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Erna King

PhD student, commenced October 2007 (Funding provided by EPA)

Erna King


Biodiversity and ecological requirements of meiofauna and a typology for Irish transitional waters

Meiofauna are benthic invertebrates defined by their size (63 μm to 1 mm) and represented by 22 phyla, predominated by nematodes which constitute up to 95 % of the cohort.  International studies have used meiofauna as a tool to assess marine environmental quality since they are ubiquitous in even species-poor ecosystems. However, the diverse meiofaunal community of Irish shores remains neglected, despite their known ecological significance. One source estimates that less than a tenth of free-living marine nematode species in Ireland have been recognised to date, highlighting the need to investigate this group.

The intertidal meiofauna community in transitional waters are being studied, with emphasis on their response to estuarine salinity gradients. We aim to clarify the relevant determinants of community structure across salinity zones and shore height, and between different transitional water bodies and transitional water types. The estuaries chosen for examination in this project are subject to different degrees of anthropogenic organic enrichment, thus facilitating the assessment of the effects of organic pollution on meiofauna. Meiofaunal abundance, species diversity, community composition and biomass diversity will be related to the observed level of organic pollution to investigate whether communities can characterize environmental quality. Nematode trophic type will also be determined by using buccal cavity morphology in order to study species interactions between trophic guilds and evaluate the degree of detritivory. Therefore, by studying meiofaunal community response to the intrinsic environmental stresses of transitional waters, we aim to better understand these ecosystems and potentially apply the meiofauna in their environmental quality assessment.

Research interests

I am interested in many areas of marine biology, particularly the interpretation of environmental quality through the study of the resident fauna. I am focusing on the diverse meiofauna, investigating community responses primarily to variations in salinity and anthropogenic organic input in transitional waters. I continue to work with Dr Conor Nolan on fisheries projects, including age estimation of understudied species found within Irish waters.


Calis, E., E. H. Jackson, C. P. Nolan, and F. Jeal. 2005. Preliminary age and growth estimates of the rabbitfish, Chimaera monstrosa, with implications for future resource management. J. Northw. Atl. Fish. Sci., 35: 15-26.

White, E., Minto, C., Nolan, C.P., King, E., Mullins, E. & Clarke, M. (2010) First estimates of age, growth, and maturity of boarfish (Capros aper): a species newly exploited in the Northeast Atlantic. ICES Journal of Marine Science.

Nejentsev, S., Howson, J.M.M., Walker, N.M., Szeszko, J., Field,S.F., Stevens, H.E., Reynolds, P., Hardy, M., King, E., Masters, J., Hulme, J., Maier, L.M., Smyth, D., Bailey, R., Cooper, J.D., Ribas & G., Campbell, R.D., The Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium, Clayton, D.G. & Todd, J.A. (2007) Localisation of type 1 diabetes susceptibility to the MHC class I genes HLA-A and HLA-B. Nature, 450 (7171), 887-892. (PubMed: 18004301 )


Erna King sampling for meiofauna in the Castletown estuary

Postal address

School of Natural Sciences,
Zoology Building,
Trinity College,
University of Dublin,
Dublin 2



Last updated 4 October 2011 by