Project proposal details

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Project title
Biodiversity of gastropod molluscs in the world’s largest mineral exploration frontier
Contact name
Adrian Glover
Contact email
Project based at
Natural History Museum
Project description
NHM Supervisors: Adrian Glover, Suzanne Williams, Lupita Bribiesca-Contreras (Life Sciences)
External Supervisors: Helena Wiklund, Thomas Dahlgren (U Gothenburg, Sweden)

Project available April - Sept 2021

The Clarion-Clipperton Zone, central Pacific abyss, is the world’s largest frontier for the seabed mining of metals critical to a future green economy transition (e.g nickel and cobalt). There are currently 16 contracted licences for exploration in this 6 million sq km region, at depths of 4000-5000m. A critical scientific knowledge gap for the successful regulation of this potentially vast new industry is an understanding of the baseline taxonomy, biodiversity and population connectivity of the animals that live there (Glover et al 2018), which are dominated by abyssal invertebrates such as polychaetes, echinoderms, molluscs and crustaceans (Wiklund et al 2017, 2019). The student on this project will work on gastropod molluscs collected as part of several recent and ongoing expeditions to the central Pacific abyss. They will sort and image specimens, undertake DNA sequencing and phylogenetic analysis, analyse diversity and biogeographic patterns and prepare a project report in the format of a systematic paper characterising the fauna of the region with additional ecological and biogeographic context. The data are of critical conservation importance and can lead to direct policy recommendations in an international context. The samples include species new to science, and have not yet been published.

Covid-regs permitting, there will be an opportunity for fieldwork on a research vessel on the UK coast in mid-June 2021.


Glover AG, Wiklund H, Chen C, Dahlgren TG. Point of View: Managing a sustainable deep-sea ‘blue economy’ requires knowledge of what actually lives there. ELife. 2018 Nov 27;7:e41319.

Wiklund H, Neal L, Glover AG, Drennan R, Rabone M, Dahlgren TG. Abyssal fauna of polymetallic nodule exploration areas, eastern Clarion-Clipperton Zone, central Pacific Ocean: Annelida: Capitellidae, Opheliidae, Scalibregmatidae, and Travisiidae. ZooKeys. 2019;883:1.

Wiklund H, Taylor JD, Dahlgren TG, Todt C, Ikebe C, Rabone M, Glover AG. Abyssal fauna of the UK-1 polymetallic nodule exploration area, Clarion-Clipperton Zone, central Pacific Ocean: Mollusca. ZooKeys. 2017(707):1.
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Project proposal limitations

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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
5 months
Available date limitations
Spring (April-May)