Martin Foley

        Head and shoulder photo of Martin Foley in the laboratory in white lab coat sitting at a microscope

PhD student

I am researching the structure and function of benthic communities under seasonal sea ice in the Arctic. I am specifically interested in which source of primary production is most important for life in the seabed.

This matters because we are observing unprecedented loss of sea ice in the Arctic and the ice scape is rapidly changing. Understanding the role sea ice algae play in Arctic food webs will afford a more accurate forecast of how communities in the Arctic will react to the changing environment.

I am trained in benthic ecology and the analysis of biological data. Currently, my project is focusing on molecular techniques such as analysis of lipid biomarkers and stable isotopes to address my questions.

Contact details:

Over the past few decades, sea ice in the Arctic has been in rapid decline. The ice is retreating earlier and advancing later year on year and the area remaining frozen over the summer is also diminishing. These changes in sea ice dynamics will have an effect on primary productivity in the Arctic. There are greater proportions of younger ice as we close in on an imminent ice free summer which will affect the ecology and life history of sea ice algae. Increasing open water area may lead to increased pelagic production and change the oceanographic conditions of the Arctic.

The aim of my project is to study benthic communities under the seasonal sea ice and use various molecular techniques to understand the food web structure and the source of the organic input to the benthos, whether it be sympagic (ice associated) or pelagic production.

My project is under the larger Arctic PRIZE project which is addressing the question of how reductions in sea ice will affect productivity in the Arctic. This project is part of a number of projects in NERC’s Changing Arctic Ocean program.



Dr Bhavani Narayanaswamy, SAMS

Dr Kim Last, SAMS

Dr David McKee, University of Strathclyde

Dr Thomas Brown, SAMS



UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)



University of the Highlands and Islands



2017 MSci Marine and Freshwater Biology. University of Glasgow


Fieldwork experience

I have experience on a number of research expeditions including a 3-week oceanographic cruise into the north Atlantic on the RRS Discovery Southampton and a short benthic ecology focused cruise on the RV Helmer Hanssen around the high Arctic fjords of Svalbard, Norway.