Wonders of the Deep

My name is Angela Stevenson. I'm a marine ecologist and an Ocean Leaders postdoctoral fellow within the Department of Zoology. I am currently working on climate change issues and I specifically work on glass sponges and feather stars.

I have two different projects, one on glass sponges where I study their sensitivity to climate change. For that project, I go out to Howe Sound, collect the sponges, and bring them up to the lab where I study them for several months. At the end of the experiment, after about five months, I collect tissue samples and do molecular and microbial work on this tissue sample.

The second project is research in mesophotic environments (30-120 metres deep). I use feather stars to look at patterns across that depth gradient and how they compare with the shallow waters. I primarily do all of my work at the bottom of the ocean while scuba diving.

Feather stars house a whole metropolis. Every type of invertebrate you can think of lives on feather stars, such as squat lobsters, shrimp and even fish that have evolved just to live on their host feather star. I also observe and look at the damage that fish are doing to these animals.

Feather stars and glass sponges help maintain biodiversity, and today humans continue to impact their environments. We're trying to understand how their interactions with animals in their environment might help them resist any of that change in the future.


Charlotte Matthews was an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Chris Harley’s Lab working under postdoctoral researcher Dr. Angela Stevenson in 2018-2019. At UBC, Charlotte assisted with Dr. Stevenson’s study on local crinoid Florometra serratissima and tested the effect of elevated temperature on crinoid feces calorific content through bioenergetic analysis. In the summer of 2018, Charlotte assisted Dr. Stevenson in the Philippines, observing crinoid infestor diversity and distribution along the bathymetric gradient using SCUBA, as well as aiding with in-situ regeneration rate experiments. Since graduating, Charlotte has interned at the Alaska SeaLife Centre and worked for the Mayne Island Conservancy Society in the Southern Gulf Islands. Currently, Charlotte is pursuing graduate studies in marine biology and working on her photography and illustrations (Instagram: sciencebyart)."

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