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D.Phil Student (NERC CASE Studentship)

Merton College and CEFAS



My research focuses on the ecology of deep-sea crustacean communities in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. I have a particular interest in the way that environmental variation acts to shape crustacean communities in the deep sea, and how humans may be altering these communities both directly (via fishing) and indirectly (via climate change).

At present, I am assembling one of the largest deep-sea datasets ever produced. This is composed of over 20,200 specimens of peracarid crustacean (many awaiting description) from more than 300 box cores collected from the Flemish Cap, Flemish Pass, and the continental slopes of the Grand Banks as part of the NEREIDA program.  Coupled to this, I have amassed an extremely extensive high-resolution environmental library, with data ranging from measures of seafloor ruggedness to metrics of fishing intensity. I am also in the process of constructing the most comprehensive phylogenetic tree of peracarid crustaceans yet produced.

Using this information, I aim to explore fundamental questions concerning the factors (abiotic and biotic) shaping deep-sea macrofaunal communities, relationships between diversity and functioning in the deep sea, and how humans may be impacting this extensive habitat. I also intend to apply my findings to promote appropriate and sustainable management practices in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) regulation area.


Research Experience

Feb 2016 – Mar 2016: South Orkneys State of the Antarctic Ecosystem (So-AntEco) research cruise aboard RRS James Clark Ross – Cruise participant helping with the deployment of gear, and the identification and preservation of benthic fauna, with a focus on deep-sea corals and peracarid crustaceans. Co-authored chapters 1, 3 and 9 of cruise report.

Oct 2012 – Sep 2013: Visiting Researcher in the SERPENT group at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. Undertook habitat suitability modelling for xenophyophores (giant deep-sea protozoans).

May – Sep 2012: MSc research student at the Natural History Museum, London.
Used environmental DNA samples to expand upon the known diversity of haplosporidians (parasites of marine invertebrates including mussels, oysters and crabs).

Jul – Aug 2011: Research and field assistant with the SAFE (Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems) project in Malaysian Borneo (Sabah).
Investigated hypothesised changes in the effectiveness and efficiency of ant-based ecosystem services along a spectrum of anthropogenic forest manipulation.

Jul – Aug 2010: Research expedition to Panama (Barro Colorado Island), working as a member of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
Sampled rainforest soils to understand relationships between leaf litter depth and invertebrate diversity and community structure.

Aug 2009: Research assistant for the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.
Cetacean, basking shark and seabird survey work, acoustic monitoring and identification photography.



Oct 2013 – Present
University of Oxford – Merton College, CEFAS
D. Phil Zoology (NERC CASE Studentship)

Oct 2011 – Sep 2012
Imperial College London and the Natural History Museum
MSc. Taxonomy and Biodiversity (Distinction)
Diploma of Imperial College (DIC)

Oct 2008 – June 2011
University of Cambridge – Peterhouse
BA. (Hons) Natural Sciences Tripos – Zoology (First-Class)



  • Ashford, O.S., Davies, A.J., Jones, D.O.B. 2014. ‘Deep-sea benthic megafaunal habitat suitability modelling: A global-scale maximum entropy model for xenophyophores’. Deep-Sea Research Part I. DOI: 10.1016/j.dsr.2014.07.012
  • Hartikainen, H., Ashford, O.S., Berney, C., Okamura, B., Feist, S.W., Baker-Austin, C., Stentiford, G.D., Bass, D. 2014. ‘Lineage-specific molecular probing reveals novel diversity and ecological partitioning of haplosporidians’. ISME Journal. DOI:10.1038/ismej.2013.136
  • Ashford, O.S., Foster, W.A., Turner, B.L., Sayer, E.J., Sutcliffe, L., Tanner, E.V.J. 2013. ‘Litter manipulation and the soil arthropod community in a lowland tropical rainforest’. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 62: 5-12. DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2013.03.001


Please email me for a more detailed CV