Kirsty McQuaid

AREA OF EXPERTISE: Deep-sea benthic ecology, habitat mapping, spatial planning, and research capacity development.

AFFILIATION: University of Plymouth (UK), South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)

I am a deep-sea scientist from South Africa, with a background in abyssal ecology and habitat mapping. I focus on deep-sea research capacity development and through my work am striving to address global disparities in capacity by making the field more accessible for other African researchers.


Kirsty has been leading the establishment of the African Network of Deep-water Researchers that aims to connect researchers, skills, infrastructure and resources within Africa. With a global community of deep-water researchers, the network builds on the continent’s capacity for deep-water research in support of sustainable development. The network was established in 2023 under the UN Decade of Ocean Science endorsed Challenger 150 Programme.

In 2022, Kirsty received an award for excellence in deep-sea research at the 27th Session of the International Seabed Authority Assembly. – read more

Making waves
  • Kirsty was a guest speaker on the Hub’s Podcast ‘Ocean-climate nexus and human rights‘ – listen here >
  • Kirsty presents the Hub’s deep sea research in the short film ‘Understanding the deep sea’ – watch here >>
Recent publication

McQuaid et al. 2023. Broad-scale benthic habitat classification of the South Atlantic. Progress in Oceanography 214. DOI – read more

kirsty on leadership

“Through the Hub I have had the opportunity to lead research and the development of a policy brief aimed at influencing the negotiations of a new agreement on marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. This has developed my academic leadership skills, as well as the organisation and execution of multiple online events like webinars and panel discussions. In recently published work in the South Atlantic, for example, I led a group of nearly 30 habitat mappers, biodiversity experts and marine managers from across the area to produce a regional habitat map to support basin-scale marine spatial planning. This was a big learning curve for me, leading technical work with a group of both early-career researchers and established experts and was in general a great experience.”

kirsty’s advice to fellow Early-career researCheRs

“Over recent years there has been global movement towards including early-career researchers to a greater degree in all elements of the science-policy interface. This provides a platform for the voices and expertise of ECRs to be included while enriching the experience of ECRs, but it can also place a lot of pressure on individuals who are still learning a great deal. Fighting imposter syndrome can be a huge challenge and it is so important to remember that our contributions, however big or small, are valuable.”

Read Kirsty’s Spotlight interview – here >>