Dr David Billett is a deep-sea ecologist with over 40 years experience of working in the oceanic environment. He is a specialist in benthic (seabed) habitats, including mid-ocean ridges, abyssal sediments, seamounts, coral mounds, submarine canyons and continental slopes. He has particular expertise in the interactions between benthic and pelagic environments. Research interests include 1) the potential effects of climate change on deep-sea ecosystems, 2) distinguishing between natural and man-made change in the ocean, 3) the environmental management of offshore deep-water fisheries, oil and gas production and mining, 4) the creation of regional spatial management plans and 5) the restoration of marine ecosystems.
Recent projects have included Managing Impacts of Deep Sea Resource Exploitation (MIDAS), Hotspot Ecosystem Research and Man’s Impacts on European Seas (HERMIONE), Ecosystems of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (ECOMAR), climate change on the deep-sea floor (Oceans 2025), deep-sea observatories (ESONET, EuroSITES), environmental monitoring using Remotely Operated Vehicles (SERPENT) and the consequences of natural iron fertilisation in the Indian Ocean (CROZEX). In the late 1990s David coordinated a large-scale European project, BENGAL, studying spatial and temporal change in the biology and geochemistry of the deep ocean floor. He has participated in and led 45 ocean-going research cruises. David is now a partner of MERCES (Marine Ecosystem Restoration in Changing European Seas), a four-year project (2016-2020) funded by the European Commission.
David was the Co-Chair of the Ocean Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems Group at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) 2006 to 2011, before leaving NOC in September 2012 to become the Director of Deep Seas Environmental Solutions Ltd. David is now a Visiting Research Fellow at NOC continuing to work on research projects. He maintains an active involvement with the Deepseas and Ocean Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems (OBE) Research Groups.
For 7 years (1990-1997) David was Head of External Affairs for the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), and formerly the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences (IOS). He stimulated science-driven external income for all the oceanographic disciplines, and undertook the financial planning and management of many multidisciplinary international projects. As Head of the Industrial Liaison and Information Services he also had responsibility for the Marine Information and Advisory Service and public relations.
David was closely involved with the Census of Marine Life (2000-2010), an international project studying the biodiversity of the oceans. David played a key role in the Scientific Steering Committees of the field projects Continental Margin Ecosystems (COMARGE) and the Census of the Diversity of Abyssal Marine Life (CeDAMar).
David was a member of the Legal and Technical Commission (LTC) of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), Kingston, Jamaica, from 2007 to 2016, chairing the Commission in 2011. The LTC has 30 members drawn from the ISA member states and appointed by the ISA Council on the basis of their personal qualifications relevant to the exploration, exploitation and processing of mineral resources, oceanography and legal matters. David was one of four LTC members focusing on environmental policies in the ‘The Area’ (the seabed in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction).