Ivan Cautain

        Picture of Ivan Cautain

PhD student

Through my bachelor studies at SAMS and the University Centre on Svalbard I followed my passion for the Arctic marine ecosystem. I am especially interested in benthic communities and how they are affected by their environment.

I am using various biomarkers to understand how seafloor organisms utilise food originating from sea ice versus from open water.

Contact details:
  • Ivan.Cautain@sams.ac.uk
  • +44 (0)1631 559000

Where's my dinner? Do Arctic benthic communities show preferential food uptake?

While changes in the Arctic physical system are evident in the recent reduction of ice extent, the implications this has for the ecosystem are less certain. One expected change in the ecosystem is different magnitudes, timing and distribution of primary production by ice algae and pelagic phytoplankton. Ice algae grow on the underside of sea ice and detach from it during the spring melt, sinking rapidly and providing a large food input to the seafloor. During sea ice melt, pelagic primary production starts in the water column, with phytoplankton communities gradually changing throughout the productive season. However, pelagic grazing pressure remains relatively low and a lot of organic matter reaches the benthos, where it is taken up by seafloor organisms.

The organic matter that reaches the seafloor varies in quantity and quality during the year, but there is evidence that most benthic organisms selectively retain high quality food. This project aims to quantify the relative uptake of ice algae versus pelagic phytoplankton by benthic organisms, using various biomarkers. These will be: a) IP25, a sea ice algae specific biomarker, b) stable isotopes which will allow better understanding of trophic linkages and c) total lipid amount, as a measure of level of nutrition. In addition, remote sensing data from the study area will be used to compare the faunal and ecological results with the potentially driving environmental factors.

Part of: Arctic Poductivity in the Seasonal Ice Zone (PRIZE) - https://www.changing-arctic-ocean.ac.uk/project/arctic-prize/


Dr Bhavani Narayanaswamy, SAMS

Dr Kim Last, SAMS

Dr Tom Brown, SAMS

Dr David McKee, University of Strathclyde

Dr Paul Renau, Akvaplan-Niva

Professor Bodil Bluhm, University of Tromsø



Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC)


University of the Highlands and Islands


Spring 2015, Summer 2016 - Identification work with the Deep Sea Group, SAMS

Higher Education

2018 - Marine Science with Arctic Studies, SAMS-UHI

Fieldwork experience

Two weeks of fieldwork aboard R/V Lance in 2017 around western and northern Svalbard

Professional training courses

Course in the Ecological and Taxonomic Diversity of Marine Invertebrates at the University of St Petersburg (Completed in 2018)