GeoHAB 2019 - St Petersburg

Tabitha Pearman

NOC Southampton


As I looked through the thick dull panelled window of the plane I could see dense forest and the glittering gold bulbs of cathedrals. A few months ago I had been trundling along the tube, having travelled to London for my visa. Now the plane was touching down in St. Petersburg, Russia the venue for the GeoHAB conference 2019.

GeoHAB (marine geological and biological habitat mapping) is an international association of scientists studying geology, biology, archaeology and physical oceanographic processes in relation to benthic mapping.  The conference comprises presentations, a workshop and working groups with the aim of exchanging ideas and facilitating interdisciplinary research that underpins effective mapping and spatial management. Each year the annual conference rotates between host countries and this year the conference was hosted by the A.P Karpinsky Russian Geological Research Institute (VSEGEI) in St. Petersburg, Russia.

GeoHAB is the major conference for my research that focusses on integrating novel technologies and methodologies in the interdisciplinary research of deep-sea submarine canyon habitat mapping. Thanks to the financial support of The Challenger Society I was able to attend the GeoHAB 2019 conference.

The conference kicked off with the workshop focusing on geomorphological interpretation and analysis. That evening the Russian themed ice breaker took place providing the perfect opportunity to start meeting people. The following day the presentations began covering the various disciplines of benthic mapping. My presentation was on the Wednesday and addressed the modification of the seabed morphology as a result of bottom trawling, and its impacts on epibenthic species assemblages found on coral mound features within a Marine Conservation Zone. These mound features represent relict coral reefs and an understanding of the species assemblages they support and how this relates to mound morphology is fundamental toward their mapping and future management. The talk went well despite a technical issue that meant the presentation froze and I had to complete it without slides! This involved a lot of hand waving! The end of the week closed with a field trip to see local sights and network.

The conference was a great experience, not only did I learn and receive advice on implementing the latest approaches to mapping, but I also made many new friends and contacts.  I am very grateful to The Challenger Society for enabling me to attend the GeoHAB 2019 conference.

I am a third year PhD student at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton University. My research focusses on interdisciplinary mapping of deep-sea submarine canyon habitats. The emphasis lies on developing end products for marine management of cold-water coral habitats and elucidating the underlying ecological process generating spatial patterns in their distributions.

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