The Marine Biological Association

Promoting marine scientific excellence and representing the marine biological community since 1884

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Research programme

The MBA research programme is recognized for its excellence and diversity, and reflects a long-standing commitment to the development of marine biology.

An overarching rationale for our programme is to understand mechanisms that underlie key marine life processes.  This includes research on model marine organisms that informs our broader knowledge of fundamental mechanisms as well as research that is specifically targetted at understanding  biogeochemical and ecological processes and their complex interactions with environmental factors, including long-term and rapid environmental change.

Strategic aims:

  • Elucidate the biological mechanisms that underlie the functioning of marine systems and their responses to changing environmental pressures.
  • Utilise marine models for further discovery in fundamental biology using interdisciplinary approaches, from molecules and cells, to whole organisms, communities and ecosystems.
  • Apply the knowledge gained from these fundamental studies for wider scientific progress and to promote the most sustainable use of our oceans.

The key challenges:

  • Earth’s ecosystems are threatened by multiple anthropogenic impacts such as habitat degradation, climate change and overexploitation of resources. There is a pressing need to understand and help mitigate these processes, and to inform debate and policy relating to marine ecosystem sustainability.
  • Marine ecosystems and the biota within them also offer great opportunities for the advancement of biological, biomedical and biotechnological sciences.
  •  To meet these challenges and knowledge needs, it is critical to understand fundamental mechanisms that underlie biological processes, their evolution and interactions with changing marine environments.
  •  The knowledge gained from research needs to be disseminated to a broad audience for the wider education of the public, industry and policy makers.

Scientific challenge areas:

  •  Marine model organisms: Understanding basic life processes and their evolution for fundamental biological, biomedical and biotechnological advances.
  •  Marine microbes, phytoplankton and viruses: Controlling factors, interactions, population variability and adaptation to change.
  •  Animal populations: Understanding the fundamental principles of animal physiology, movements and behaviour that underlie animal population ecology in a changing world.  Using this information to inform ecosystem sustainability studies.
  •  Ocean fluxes: Understanding how marine organisms drive major biogeochemical processes – calcification,  silicification, carbon and nutrient cycling.
  •  Coastal ecosystem biodiversity: Understanding the factors that determine biodiversity – pressures, threats, ecosystem response and resilience to climate change.


Research Staff