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David Billett


I joined the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences (IOS) in 1976. On my first research cruise, as a fresh-faced recent graduate, I found myself preserving sea-cucumbers (holothurians) more often than not, and soon realised that this was to be my fate for the rest of my working life. Apart from a spell as Head of External Affairs for IOS, and then later for SOC, between 1990 and 1997, I have been studying deep-sea fauna ever since.

Current research interests

Temporal variability in deep-sea benthic communities - how and why do deep-sea communities change with time? Environmental monitoring involves measuring change compared with a baseline survey. But what happens when the baseline moves because of natural processes? What are the implications for measuring man's impact in the marine environment?


Spatial variability in deep-sea benthic communities - many species on the continental slope have extensive, ribbon-like distributions. While they may be found around the whole European continental margin, their depth distributions may encompass only a few hundreds of metres. What controls the depth (bathymetric) distributions of individual species? Can all the populations of a species on the continental margin be considered as one large population, or are they a series of sub-populations?


Taxonomy of deep-sea echinoderms - knowledge of processes in the deep sea depends on being sure of the species being studied. There are few standard texts for the identification of deep-sea animals and new species are discovered regularly. It is important to maintain an international network of experts in the identification of faunal groups in the deep sea.


Census of Marine Life CeDAMar (Census of the Diversity of Abyssal Marine Life) Coordinating Committee

Census of Marine Life COMARGE (Continental Margin Ecosystems on a worldwide scale) Coordinating Committee

HERMES (Hotspot Ecosystem Research on the Margins of European Seas) Coordinating Committee

MarBEF (Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning) Coordinating Committee

International Seabed Authority Legal and Technical Commission

DEEPSETS (Deep-Sea and Extreme Environments; Patterns of Species and Ecosystems Time Series) Coordinator