2020 applicants

Dr Michelle Taylor

School of Life Sciences
Dr Michelle Taylor



My research interests span the molecular to the ocean-level and have included studies on shallow and deep-water coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass. My main focus is the deep-sea and its many and varied benthic habitats. The deep-sea is the largest habitat on the planet and arguably the least well known. Broadly I am interested in deep-sea ecosystems, exploring them, what drives their biodiversity, and how we can limit human impacts in vulnerable habitats such as coral reefs, hydrothermal vents, and seamounts etc. So far my work has centred on deep-sea corals; which was a natural progression from my years spent studying shallow water coral reefs. However, recent work also includes hydrothermal vent organisms, polychaetes (scale worms), brittlestars (ophiuroids) and sea cucumbers (holothurians). Genetics are my tool of choice for targeting questions about evolution and speciation. My work so far has involved phylogenetics and barcoding and current work involves population genomics and phylogenomics using next-generation sequencing (RAD-seq, RNA-seq and UCEs).

Research and professional activities

Research interests

Deep-sea / marine connectivity

There are huge gaps in our understanding about how well deep-sea populations are connected, something crucial to any impact assessments undertaken on deep-sea ecosystems and, given expanding interests in deep-sea mining, and fisheries that increasingly focus on deep-sea areas, it is information both industry and conservationists/managers require.

Open to supervise


How speciation occurs, where it occurs and the mechanisms driving it. The basic processes that ultimately create diversity. The deep-sea is a highly diverse ecosystem and we have little to no understanding of why. The dawn of next generation sequencing means it is possible to study the genomics of speciation in the deep sea for the first time.

Open to supervise

Population genomics

Open to supervise


Open to supervise

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Marine Ecology (BS112)

  • Transferable Skills in Life Sciences (BS143)

  • Marine Vertebrates (BS254)

  • Tropical Marine Field Research Skills (BS256)

  • Professional skills for Ecological and Marine Scientists (BS257)

  • Tropical Marine Resources (BS705)

  • Professional Skills in Tropical Marine Biology (BS708)

  • Data Analysis or Voluntary Placement Programme (Work Based Learning) (BS711)

  • Research Project in Biomedical Science (BS831)

  • Research Project in Life Sciences (BS832)


Journal articles (24)

Ellis, SL., Taylor, ML., Schiele, M. and Letissier, TB., (2020). Influence of Altitude on Tropical Marine Habitat Classification using Fixed-Wing UAV Imagery. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation

O'Brien, DA., Taylor, ML., Masonjones, HD., Boersch-Supan, PH. and O'Shea, OR., (2020). Drivers of octopus abundance and density in an anchialine lake: a 30 year comparison. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 528, 151377-151377

Ingels, J., Aronson, RB., Smith, CR., Baco, A., Bik, HM., Blake, JA., Brandt, A., Cape, M., Demaster, D., Dolan, E., Domack, E., Fire, S., Geisz, H., Gigliotti, M., Griffiths, H., Halanych, KM., Havermans, C., Huettmann, F., Ishman, S., Kranz, SA., Leventer, A., Mahon, AR., McClintock, J., McCormick, ML., Mitchell, BG., Murray, AE., Peck, L., Rogers, A., Shoplock, B., Smith, KE., Steffel, B., Stukel, MR., Sweetman, AK., Taylor, M., Thurber, AR., Truffer, M., Putte, A., Vanreusel, A. and Zamora‐Duran, MA., (2020). Antarctic ecosystem responses following ice‐shelf collapse and iceberg calving: Science review and future research. WIREs Climate Change

Cairns, SD. and Taylor, ML., (2019). An illustrated key to the species of the genus Narella (Cnidaria, Octocorallia, Primnoidae). ZooKeys. 822 (822), 1-15

Pratt, N., Chen, T., Li, T., Wilson, DJ., van de Flierdt, T., Little, SH., Taylor, ML., Robinson, LF., Rogers, AD. and Santodomingo, N., (2019). Temporal distribution and diversity of cold-water corals in the southwest Indian Ocean over the past 25,000 years. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. 149, 103049-103049

Hendry, KR., Huvenne, VAI., Robinson, LF., Annett, A., Badger, M., Jacobel, AW., Chin Ng, H., Opher, J., Pickering, RA., Taylor, ML., Bates, SL., Cooper, A., Cushman, GG., Goodwin, C., Hoy, S., Rowland, G., Samperiz, A., Williams, JA., Achterberg, EP., Arrowsmith, C., Alexander Brearley, J., Henley, SF., Krause, JW., Leng, MJ., Li, T., McManus, JF., Meredith, MP., Perkins, R. and Malcolm S. Woodward, E., (2019). The biogeochemical impact of glacial meltwater from Southwest Greenland. Progress in Oceanography. 176, 102126-102126

Victorero, L., Robert, K., Robinson, L., Taylor, ML. and Huvenne, VAI., (2018). Species replacement dominates megabenthos beta diversity in a remote seamount setting. Scientific Reports. 8 (1), 4152-

Head, CEI., Koldewey, H., Pavoine, S., Pratchett, MS., Rogers, AD., Taylor, ML. and Bonsall, MB., (2018). Trait and phylogenetic diversity provide insights into community assembly of reef‐associated shrimps (Palaemonidae) at different spatial scales across the Chagos Archipelago. Ecology and Evolution. 8 (8), 4098-4107

Woodall, LC., Andradi-Brown, DA., Brierley, AS., Clark, MR., Connelly, D., Hall, RA., Howell, KL., Huvenne, VAI., Linse, K., Ross, RE., Snelgrove, P., Stefanoudis, PV., Sutton, TT., Taylor, ML., Thornton, TF. and Rogers, AD., (2018). A Multidisciplinary Approach for Generating Globally Consistent Data on Mesophotic, Deep-Pelagic, and Bathyal Biological Communities. Oceanography. 31 (3)

Brasier, MJ., Grant, SM., Trathan, PN., Allcock, L., Ashford, O., Blagbrough, H., Brandt, A., Danis, B., Downey, R., Eléaume, MP., Enderlein, P., Ghiglione, C., Hogg, O., Linse, K., Mackenzie, M., Moreau, C., Robinson, LF., Rodriguez, E., Spiridonov, V., Tate, A., Taylor, M., Waller, C., Wiklund, H. and Griffiths, HJ., (2018). Benthic biodiversity in the South Orkney Islands Southern Shelf Marine Protected Area. Biodiversity. 19 (1-2), 1-15

Cowburn, B., Musembi, PM., Sindorf, V., Kohlmeier, D., Raker, C., Nussbaumer, A., Hereward, HFR., Van Baelenberghe, B., Goebbels, D., Kamire, J., Horions, M., Sluka, RD., Taylor, ML. and Rogers, AD., (2018). The Habitats and Biodiversity of Watamu Marine National Park: Evaluating Our Knowledge of One of East Africa's Oldest Marine Protected Areas. Atoll Research Bulletin. 2018 (618), 1-45

Head, CEI., Bonsall, MB., Jenkins, TL., Koldewey, H., Pratchett, MS., Taylor, ML. and Rogers, AD., (2018). Exceptional biodiversity of the cryptofaunal decapods in the Chagos Archipelago, central Indian Ocean. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 135, 636-647

Taylor, ML. and Roterman, CN., (2017). Invertebrate population genetics across Earth's largest habitat: The deep-sea floor. Molecular Ecology. 26 (19), 4872-4896

Serpetti, N., Taylor, ML., Brennan, D., Green, DH., Rogers, AD., Paterson, GLJ. and Narayanaswamy, BE., (2017). Ecological adaptations and commensal evolution of the Polynoidae (Polychaeta) in the Southwest Indian Ocean Ridge: A phylogenetic approach. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. 137, 273-281

Yesson, C., Bedford, F., Rogers, AD. and Taylor, ML., (2017). The global distribution of deep-water Antipatharia habitat. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. 145, 79-86

Taylor, ML. and Rogers, AD., (2017). Primnoidae (Cnidaria: Octocorallia) of the SW Indian Ocean: new species, genus revisions and systematics. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 181 (1), 70-97

Taylor, ML., Gwinnett, C., Robinson, LF. and Woodall, LC., (2016). Plastic microfibre ingestion by deep-sea organisms. Scientific Reports. 6 (1), 33997-

Curnick, DJ., Head, CEI., Huang, D., Crabbe, MJC., Gollock, M., Hoeksema, BW., Johnson, KG., Jones, R., Koldewey, HJ., Obura, DO., Rosen, BR., Smith, DJ., Taylor, ML., Turner, JR., Wren, S. and Redding, DW., (2015). Setting evolutionary-based conservation priorities for a phylogenetically data-poor taxonomic group (Scleractinia). Animal Conservation. 18 (4), 303-312

Redding, DW., Curnick, DJ., Head, CEI., Huang, D., Crabbe, MJC., Gollock, M., Hoeksema, BW., Johnson, KG., Jones, R., Koldewey, HJ., Obura, DO., Rosen, BR., Smith, DJ., Taylor, ML., Turner, JR. and Wren, S., (2015). Setting evolutionary based conservation priorities for a phylogenetically data-poor taxonomic group (Scleractinia): response to the commentaries. Animal Conservation. 18 (4), 320-321

Taylor, ML. and Rogers, AD., (2015). Evolutionary dynamics of a common sub-Antarctic octocoral family. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 84, 185-204

Taylor, ML., Yesson, C., Agnew, DJ., Mitchell, RE. and Rogers, AD., (2013). Using fisheries by-catch data to predict octocoral habitat suitability around South Georgia. Journal of Biogeography. 40 (9), 1688-1701

Taylor, ML., Cairns, SD., Agnew, DJ. and Rogers, AD., (2013). A revision of the genus Thouarella Gray, 1870 (Octocorallia: Primnoidae), including an illustrated dichotomous key, a new species description, and comments on Plumarella Gray, 1870 and Dasystenella, Versluys, 1906. Zootaxa. 3602 (1), 1-105

Yesson, C., Taylor, ML., Tittensor, DP., Davies, AJ., Guinotte, J., Baco, A., Black, J., Hall-Spencer, JM. and Rogers, AD., (2012). Global habitat suitability of cold-water octocorals. Journal of Biogeography. 39 (7), 1278-1292

Yesson, C., Clark, MR., Taylor, ML. and Rogers, AD., (2011). The global distribution of seamounts based on 30 arc seconds bathymetry data. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. 58 (4), 442-453

Book chapters (2)

Rogers, AD., Kemp, KM., Davies, AJ. and Taylor, ML., (2015). The Diseases of Deep-Water Corals. In: Diseases of Coral. Editors: Woodley, CM., Downs, CA., Bruckner, AW., Porter, JW. and Galloway, SB., . John Wiley & Sons. 416- 441. 0813824117. 9780813824116

Spalding, M., Taylor, ML., Ravilious, C., Short, F. and Green, E., (2003). Global overview: The Distribution and Status of Seagrasses.. In: World Atlas of Seagrasses. Editors: Green, E. and Short, F., . 13- 34

Conferences (1)

Hardman, E., Meunier, MS., Turner, J., Lynch, T., Taylor, ML. and Klaus, R., (2004). The extent of coral bleaching in Rodrigues, 2002

Reports and Papers (2)

Wabnitz, CCC., Taylor, ML., Green, E. and Rakak, T., From Ocean to Aquaria: The Global Trade in Live Marine Ornamentals

Taylor, ML., Ravilious, C. and Green, EP., (2003). Mangroves of East Africa

Grants and funding


Integrating genetic approaches into Sub-Antarctic deep sea research and management

Darwin Initiative


Marine Protection - Challenge Lab Natural Environment

University of Essex


+44 (0) 1206 872310


3SW.3.22, Colchester Campus

Academic support hours: