Nada Al-Damluji, Master Student, Ghent University (Belgium)

My name is Nada Al-Damluji, I’m an Iraqi Masters Student from the Marine and Lacustrine Science and Management Master Program (Oceans and Lakes) which is coordinated between Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Ghent University, and University of Antwerp. I have been processing sediment meiofaunal samples since October 2023 for my MSc thesis project entitled “Assessment of mining impacts on deep-sea meiofaunal communities with the use of metabarcoding” under the supervision of Dr. Lara Macheriotou and Professor Ann Vanreusel. These samples were collected at the abyssal plains of the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone (CCFZ).

This enormous stretch of soft sediment is covered by polymetallic nodules, which are consequently targeted for extraction by deep-sea mining. In the spring of 2021, a nodule extractor prototype created by the Belgian business Global Sea Mineral Resources (GSR) was tested for this purpose in the Belgian contractor area. In the winter of 2022, the impacted area was revisited and sampled. The purpose of my thesis will be to compare samples from both years in order to discover changes in meiofaunal alpha/beta diversity as well as phylogenetic community structure using metabarcoding. The completion of this thesis will provide insight into the possible effects of deep-sea mining on the benthic environment.