Welcome to the 19th Challenger conference for marine science. The Science Committee has taken perhaps a less conventional approach to defining the conference sessions. This year the sessions have a more ‘challenge’ led appeal to them, be that a societal and/or scientific challenge; rather than focussed around specific disciplines.

The challenges tie in well with recent global developments and initiatives (e.g. IPCC, UN Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Decade of Ocean Science). We have also asked for suggestions from the Challenger community for what they would like to see included and we believe we’ve taken these ideas into consideration.

For each session we’ve included a scope and topic areas that are intended to help you identify which session is most suited to your science. Even if you are uncertain where best to place your abstract the Science Committee will be able to allocate it to the most appropriate session. You will still get to present your great science!

Our aim is to create a diverse and engaging conference and we will arrange sub-sessions within the conference to bring together related talks.


Science Committee Lead: Helen Findlay (PML)

Session Descriptor

Marine habitats, ecosystems and consequently biodiversity, are deteriorating around the planet. Human effects on organisms in the marine environment are increasing in both pace and impact. We already see ecological, commercial and local extinctions due to harvesting, fishing and its habitat-modifying impacts, noise disruption, oil exploration, industrialisation, and climate change. However, there is still time to avert disastrous declines in abundance and diversity, although actions now need to be implemented urgently to minimise the crisis. Carefully considered marine spatial planning and formation of marine protected areas, as well as making efforts to slow climate change and rebuild affected populations will all help to change the course of the biodiversity crisis in the marine environment.

This session welcomes contributions in the following areas:

  • Observations of the status and changes in marine biodiversity
  • Modelling impacts of human activities on marine biodiversity
  • Addressing and reducing impacts on marine habitats
  • Approaches to marine spatial planning
  • Studies on Marine Protected Areas

Science Committee Lead: Carol Robinson (UEA);

Session Descriptor

The oceans are subject to unprecedented changes due to climate change, yet sustainable development requires the oceans to be clean, safe, productive, healthy and resilient. Ocean science is therefore critical to quantifying and understanding the impacts of climate change on the marine environment and human systems. The first step is to understand the current structure and functioning of marine systems, including complex physical, biogeochemical, ecological and human interactions, together with understanding the scales of natural variability of their structure and functioning. Research is then needed to understand the interacting effects of climate drivers and stressors such as ocean acidification, deoxygenation and increasing temperatures, how regime shifts, critical thresholds and feedbacks can be identified and quantified and how marine systems can adapt to the individual or cumulative effects of climate change. In order to achieve the Paris agreement target of zero net CO2 emissions by 2050, negative emission technologies will need to be developed, tested and online as early as 2030. Hence research into the feasibility of marine options for climate mitigation and for experimental interventions to reduce or reverse climate change impacts is also needed. This session welcomes contributions on all aspects of climate impacts on the marine environment.

Topics may include but are not limited to :

  • Observations of the current state and variability in the physical, ecological and biogeochemical functioning of the global ocean
  • Observations of climate driven impacts on the marine environment
  • Observations of the adaptation and resilience of marine organisms to climate change
  • Exploring marine options for climate mitigation
  • Determining the economic and societal value of marine ecosystems and the scale of climate impacts on human activities as a contribution to decision making

Science Committee Lead: Rob Hall (UEA)

Session Descriptor

The shallow coastal and shelf seas that surround the continents are the parts of the oceans that we interact with most. They contribute a disproportionate amount to global marine primary production and CO2 drawdown into the ocean (20% in less than 10% of the area), and are important economically through commercial fisheries, offshore oil and gas exploration, and renewable energy developments – the estimated global value coastal ecosystems is almost $3 million per km2 per year. This session will discuss recent multidisciplinary research into coastal ocean processes and encompass all marine science disciplines (including physics, biogeochemistry, marine biology, sedimentology and geology), from estuaries through to the continental shelf break. The session welcomes contributions from observational marine scientists, numerical modellers, remote sensing scientists, and applied researchers.

This session welcomes contributions in the following areas:

  • Open ocean-shelf sea exchange
  • Air-sea interactions in the coastal zone
  • Benthic-pelagic biogeochemical coupling
  • Shelf sea ecosystems
  • Estuarine fluxes
  • Pollution and noise
  • The human coast

Science Committee Lead: Matthew Cobain – Newcastle Uni,

Session Description:

From fringing mangrove forests to the open oceans, humanity has long relied upon the variety of functions provided by the multitude of different marine ecosystems of this world. However human induced impacts are affecting all manner of ecosystem functions ranging from the direct provisioning of food and livelihoods, through to nutrient cycling and natural coastal defences. With the human population projected to peak at 9 billion by 2050, the increasing demand placed on our oceans may have profound effects on the integrity of these ecosystems. Moving forward, the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and seas, and of their resources, is therefore paramount but will ultimately depend upon holistic approaches to managing marine ecosystems. This session therefore welcomes research and contributions to quantifying, monitoring, and managing the structure and functioning of various marine ecosystems.

This session welcomes contributions in the following areas:

  • Sustainability and traceability in fisheries and sea-based products
  • Novel and emerging approaches applied to ecosystem functioning
  • Advancements in aquaculture sciences
  • Challenges in moving from single to multi-ecosystem management
  • Beyond the fishery – quantifying indirect human benefits of marine ecosystems

Science Committee Lead: Dave Munday (BAS)

Session Description:

The ocean is a complex nonlinear system that defies prediction by its very nature. As a major component of the Earth System, the ocean is a part of one of our greatest challenges; predicting the past and future evolution of global climate. However, understanding and predicting specific processes is as important as a detailed appreciation of the whole. To improve ocean predictions, we must use every available tool, whether theoretical, numerical or observational, across a broad suite of disciplines and spatio-temporal scales. Regardless of your favourite ocean basin, micro/macronutrient or current system, this session aims to discuss how we make our predictions of the ocean and how we might improve them.

This session welcomes contributions in the following areas:

  • The ocean’s role in predictions of physical climate
  • Machine learning techniques and their application to ocean prediction
  • Predicting chemical, physical and biological changes in the ocean
  • Multidisciplinary work aimed at predicting, e.g., changes in ocean ecosystems and their exploitation, providing advice to policy makers, etc.
  • Process modelling aimed at understanding specific process or regions

Science Committee Lead: Bee Berx, Marine Scotland Science,

Session Description:

In our world of ever evolving technology, immediate access to knowledge and the rapid spread of “fake news”, the dynamics between science and society is changing: both from a “science for society” and “science by society” perspective. How can scientists harness the citizen scientists’ potential to collect and analyse data addressing the challenges at the core of their everyday lives? In times of information overload, what is the most effective style to communicate our results with impact? As governments’ desire to make evidence-based policies, what sets the boundaries of the science-policy interface? And when it all goes wrong, how do we ensure the correct information is heard? As we need widespread behavioural change in response to global change, increased ocean literacy in terms of valuation of the marine environment and awareness of society of the scale of the impacts will be an important enabler.

This session welcomes contributions on all aspects of science communication, in particular the interactions across the science-public and science-policy interfaces.

As the loudest and most dramatic often dominate the narrative, we particularly welcome contributions in a non-traditional format: so please consider leaving the slides at home, and feel encouraged to present your work as a visual masterpiece (such as a song, drawing, movie, or dance).

This session welcomes contributions in the following areas:

  • Citizen science applications in the aquatic environment
  • Ocean literacy
  • Case studies of science-policy interaction
  • Multidisciplinary work aimed at predicting
  • Effective communication methods
  • Demonstrations of non-traditional formats to communicate science

Science Committee Lead: Peter Brown (NOC), Hannah Whitby (UoL)

Session Description:

Ocean life plays a key role in buffering atmospheric CO2 and temperature through carbon and heat storage. Fragile marine ecosystems are held in balance by complex chemical and physical processes, which themselves can have direct or indirect influences on global climate. For example, the ocean absorbs approximately 30% of atmospheric CO2, which dissolves in seawater and, on anthropogenic time-scales is disrupting the carbonate cycle, and resulting in ocean acidification. Understanding the changing carbon cycle and the heat budgets is imperative to allow us to manage and protect the ocean, its ecosystems, and ecosystem services.

This session welcomes contributions in the following areas:

  • Ocean circulation and transport
  • Marine biogeochemical cycling and modelling
  • Carbon cycling: Loops, pumps and burial
  • Ocean acidification
  • Deep water formation

Science Committee Lead: David McKee (University of Strathclyde)

Session Description:

Marine science is experiencing a technological revolution. Our ability to monitor the ocean and the chemicals, plants and animals that inhabit it has been transformed by new developments in both platforms and sensors. New lab technologies and measurement techniques continue to reveal evermore complex and hitherto unexplored aspects of complex physical, biological and chemical processes. However, bridging interdisciplinary boundaries remains one of the greatest challenges in marine science.

Covering all scales, from molecular measurements to basin-scale remote sensing, the aim of this session is to showcase state of the art in situ, remote sensing and lab technologies and techniques in the widest possible sense. Contributions are encouraged from all academic disciplines, from industry and from other related sectors. Identification of future sensing and analytic requirements would also be welcome as we seek to stimulate new ideas that will continue to push the boundaries of marine science.

This session welcomes contributions in the following areas:

  • Utilisation of robotic platforms (aerial and marine) and earth observation for data collection in pursuit of marine science challenges
  • New sensor development and new integrations of existing sensors, particularly to support biogeochemical and ecological requirements
  • Sensors and platforms for deployment in extreme environments
  • Data analytical approaches that address the challenges of the ‘Big Data’ agenda
  • Key challenges in marine science measurements
  • New analytical techniques
  • Citizen science projects and low cost, open access technologies

Science Committee Lead: Marie Porter (SAMS)

Session Description:

The 2019 IPCC Special Report on “The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate” demonstrates that the Earth’s polar regions are experiencing rapid change with unappreciated consequences for the local environment and the globe. Air temperatures are warming, the cryosphere is shrinking – it represents the most apparent manifestation of our changing global climate, and will lead to rising sea levels and enhanced coastal inundation, and modified marine and terrestrial ecosystem functioning. These formerly pristine environments are increasingly industrialised and are experiencing a heavier human footprint.

This session welcomes contributions in the following areas:

  • The role of polar oceans in the Earth System including atmosphere-ice-ocean interactions and land-freshwater-ocean interactions
  • A changing Arctic/Southern Ocean and the biogeochemical and ecosystem impacts
  • Retreat of marine terminating glaciers and ice sheets; sea level consequences
  • Valuation, conservation and exploitation of natural resources in the polar regions
  • Societal impacts and policy development relating to adaptation and mitigation
  • Projections for future changes in the cryosphere and their global impacts

NOW OPEN Call for Abstracts

Please submit your abstract via the button below. You will be taken to our conference website where you will be asked to register and sign in. Here, you will have your own ‘dashboard’ within this site, this is where you can upload your abstract and populate the ‘dashboard’ with all your information. Please follow the instructions given on your ‘dashboard’.

After uploading your abstract you may go back and edit it as many times as you wish before the abstract deadline date – Friday 15 May.


Finlo Cottier (SAMS)

Bee Berx, (Marine Scotland Science)


Carol Robinson (UEA);

Rob Hall (UEA)

Matthew Cobain (Newcastle University)
Dave Munday (BAS)

Helen Findlay (PML)

Peter Brown (NOC)
Hannah Whitby (UoL)

David McKee (University of Strathclyde)


Marie Porter (SAMS)