advertise Oxford’s name in the realm of marine biology, and accelerate my academic career.

"I would like to thank Merton College again for the generosity that has made it possible for me to accept this valuable opportunity. This has been my first deep-sea research cruise and first expedition to the waters around Antarctica, and I have gained invaluable experience not only in the methods of deep-sea sample collection and the preservation and identification of specimens, but also in the management and organisation of such an endeavour; in particular how to work with an international team of scientists to ensure that the very best is extracted from every individual in sometimes very testing circumstances. Thank you again for making this opportunity possible."