Jason Cleland, Research Assistant
The University of Edinburgh
School of GeoSciences
Grant Institute, Room 352
Edinburgh, EH9 3FE
My work seeks to understand the drivers of biodiversity across space and time in the context of climate change and increasing human impacts on the marine environment. I have over 5 years of academia training and a strong, diverse record of work experience and early-career research. The systems I have studied most to date include benthic and demersal communities in shallow and deep waters in the North Atlantic, on seamounts and shipwrecks such as RMS Titanic, and more recently, shallow and mesophotic reefs in the tropics and subtropics of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
I believe in the importance of science-based decision making. I have worked on a range of research and consultation projects that intersect with ocean governance and the development of marine policies that underpin the conservation and management of biodiversity. These include support of the Convention on Biological Diversity process for an EBSA designation in the High Seas; developing documentation to support the nomination of a marine protected area in the North Atlantic; assessing the environmental impact analysis for a pre-prototype deep-sea mining nodule collector; and assessing the ecological vulnerability and biodiversity action plans for a gas extraction project.
Much of my research involves combining video annotation techniques with environmental data to understand the drivers behind the distribution of sponges, corals, and echinoderms. Collaborating with teams and individuals across academic institutions, local and national governments, non-governmental organisations, and various industries, are central to my overall research approach.
My aims for the future include a continued research output and support of consultation processes, further experience in marine field surveys, the development of taxonomic identification skills for mesophotic and deep reefs, and further engagement at the science-policy interface.
Key interests: biodiversity conservation, behavioural ecology, biogeography, environmental monitoring, marine assessment
MSc, Marine Systems and Policies, University of Edinburgh, School of GeoSciences (2019-2020, Distinction). Thesis: A risk-based approach to improve protections of the national status of Priority Marine Features from multiple-farm aquaculture impacts outside Scotland’s Marine Protected Area network.
BSc, Ecological and Environmental Sciences, University of Edinburgh, School of GeoSciences (2014-2018, 2:1 Hons). Thesis: Distribution of deep-sea sponge grounds formed by the hexactinellid Poliopogon amadou on the Tropic Seamount in the High Seas.
I was awarded the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) scholarship to study my Master of Science degree at the University of Edinburgh. For my thesis, I proposed a prototype tool to improve the assessment of multiple-farm impacts to inshore benthic fauna during the aquaculture licensing process in Scotland.
I am an alumnus of the Georgia Rotary Student Program (GRSP) Class of 2013/14. I was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Whitburn in Scotland, and the Rotary Club of Dublin and the Rotary Club of Milledgeville in the United States of America, where I studied American history, biology, creative writing, and environmental science, as a freshman at Georgia College and State University.
Cleland, J., Kazanidis, G., Roberts, J.M. and Ross, S.W. (2021). Distribution of Megabenthic Communities Under Contrasting Settings in Deep-Sea Cold Seeps Near Northwest Atlantic Canyons. Frontiers in Marine Science, 8, e692851.
Comments to the Government of India’s Ministry of Earth Science on the Environmental Impact Statement for a polymetallic nodule collector pre-prototype for deep-sea mining issued in March 2020 [May 2020] Minerals Working Group.
Ramiro-Sánchez, B., González-Irusta, J.M., Henry, L.A., Cleland, J., Yeo, I., Xavier, J.R., Carreiro-Silva, M., Sampaio, Í., Spearman, J., Victorero, L. and Messing, C.G. (2019). Characterization and mapping of a deep-sea sponge ground on the Tropic Seamount (Northeast Tropical Atlantic): Implications for spatial management in the high seas. Frontiers in Marine Science, 6, 278.