DPhil Student: Merton College

E-mail: jack.laverick@merton.ox.ac.uk

See Jack’s NERC webpage and more information about the Oxford Environmental Research DTP

Research Interests


My research considers the benthic communities found in mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs). MCEs begin at depths of 30m – 40m, largely coincident with the limit of recreational SCUBA diving, and end with the last occurrence of zooxanthellate corals (~150m). Recent interest in MCEs comes from the suggestion that, when connected to shallow reefs, they may be significant for conservation. Depth may provide protection from anthropogenic impacts such as changing sea surface temperatures and coastal run off. As a result, an impacted shallow reef may later recover when offspring from mesophotic reefs settle in shallower water. This is known as the Deep Reef Refugia Hypothesis (DRRH).


A mesophotic reef near Utila Honduras. Credit – Brian J. Sullivan


In order for the DRRH to apply a number of assumptions must hold true. My research tests these assumptions:

(i) There is an overlap in benthic communities between the shallows and mesophotic depths. If this is not true, deep offspring are not able to replace the shallow reef.

(ii) MCEs are reproductively active. Alternatively deeper individuals are living on the edge of their physiological capabilities and contribute to a sink community.

(iii) Mesophotic individuals are capable of surviving in the shallows. Mesophotic conditions are stressful, adaptations to low light levels may prevent migration to shallow waters.

My research is supported by NERC through the Oxford University Environmental Research Doctoral Training Partnership. My fieldwork is currently supported by Operation Wallacea.


CCR and technical SCUBA techniques, Caribbean hard coral ID, PAM flurometry, stable isotope analysis, scanning electron microscopy, systematic review and meta-analysis, R.

In addition I have experience with a variety of in-water ecological survey techniques during technical dives including: underwater visual census, benthic quadrats, video belt transects, stereo-video transects, coral bleaching analyses, scoring fish behaviour, Lionfish collection, sediment sampling, water sampling, coral sampling, reciprocal coral transplants, and fish exclusion trials.

Research Experience

2016: Mesophotic and Benthic Scientist

Easter and summer field seasons, Operation Wallacea

I continued my research on Utila using recreational and technical OC diving to collect coral material and contribute to long-term monitoring data. At the same time I revised the universities Caribbean coral ID course, lectured college and university students, and led students on dives offering training in scientific techniques.

 2015: Researcher

Thinking deep expedition, University of Oxford

I used technical CCR diving over a four month expedition to collect ecological data and coral material at depths of up to 85m. I established and maintained long-term experimental manipulations. In addition I conducted physiology trials in field-based aquaria while video data and stable isotope analyses were conducted back in the UK.

2013: Researcher

Hoga island field season, Operation Wallacea

I used recreational OC diving to determine the likelihood a reduction in coral cover was driven by an increase in sponge cover. Species interactions were scored in situ and photogrammetry was used to measure coral and sponge cover.

 2010 – 2012: Scientific Technician

ADAS, Rosemaund

As a field technician, I was involved heavily in practical work on commercially managed field trials for HGCA and other clients. I collected data related to trials on wheat, barley and oil seed rape. Assessments included disease scoring, yields and soil analysis. My work followed the whole pipeline, setting up plots treated with varying application of fertilisers and insecticides. Samples were later collected by hand and combine harvester before analysis at the main site. IT skills were employed to maintain trial specific company datasheets.



Oct 2014 – Present: DPhil in environmental research (NERC Doctoral Training Programme)

University of Oxford

Project: Validating the Deep Reef Refugia Hypothesis

Projects have so far identified ecological transitions in community, site-specific physiological trends, and depth-dependent mortality.

Oct 2011 – Jun 2014: BA (Hons) Biological Sciences – First Class

Merton College, Oxford

Modules focused on ecology, public health, and evolution.

Awarded a postmastership for sustained academic excellence October 2013.



  • Laverick, J. H., Andradi-Brown, D. A., Exton, D. A., Bongaerts, P., Bridge, T. C. L., Lesser, M. P., Pyle, R. L., Slattery, M., Wagner, D., Rogers, A. D. (2016). To what extent do mesophotic coral ecosystems and shallow reefs share species of conservation interest? Environmental Evidence, 5(1), 16. http://doi.org/10.1186/s13750-016-0068-5
  • Andradi-Brown D, Laverick J, Bejarano I, Bridge T, Colin PL, Eyal G, Jones R, Kahng S, Reed J, Smith T, Spalding H, Weil E, Wood E (2016) Threats to mesophotic coral ecosystems and management options. In: Baker EK, Puglise KA, Harris PT (eds) Mesophotic coral ecosystems – a life boat for coral reefs? The United Nations Environment Programme and GRID-Arendal, Nairobi and Arendal. http://apps.unep.org/redirect.php?file=/publications/pmtdocuments/Mesophotic_Coral_Ecosystems__A_lifeboat_for_coral_reefs_-2016Mesoreport_finaldraft.pdf.pdf
  • Laverick J. “Thinking deep in the twilight zone- Using rebreathers for coral research.” X-Ray magazine 12th Feb. 2016, 59:64. Digital. http://www.xray-mag.com/pdfs/articles/Tech_TwilightZone_JackLaverick_71_locked.pd
  • 10.7490/f1000research.1111106.1. Laverick J and Rogers AD. Validating the deep reef refugia hypothesis [v1; not peer reviewed]. F1000Research 2015, 4:1394 (poster)
  • 10.7490/f1000research.1111111.1. Gress E, Andradi-Brown D, Laverick J and Rogers AD. Orbicella spp. assessment across a shallow-mesophotic gradient on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef [v1; not peer reviewed]. F1000Research 2015, 4:1398 (poster)