Alexandra Mystikou

PhD Student

Alexandra joined SAERI in October 2012 as a shared PhD student with the University of Aberdeen, co-supervised by Prof. Frithjof Kuepper, Prof. Pieter van West (University of Aberdeen) and Dr Paul Brickle (SAERI). She is in the third year of her Ph.D. project which explores the seaweed biodiversity around the Antarctic Convergence in the South Atlantic. Her research is fully funded with a scholarship from the University of Aberdeen and the Falkland Islands Government. Among the main objectives of her Ph.D. research is a first-ever inventory of the macroalgal species of the Falkland Islands which are an underexplored hotspot of seaweed biodiversity and to close important gaps of the Falklands’ deep-water brown algal flora. The Ph.D. project involves molecular identification of macroalgae, cataloguing seaweed herbarium specimens and culturing of live isolates. In general her scientific interests focus on the molecular biology, ecology and physiology of macroalgae and marine angiosperms.


Before coming to Aberdeen in September 2011, she started her Bachelor’s degree in Marine Sciences at the University of the Aegean in Greece in 2007 which she finished with scholarships awarded from the Scholarship Foundation of the Greek State and the John S. Latsis Foundation in 2011. Her undergraduate thesis was an environmental impact assessment study of the extension of the 'Macedonia' Airport runway in Thessaloniki. In 2010 she undertook a summer internship with the Greek Fisheries Research Institute and was employed as a research assistant. Her study there focused on the Mediterranean marine angiosperms Cymodocea nodosa and Zostera noltii. In 2012 she got her MSc degree “Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology” at the University of Aberdeen. The subject of her MSc project led up to her current work and explored affinities between the seaweed flora of different areas in the sub-Antarctic region and the Antarctic Peninsula.

At this stage of her Ph.D. project, a peer-reviewed paper in an ISI-listed journal about the diversity of the seaweed species of the southwestern Antarctic Peninsula has been published (Mystikou et al. 2014, Polar Biology 37, 1607–1619) and another peer-reviewed paper the reports several new records and reassessments of brown algae and pathogens affecting brown algae from the Falkland Islands, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, is currently submitted.  Moreover, the enigmatic brown alga Cladochroa chnoosporiformis has been rediscovered after 106 years after its first description at its type locality in the West Falkland, enabling confirmation of its existence and its formal taxonomicre-assessment.

In another line of research her Ph.D. project explores the ecology of the seaweed communities around the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. The structure of a community of species and their functional groups points out the ecological status of an area. This project is comparing the number of single species per genus and per family between the three studied areas (Jason Islands, Beauchene Island and South Georgia) where the temperature and the productivity are affected differently by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The evolutionary relationships among coexisting species may provide further indicators of the ecology of the habitat.

Alexandra is actively involved with Prof. Frithjof Kuepper’s teaching activities, including teaching, co-coordination and tutoring in the course Oceans & Society at the University of Aberdeen, as well as in a marine biological / phycological field course at the University of the Aegean, run jointly with Aberdeen and supported by the Erasmus and the British Council. She has also given seminars about her work in the University of Konstanz (Germany) and the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (Greece).

Her Ph.D. work has been supported by the “Shackleton Scholarship Found”, the “John Cheek Fund” and the “Principal's Excellence Fund” (University of Aberdeen) for the two research expeditions at the Falkland Islands in Jan-Mar 2013 and Nov-Dec 2013, the “British Phycological Society” for presenting her work at the British Phycological Society’s meetings in Belfast in July 2013 and in Galway in June 2014, the “IUCN” and the “Total Foundation” for presenting her work as an invited speaker at the 7th Port-Cros Symposium - Marine Vegetation: Ecology and Benefits at Porquerolles Island, France, as an invited speaker.

She has recently been awarded with the “Santander Mobility Award” and the “Interconnect Inspire Student Grant” from Equate Scotland - Women in Science in order to undertake a 2 month research project on population genetics of Lessonia species from the southern South Chile and the Falklands Islands at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago de Chile with Prof. Sylvain Faugeron’s group.