My Research: Rui Pedro Vieira


I am Rui and I am going to talk a little about my PhD project.

I am a second year PhD student at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton and my main research interests are deep-sea ecology, biological oceanography and taxonomy. My project aims to understand deepwater ecosystems functioning and the effects of human-induced changes along continental slopes. To answer this questions I will 1) analyse aspects of trophic ecology of deep-water fishes, and 2) quantify the impacts of trawling on benthic communities in the Porcupine Seabight and south coast of Portugal through detailed image analysis and historical fishery records.

“Flying” chimaera

The study of deepwater fishes trophic ecology is important to identify food sources and feeding relationships. This is used to understand links between species and different ecosystems and is a useful tool assess the true impact of human-induced activities along the seabed. Also, comparing visual records of benthic communities in areas subject to different levels of trawling over time series will allow a quantitative assessment of the impact of fisheries on the abundance and diversity of benthic organisms and ecosystems health.

“But how does he study the trophic ecology of deep-water fishes?” Perhaps this comes to your mind… and yes, this is a good question! I am using a novel approach that will allow me to know more about these deepwater fishes. Analyzing geochemical tracers from fish muscle, called stable isotopes, I will be able know what fishes are feeding, their ecological role and relationships, and their position in trophic foodwebs.

Hexactinellid sponges (Pheronema sp.)

Later I will study the impacts of human activities in the deep sea. Using underwater photography and video, I will be able to directly see and quantify the impacts of trawling on benthic communities, particularly deepwater sponges.

I will also investigate historical fishery records of the crustacean trawl fishery off the Algarve coast (southern Portugal). This multispecies fishery is characterised by a significant by-catch and discarding of numerous species and the available historical data will be compared with the current status of these fishing grounds in order to evaluate impacts of trawling on marine biodiversity.

holothuria (top left), venus flytrap sea anemone (centre) and some small cup corals
Holothuria (top left), venus flytrap sea anemone (centre) and some small cup corals

I hope you find it interesting. Find me @rui_pedro19

Images collected during the JC062 Cruise in the Porcupine Seabight.

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