In awe of the abyss: Conservation, culture, and the deep ocean


About this project or challenge area

The deep ocean was until recently entirely inaccessible to humans, and featured in the popular imagination more as a site of imagination and metaphor than of human activity. Today, however, we can visit, study, and exploit the deep ocean; astonishing images of the weird and wonderful ecosystems are transmitted into our living rooms through documentaries and in popular science, and advances in engineering have made possible the extraction of materials from the seafloor and seabed. This project is concerned with the intersection of oceanography and the humanities, with an emphasis on conservation. Possible research questions include: How do we think about the deep sea as a resource space? How might popular literature and other media -- science fiction narratives, for example -- have shaped our attitudes towards the deep sea? How have such attitudes developed in response to scientific discoveries, and how might they shape future policy?

This project will be joint lead by Laurence Publicover and Kate Hendry.  

Why choose this opportunity?

You will have the opportunity to carry out a cross-discipline research project drawing on aspects of literature, history and media, while also exploring the science of the deep sea through close ties with marine scientists.

About you

You will have skills in either the humanities (historical studies or literary studies) or scientific writing, with a strong interest in marine subjects and science communication. There are no specific undergraduate degree requirements, and you could come from a background in either humanities or scientific subjects.

How to apply

All students can apply using the button below, following the Master's by Research Admissions Statement. Please note that this is an advertised challenge area, which means you should complete Section A + B of the Masters by Research Statement Template (Office document, 68kB)

Before applying, we recommend getting in touch with the project's supervisors. If you are interested in this project and would like to learn more about the research you will be undertaking, please use the contact details on this page.


Your supervisor for this project will be Dr Laurence Publicover, from the Department of English. You can contact him at


Your co-supervisor for this project will be Dr Kate Hendry, Royal Society Research Fellow and Reader in Geochemistry in the School of Earth Sciences. You can contact Kate at +44 (0) 117 954 5379 or email .

Find out more about your prospective research community

The Environmental Change theme is a vibrant community of researchers who integrate expertise across multiple disciplines to provide the evidence base and solutions to tackle the world's most pressing environmental challenges. Find out more about the Environmental Change research theme.

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