Rosie Dowell

Imperial College London, Institute of Zoology


My PhD project aims to investigate the biodiversity and community structure of micro-eukaryotic (e.g. zooplankton, phytoplankton) and macrofaunal communities (e.g. corals) on coral reefs within the Chagos Archipelago, Indian Ocean, using Environmental DNA (eDNA) techniques.

Due to its location, the Chagos Archipelago is likely to be connected via planktonic dispersion to other shallow reefs in the Indian Ocean and act as an important ‘stepping-stone’ for marine organisms.

eDNA techniques have the potential to revolutionise the future of marine monitoring because collection of samples is non-invasive, requires minimal pre-training, and overcomes the bottleneck of laborious taxonomic identification of small or microscopic organisms. eDNA makes use of a representative environmental sample, e.g. seawater, that contains DNA derived from ambient communities. DNA from across all domains of life can be identified using metabarcoding, by applying universal PCR primers to amplify DNA from a range of organisms.

eDNA samples have been collected for this project from over 30 sites across the Archipelago, representing both lagoonal and seaward facing reefs. With this data, we can describe the broad taxonomic diversity present throughout the archipelago over multiple years and atolls and inform on suitable methods for future monitoring in the area.

The Chagos archipelago represents a perfect opportunity to test and apply eDNA metabarcoding methods to better describe taxonomic diversity over space and time in an important, but challenging to reach system

Rosie Dowell


2020 Present
PhD student, ZSL and Imperial College London
2017 2018
MSc placement, Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences
2014 2019
MSc in Marine and Freshwater Biology, University of Glasgow

My Project

  • Island Reef Connections
    Implications of Nutrient Flow and Feedback Across the Seabird-Island-Reef System

My Publications