Blue Planet 2 and the Mysteries of the Deep: an Audience with Professor Steve Simpson

Behind the scenes of Blue Planet II: marine biologist from hit series explores the secrets of the deep

A contributor to the BBC’s blockbuster nature series, Blue Planet II, is to discuss the science behind the film that captured the imagination of millions, in a public lecture at the University of Exeter.

Professor Steve Simpson was a scientific adviser to Blue Planet II, and was featured in the final episode  recording the sound from coral reefs from a kayak.

He will describe his experiences working on the series, and discuss the threats facing our oceans today, including plastic pollution, marine noise and over-fishing. 

Audience members will have a chance to ask Professor Simpson about the series, how it was made and about its cast of marine creatures, including amazing clownfish colonies, fish that use tools and species that engage in cooperative hunting.   

The talk Blue Planet 2 and the Mysteries of the Deep: an Audience with Professor Steve Simpson  is free and open to members of the public, including children who enjoyed the series.

The talk is one of a number of public lectures put on by the University of Exeter for people living in Exeter and in the South West of England.

Professor Mark Goodwin, Deputy Vice Chancellor (External Engagement) at the University of Exeter, said:

“Blue Planet II captured the imagination of the nation. We are very pleased that local people will be able to hear first-hand from one of its stars, Professor Steve Simpson, about how the film was made. The talk is free and will be of interest to children and adults. It is just one of a series of public lectures put on by the University of Exeter for people from the area so they can share in the expertise of our academics.” 

Professor Simpson, a marine biologist at the University of Exeter, is an authority on fish communication and the impacts of noise on marine life. In the final episode of Blue Planet II he was filmed swimming underwater with clownfish and describing the way fish communicate through a series of clicks and pops.

He was also filmed with a model of a predator fish so the Blue Planet’s camera crew could capture how clownfish under threat ‘talk’ to each other. 

He revealed how the aquatic world is filled with noise: fish, mammals and invertebrates generate grunts, croaks and clicks to communicate.

Through his research at the University of Exeter, Professor Simpson has discovered that fish of the same species can have different ‘accents’ depending on where they live. 

Fish use sound to find mates, warn of approaching predators and identify habitats that would be suitable to live in. For marine animals that spend a majority of their time in the dark, deep in the depths of the ocean, being able to detect and respond to sound is vital. 

“There’s a whole language underwater we’re only just starting to get a handle on,” Professor Simpson said.

He warns man-made noise is having a detrimental effect on the marine world. Noises from offshore construction, shipping, motor boats and illegal dynamiting all disrupt marine communication, robbing animals of key information.

While filming the Blue Planet, the fish he was observing were disrupted by dynamite fishing and regular disturbance by motorboats.

“As soon as the boat came over, [the fish we were studying] were completely distracted. All that noise completely changed how the fish were behaving,” he said.

Prof. Simpson has written on the official Blue Planet II website about his research.

Blue Planet 2 and the Mysteries of the Deep: an Audience with Professor Steve Simpson will take place at 5:30–6.30pm on the 7th of Feb, at the University of Exeter’s alumni auditorium, Stocker Road, in Exeter. It is suitable for adults and children who watched the series.

Tickets for the talk are free and can be booked at

Date: 24 January 2018

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