Millie Watts

Millie Watts

I'm a PhD student researching rapid climate change and submarine landslides in the North Atlantic.

'Follow' me using the button below to see my comments in your activity feed.

Location National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton


  • The MBARI youtube channel and page has some fantastic footage of some of the adaptations, the anglerfish can be seen here:

    I am always suprised at the size of these fish, normally less than 10cm in total length. Do you have any other footage of adaptations that surprises you?

  • My personal favourite extreme adaptation, that of the Barreleye, which has evolved to have a transparent head to be able to see upwards as well as forwards.

  • Whilst many species are named after an eminent scientist, or for good geographical reason, there are many species named for alternative reasons. This is an interesting page detailing the species that have been named after musicians, actors, writers and politicians, such as the "Alviniconcha strummeri, Johnson et al., 2014 (sea snail) Because it is studded with...

  • Hi Penelope,

    Most research ships sail for as much of the year as they can, barring time needed to mobilisation from ports and downtime for repairs. The Joides Resolution is the drill ship of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) and she sails nearly year round. There is a wonderful page on FAQ's about life and work at sea...

  • Hi Penelope, I am sure you have seen it, but this is my favourite footage of a Blue Whale, when it surprises a BBC reporter at Moss Landing, they are astonishing creatures:

  • I think this was my favourite video from the ROV Nautilus, when the ROV was "bumped" by a Sperm Whale:

    Does anyone else have any favourite underwater moments from any of these live dives?

  • Thank you that is lovely to hear, I hope that you learn something new this time! Enjoy the course.

  • Hi Elizabeth, thats really interesting that you are returning to the course, was the something in particular you wanted to learn more about?

  • Millie Watts made a comment

    Hello everyone and welcome to the MOOC, we have a fantastic four weeks planned, I am one of your facilitators and we will all be contributing and answering your questions in the active weeks. You will find an introductory post from each mentor on the blog:

    read mine...

  • Thanks Heidi! We will be updating it later today with new posts from the team!

  • Not sure about eating them, but they have been turned into cuddly toys:

  • To echo Rachel and Heather, it is amazing to me that women were told these things so recently! For me, I am grateful to all those women who have come before me, and glad that I have never been told I couldnt be a geologist because I was female, and that my gender is not an issue in my working life. If you are interested in women who have played a significant...

  • Hi Pam

    You are right, in the UK we are bathed in warm waters from the Gulf of Mexico which keep us relatively warm, the same is true for other countries on the western edge of continents. It is often referred to as a Cool Temperate Western Maritime Climate, and can be found in New Zealand and Chile as well. Without the influence of the Gulf Stream we would...

  • Do check out our blog post from Cristian wioth a video of some of us doing the experiments in one of the labs here at the NOC:

  • Hi Paula, thanks for the post, we had a google hangout with Dwight Coleman last year on the course, the video is still available ehre:

    We have a few colleagues here who have taken part in the Okeanos Explorer cruises, its a wonderful scheme and has a great Facebook page for anyone looking for some Oceans input to...

  • Hi Terry, a big part of the problem is how to remove the waste without affecting the marine life, in addition to physically storing a large volume of waste on the ship. once taken back to shore, it still needs to be processed/recycled, and as it has come from international waters, the responsibility for the cost is difficult to asses.

  • Hi Susan. The Mediterranean does have a small tide, on average 40cm total range, but due to the very narrow Straits of Gibraltar, there is simply not enough exchange between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean to allow a large tide to develop.

  • Sadly this is true, but making the big changes can be achieved through everyone making the changes they can. I am a big believer in buying local where possible, most farm shops and markets are happy to take their plastic packaging back, and recycling what you can. The big problems can seem impossible to solve, but the small steps make a big difference.

  • Hi Colin. I have never heard about the bacon, but the Bay of Fundy bore is fascinating. It occurs daily and is the result of the shape of the estuary, the Bay of Fundy is the highest tidal range in the world, followed by the Severn Estuary. Thank you Alex and Linda for the tidal explanation. I believe we have a blog post coming in the subject this week, I...

  • 1000 kg/1 tonne.

  • Hi Susan, I think you are right, but there are a lot of issues around funding, and as with many problems, it is out of sight, and therefore not a priority for many of us. The problem will continue growing though and something must be done. Here is a link to a movie released last year, it is still pay-per view but there is a lot of information on their website....

  • We have several great articles from the mentor team on the blog about salt, take a look here:

  • Millie Watts made a comment

    have always been particularly fascinated by the phenomena of tidal bores, these annual/monthly/daily events are created by a unique interaction of coastline shape and a high tide. The wide mouthed estuaries allow a high tide to be pushed in, and then force the tide upwards into a continuous wave that travels upstream, in some cases, it is powerful enough to...

  • Hi Julie, this is one of the big issues with ocean conservation, the garbage patches are huge, and in nearly every ocean. There are a couple of films that cover the problem in more detail, along with some of the potential solutions. Here is one that is released in various locations this year:
    It is on limited...

  • Sadly no worms involved! Wiggle matching is a term used for "curve-fitting", radiocarbon is one of the msot commonly used methods to obtain a date from marine sediments, peat bogs and lake deposits, and relies on estimating the relative proportions of Carbon-14 and Carbon-12 isotopes. All living matter absorbs the radioactive carbon-14, and it then decays to...

  • Millie Watts made a comment

    Geology and Oceanography often seem like they have their own language, in my own work, I use the terms Turbidite, Tsunamigenic and chronology most of all. Chronology is the most challenging, trying to accurately work out when events in the deep ocean occur requires a range of methods - radiocarbon, tephrochronology, biostratigraphy and my personal favourite -...

  • Dont forget to check the blog, if you are fascinated by hydrothermal vents, we have three additional blog posts from previous course mentors and Jon Copley, you can read them all here:

  • Welcome!

  • Welcome to your first course! I hope you enjoy it, do remember to check out the blog for more details on all out team:

  • Hi Michael, it is an interesting question, but widely misunderstood. For the clockwise/anticlockwie rotation to be effective, you need to be discussing very large volumes of water and significant flow. Normally this is dictated by the shape of the basin, and the direction of which water comes into the space. Here is a discussion on the effect:...

  • Hi Rob, thats a great idea, and certainly something to mention in your UCAS application and at interviews. Good luck!

  • Hi Margo, this was a fascinating discovery from this year and last, and certainly generated a lot of interest amongst the staff at NOC. There was an excellent documentary on channel 4 earlier this year (, and a great article from last month on the discovery of HMS...

  • Hi Nancy, part of the problem is the cost and difficulty of exploring the oceans, we will discuss a little of this this week, and more about modern ocean exploration in week 3.

  • What does the ocean me to me? Find out here if you are interested!

  • Millie Watts made a comment

    Hello everyone and welcome to the course! Please dont hesitate to ask questions and if you would like to find out more about what each of us are working on, please see the course blog:

    Here is my post on my PhD and the Storegga Slides, did you know we get large tsunamis in the UK?...

  • Hi Dave, a tsunami would not affect the temperature profile of the oceans, although the whole water column is normally involved with a tsunami wave, the amount of energy involved is very large but only over hours. The waves from the Indian Ocean and Japan tsunamis were detected almost worldwide, but all perturbations cease in less than 24 hours, which is not...

  • Hi Ian, it is a fascinating topic, and there are many lakes that have formed and burst across America, I am unsure about forming the Mississippi Basin but the outburst from Lake Missoula occurred approximately every 50-60 years at the end of the last ice age, and formed the Grand Canyon through a series of repeat floods.

  • This link appears to be working, try right clicking and opening in a new window or downloading, or an alternative browser. It is a large file so may need some time to open depending on your internet speed.

  • Dear learners, I hope you are enjoying this step, it is complex, and a full understanding of the system takes some time. There is an excellent description further down the page by Vijayaraghavan Srinivasan, thank you for this!

  • Millie Watts made a comment

    Some excellent conversations taking place on this step, it is fascinating to see the range of opinions and issues that come up with this debate. Although there are risks to the Severn project, and there are dangers of disturbing the mud flats and the fragile habitats in the region, for me the question relates more to what is a sensible alternative? We need...

  • Hi Ian, they are amazing, one of the highlights of spending time at sea!

  • Hi Ian

    This made it to the Guardian this week ( but the photos were taken on on of the current research cruises that is looking at habitat mapping in the Whittard Canyon. They have a great cruise blog which can be followed here:...

  • Thanks Tom, looking forward to chatting with you over the next few weeks!

  • Hi Joseph,

    Many of them are, and we have a new research and development centre for AUV's here, they have a great web page and links to newsletters on the NOC site (

  • Hi Neil

    As far as I am aware, the region with the most detailed mapping is the Norwegian shelf, there has been an intensive mapping effort there through a project called Mareano ( The reason for this is partly academic and partly industry based, but it provides high resolution maps through the site, in...

  • Thank you Mark!

  • The most impressive tidal system like this is the Qiantang river in China, where the annual bore can reach 30ft, and is often filmed ( again this is due to the funnel shaped nature of the estuary forcing the water inland.

  • Hi Christine, there are a few reasons why the Severn has the second highest tidal range in the world (The highest is the Bay of Fundy in Canada). I come from Somerset myself and was always fascinated by the channel and particularly the tidal bore. The reason the bore and the high tides exist is due to the shape of the Severn Estuary. The wide funnel shape...

  • Hi Alison, welcome to the MOOC, I used to teach Geography in Somerset and I think we have quite a few teachers and A-Level students here as well. Enjoy the MOOC and get in touch if you can think of any useful resources we could offer in future MOOCS!

  • Hi Archie, I took that course in 2008, it was a tough one! Such a great set of resources though, hope you enjoy the MOOC!

  • Hi Erika, thats great to hear! I hope you get as much from the course second time around. Enjoy the MOOC and your degree!

  • Hi David, it is amazing, Thingvallier is a wonderful place, that fault system continues almost to Antarctica from there, another 10 000 km south, and is then connected to the southern spreading ridges. Interestingly though, the mid-Atlantic ridge is the only ridge actually in the middle of the ocean, the rest tend to be offset to one side.

  • Hi John

    Yes it is a useful cross over between terrestrial and marine studies. We work closely with the civil engineering department at the main campus on slope stability issues when looking at slumping.

  • Hi Harriet, this does cause problems for interpreting historical data, which is a very valuable resource, but requires very careful interpretation. We do use historical time series, especially for ocean and climate records, but before these are used each aspect of the record is assessed for accuracy, not only with location but also for the instruments used....

  • Hi Eulinda, temperature and depth can affect some sonar readings, Sonar is a broad term for a wide range of instruments, but with increasing depth comes increasing acoustic impedance. With increasing depth the temperature can change considerably, and this will affect how easily the sonar moves through the water column, These effects are normally corrected...

  • This is a great experiment, we filmed some of the mentors from the last MOOC completing the experiments, the link to the blog post is here:

    You do need a lot of salt to make it work well, but it is a great illustration of the simple forces that drive the circulation system.

  • Hi Reiltin, this is a fun experiment to do, the biggest key to success is being very generous with the salt!

  • Hi Brian, that is a really interesting question, and one that some of the other educators may be able to answer in more detail. The boundaries of the oceans are defined by the International Hydrographic Organisation (intergovernmental) and are often defined by geographic boundaries such as island arcs/intersections of continents. The Wikipedia page gives a...

  • Hi David, this is a frequent comment, and it amazes me as well. We know so little about the deep oceans, and so little is mapped in detail it is astounding, particularly when you consider we have had people living in space for 15 years this November. The challenges of the deep ocean are immense, when this came up in a previous run of the course, we put...

  • Hi David, we dont record them at the moment, but it is a good idea. Should we start the details would be on the NOC website. There are a few lectures from one off events from staff, such as this one from Jon ( there are a few links to Pint of Science talks, here is one from Juerg Matter, links to others on the page...

  • Hello Stefano, yes you can go back at any time and the course remains open after the six weeks have ended so you can revist the steps and explore in more detail.

  • One of my favourite aspects of this step is the image of the Giant Isopod, they are such bizzare creatures, not my subject area but fascinating. Here is a lovely blog post, 18 things you didnt know about Giant Isopods -

    If you are particularly taken with them, you can even find cuddly...

  • Hi Rwth, we will be covering a lot of material about black smokers and vents, they are a particularly fascinating topic, thanks for the image!

  • Hi Terence, hopefully we will answer several of these questions over the next few weeks! It sounds like week 2 will really interest you!

  • Hi Lee, best wishes for a speedy recovery, but thank you for the post, I think all of us can remember seeing images like the one you described, and we never forget. For me it was Attenborough's "Life in the Freezer", particularly the clip with calving glaciers, the first time I had ever really heard of the phenomena (kindly shared by the BBC...

  • Thanks Theresa, particularly poignant inlight of the three category 4 hurricanes in the Pacific at the moment: which can be related to the El Nino cycle we are currently in.

  • Dont be put off by the maths! We only use a couple of equations and we post a guide to work through them. They are by no means essential to understanding the course!

  • Hello, we do offer talks to the general public on a regular basis, and we hold an annual open day in April where you can come and look at the facilities and meet the staff and students. Details are normally posted in advance on the NOC website. Look forward to seeing you there!

  • Hi Irmaury, welcome to the course!

  • Hello, thank you for the comments Ricarda and Deborah, there is a lot of material here, the main course materials (videos and step content) should take about 2 hours a week, but as you will discover, it is easy to spend a lot longer on the material if you want to! We cover a really diverse range of topics over the net six weeks, and we normally find that...

  • Hi Glenda, it is possible to get quite close. There are some folks in Hawaii who kayak up close to Lava entering the water ( and it is possible to dive on an active flow ( though not particularly safe.

    AUV's are used to film...

  • Hi Joan, tsunami prediction remains one of the key priorities for research at NOC, one of the problems is that there are many difference ways to generate a tsunami, not just through earthquakes. We work on understanding the records of past events to predict the likelihood, and potentially the cause of future tsunamis. My own research focuses on tsunamis that...

  • Millie Watts made a comment

    This is one of my favourite steps, I could spend hours looking at the map. There was recently a major discovery in the Arctic of the HMS Erebus, lost at sea in 1845 whilst trying to mao the North West Passage. The documentary is available on Channel Four at the moment, well worth a watch to get a taste of how difficult early exploration in such challenging...

  • Hi Margaret, what a wonderful place to grow up, I did my Masters at Swansea and cant wait to return to the Gower at some point!

  • Hi Christopher, the material is available after the course finished, just with the comments disabled. There is a lot of information in the course, but you can go back to it in your own time. Enjoy the rest of the course!

  • Millie Watts made a comment

    Good morning MOOCers! Such a fantastic start to the course this morning, there are now several new posts on the MOOC blog from our mentor team, more coming throughout the week, head to to get to know your mentors, how they came to study the oceans, and what the ocean means to them!

  • Hi Brian, thanks for that! The blog wll be updated throughout the course when we encounter difficult areas or we have some exciting news to share. There are many posts from previous mentors and educators, hope you enjoy the rest of the course!

  • Welcome to the course from a very wet Southampton, the Mentor team are excited to have finally started! Don't foget to follow us on the blog:

    Today we will be publishing some posts from the Mentor team about their own research, and what the ocean means to them.

    Enjoy the course and I look forward to chatting with...

  • Welcome to the course! I hope you enjoy it! Dont forget to follow the educators and demonstrators to stay up to date with comments and discussions!!

  • Don't forget the hangout starts now covering this week and last on live chat with Jon and Verity and the mentor team! Jon will be discussing some of the issues surrounding deep sea mining and future considerations for these resources.

  • Don't forget the hangout starts now covering this week and last on live chat with Jon and Verity and the mentor team!

  • Don't forget the hangout starts now covering this week and last on live chat with Jon and Verity and the mentor team!

  • Hi Astrid

    The expense is due to to the fuel costs for the ship in addition to supplies for 4-8 weeks between port calls. There are also the salaries of the permanent crew, the water and then all the scientific supplies which at often very specialised.

    Every effort is made to keep the budgets low as the longer we can spend at sea the more science can be...

  • That is unfortunate, Zebra Mussels have caused huge environmental problems worldwide, there was a recent BBC article about them here:

    There are plans for all ships to flush their ballast waters in the deep ocean where it is unlikely the larval stages of most species would survive, but once the Zebra mussels are...

  • Hi Simon,

    Daisyworld (Black flowers scenario) is still a valuable tool in teaching climate change and feedbacks. Here is a great short video from NASA on how the two work together:
    There are a number of animations online, and a good explanation of the model here:

  • Hi Josephine,

    this is a very interesting area of oceanography, but we also have an impact. Ships collect ballast water and are responsible for transporting invasive species such as the Zebra Mussel, an invasive species that has been transported globally in ballast waters whilst in the Larval stage, and is causing significant problems in global harbours...

  • Hi Michael, to add to what Cris has mentioned, we do know quite a lot about how the currents behaved in the past, we can look at the different clay minerals and the concentration of different types of magnetic grains to interpret when the oceans became connected. There are several key areas in the world where currents could not flow through when the continents...

  • Dear Sandra,

    please accept my apologies, Heather posted photos on her Twitter account, the address for which is here:

    I will post a correction on the video pages.

  • Hi Eleanor, it means that during expeditions we often have several different scientific parties involved in the work. Given the expense of research cruises, which are often around £25000 a day, when we visit a specific region to get sediment cores, we may also have a biological party onboard, be collecting geophysical data and water samples for other research...

  • Thank you for highlighting this grammatical error, I will pass your feedback onto our course administrators who will resolve it as soon as possible.

    Unfortunately, whilst every effort is made to ensure our materials are high quality, we are limited in terms of the amount of time and resources we can spend on our MOOC courses. As such, errors do appear in...

  • The most concerning of these is "cryoconite", a term to describe the increasing volumes of balck dust on the ice sheet surface, which lowers the reflectivity of the surface and makes it easier to warm and melt the ice:

    It is the positive feedback loops such as this, which has only been...

  • Hi Heather, you are right that the very rapid climate changes we have seen in the past required a large volume of fresh and liquid water to be stored on the edge of the oceans, the best understood source was the pro-glacial lake Agassiz over North America, but there were others in Russia.

    The present deglaciation is not that fast, currently the melt from...

  • If you don't have a scientific calculator at home, there are a number of free online versions, this one is particularly good:

  • Hi Laurie,

    Sorry to hear you are not enjoying the course, there is a lot of content here, and this week is a little more technical in some parts, but we don't expect everyone to read all the materials here, pick and choose from the weeks that interest you! This is one of the reasons we have such a broad range of backgrounds in our course mentor team, the...

  • Hi John, welcome to the course, this would be a great intro to the oceanography module with the OU, I hope the course inspires you to take it forward!!

  • Millie Watts made a comment

    Hi Everyone, if you would like to read more about the PhD research each of the mentors is involved with, we all have profiles detailing our work on the course blog, you can see all the PhD posts here:

  • Hi Mary, you are welcome, the OU is a fantastic organisation, I completed my degree with them in 2009. Look forward to chatting with you through the course!

  • Hi Nicole, nice to meet you! Welcome to course!