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PhD defence and Post. Doctoral position for Emmelie Åström

Nyhet   •   apr 23, 2018 14:56 CEST

Emmelie Åström successfully defended her PhD. thesis at UiT The Arctic University of Norway. The title of her thesis is: "Benthic communities at high-Arctic cold seeps: Faunal response to methane seepage in Svalbard"

The PhD committee was:

  • Professor Cindy Lee Van Dover, Division of Marine Science and Conservation, Nicholas School of the Environment Duke University, USA (1. opponent)
  • Director Michael Klages, Sven Lovén Centre for Marine Sciences, University of Gothenberg, Sweden (2. opponent)
  • Professor Tine Rasmussen, Department of Geosciences, UiT (Internal member and leader of the committee)

Main supervisor: Professor JoLynn Carroll, Akvaplan-niva and UiT


On the offshore continental shelves of Svalbard and in the Barents Sea, we investigated cold seeps within the depth range of 85-1200 m to describe the animal assemblages and surrounding habitats. The aim was to study the ecological structure, diversity and food web dynamics at high-Arctic cold seeps, document how they compared with conventional, non-seep communities, and examine the interaction between seep and non-seep communities where they co-occur.

The focus of this PhD-project is the animal communities living at cold seeps; places where methane gas is occurs naturally in the seabed and can escape from the seabed into the water column. The project has involved characterization of these specialized habitats, identification of the animals living there and a comparison of cold seep communities with nearby non-seep communities. The thesis also examines the trophic structure of the animals present at cold seeps in order to identify food web patterns. The key findings are: 

1) Methane-derived carbon is part of the food web of the Barents Sea ecosystem.

2) Cold seeps are identified as focal areas, providing hard bottom surfaces, 3D-structure and food resources for bottom-living animals.

3) Cold seeps have a strong, localized effect over small areas, supporting dense communities of small chemosymbiotic worms that play an important role in structuring the seabed animal community

4) The discovery of two new species of methane-associated clams at Svalbard cold seeps.

This is the first dedicated study of high-Arctic cold seeps that focuses on the biological and ecological aspects of sea-floor communities offshore Svalbard. 

Emmelie Åström  will now begin a prestigious VISTA (The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters) Post-Doctoral position connected to the Nansen Legacy Project. She will be based at UiT The Arctic University of Norway,Tromsø; Faculty of Biosciences, Fisheries and Economics, Department of Arctic Marine Biology. Her Post-Doctoral position focuses on the impact of chemosynthetic carbon sources in marine food webs at Arctic cold seeps.

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