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Johanne Vad


Project title: Environmental assessment of deep-water sponge fields in relation to oil and gas activity: a west of Shetland case study

Project funding: NERC CDT in Oil & Gas, Oil and Gas UK

Supervisors: Dr Ted Henry (HWU), Prof J Murray Roberts (UEDIN) and Sophie Green (BGS)


Constituting the phylum Porifera, sponges are filter-feeding organisms that perform a number of ecological functions.  Widely distributed and diverse, they can form high density fields, supporting complex macrofaunal communities. They can also host an array of microorganisms. Deep-water sponge fields are now considered Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems and Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas.  Their sensitivity to oil extraction activities in the Faroe-Shetland Channel Marine Protected Area (FSC MPA) where sponges are present close to offshore operations consequently needs to be investigated.

My PhD project aim at:

  • Completing a visual surveys of sponge density and occurrence in the FSC MPA
  • Conducting experimental exposures to determine sponge response to oil/oil dispersant mixtures;
  • Analysing microbial community of deep-water sponges in the FSC MPA and specifically testing for the presence of oil degrading bacteria.