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Half-way there! Monitoring the West Shetland Shelf

Mon, 2019-09-09 09:00
MRV Scotia

Survey: 1219S

(Times given are in Coordinated Universal Time (abbreviated to UTC), 24-hour format throughout.)

With a full complement of staff aboard, including 19 officers and crew and a team of 11 scientists from Marine Scotland Science (MSS), the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the National Museum of Scotland, MRV Scotia departed Aberdeen on the morning of 26th August and made way for the West Shetland Shelf (WSS) Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (MPA) (Fig. 1). The 1219S WSS offshore monitoring survey had begun with high expectations after the discovery made during the last visit.

Figure 1: The West Shetland Shelf (WSS) Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (MPA), areas (boxes A – G) identified for sampling and location of the wet-test site.


Upon leaving port, a vessel familiarisation tour was conducted for those scientific staff who were new to the boat, or who hadn’t sailed in the preceding six months. An abandon ship drill was also carried out.  A ‘wet-test’ of sampling equipment was carried out between 12:30 and 15:30 on the 26th August, 25 km north of Fraserburgh (Fig. 1). This included a test of:

  1. The drop frame camera system that is being used to capture video footage and still photographs of the seabed and the marine life it supports and is fitted with an ultra-short baseline transponder (USBL) to record its location underwater with high accuracy (Fig. 2).
  2. JNCC’s new DEFRA funded Hamon grab (on its maiden voyage), which is being used to take sediment samples for characterisation of the epi- and infaunal communities and sediment type (Fig. 3).

Figure 2: Drop-camera system used on survey (left); drop-camera operations on board (top middle); digital still image of seabed (bottom middle); example output from the processed USBL data showing the position of the drop-frame and ship (top right); drop camera retrieval (bottom right).



Figure 3. JNCC’s new Hamon grab (above); grab sample processed (top right); sample processing station manned by JNCC scientists (bottom right)

Once testing was completed, transiting resumed and we arrived at survey box B in the WSS MPA (Fig 1) at 03:00 hours on the 27th August. A sound velocity profile (SVP) cast was taken (SVPs are used to calibrate the multibeam echosounder (MBES) system on board) and an MBES survey of box B began and continued until first light on the 27th. Boxes B and D are the primary targets for MBES sampling due to the coarser sediment in these areas, you can read JNCC’s blog post about MBES on 1219S here. At first light (06:00) – to allow sight of any creel marker buoys that present a snagging risk to towed gear – the drop-camera survey of stations within box B commenced and continued until 10:00 after which the MBES survey of box B resumed and continued until midnight on the 27th August.

We then transited to survey box A and undertook drop-camera sampling until 10:30 on the 28th, at which point Hamon grab sampling began and continued until midnight. Many thanks are due to MRV Scotia’s engineering crew for their work in adapting the Hamon grab; a retaining bar was installed to keep the lifting wire on the pulley as this had been slipping out while retrieving the grab. Sampling of box A was completed on the 29th August (drop-camera: 00:00 – 09:30, Hamon grab: 09:30 – 12:45).

We then set our sights on box F, arriving at 14:00 and grab sampled until 17:30 when high winds and rough seas prevented equipment from being deployed and retrieved safely. This period of downtime lasted approximately 15 hours, with grab sampling in box F resuming at 09:00 on the 30th August until midnight when grab sampling of this area was completed.

Drop-camera sampling of box F began and continued until completed at 09:00 on 31st August. Transit back to box B was made and the MBES survey here resumed at 12:30 until completed at 23:15. Note the different shape of box B presented here to that given in the survey programme: it was necessary to adapt the shape due to the presence of creels in the south of the survey box.

Drop-camera sampling of box B continued from 23:15 (31st August) to 03:30 on the 1st September when the weather worsened making the drop-camera unworkable. Transit to box D was made and MBES surveying commenced at 06:45, continuing to 10:00, when sea state affected the quality of the acoustic data to an unacceptable extent and all scientific operations ceased. The MBES survey of box D resumed at 14:00 and lasted until 21:30 on the 31st, when sea state had improved sufficiently. With conditions continuing to improve, transit back to box B to complete drop-camera and grab sampling was made, with all sampling in box B completed by 14:00 on the 2nd September.

Good progress is being made with three boxes fully completed and two others started. Despite the weather forecast, the team is optimistic the survey objectives will be achieved.

The catering staff are keeping spirits high with excellent fayre, while both the officers and deck team are making sure we are on-target, safe and entertained.

Further Information:

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Juvenile Fish Habitat

Tue, 2019-09-03 13:00

MRV Alba na Mara

Survey: 1519A Programme

Duration: 2-21 September 2019


  • 2 x Jackson Rockhopper Trawl BT158 with 10 mm Cod end + Spare
  • Scanmar net sensors – trawl width, height, and depth (x2 units)
  • 2 fleets of fish traps
  • Fish/prawn sorting table
  • SBRUV – baited camera frames – (QTY 2)
  • 2 x Day grab, grab table

Background and Objectives:
1519A will conduct a benthic survey of juvenile gadoids within the Firth of Clyde. The primary objective of 1519A is to identify whether the availability, quality and distribution of habitat acts as a constraint on the number of juvenile fish that can grow and be recruited into the adult population. This study focusses on three gadoid species with differing habitat preferences; Atlantic cod, whiting and haddock, all of which the year-class strength appears to be established around the period of settlement to the demersal habit. The study will utilise three sampling methods: demersal tows, fish traps, and baited-camera census techniques. Data from these surveys will inform the development of species distribution models at a regional and stock scale and will also be used to compare the selectivity of the three sampling methods. Otolith based survivorship analyses will also be carried out post-survey to examine selection on settlement time and size-specific mortality. Genetic tissue will be stored and used post-survey to examine stock structure, primarily in cod. Habitat will be characterised using a combination of hydro-acoustic recordings (RoxAnn) for seabed classification and sediment grab samples.

Specific survey objectives are as follows:

  1. To collect data on juvenile gadoid abundance using three different sampling methods.
  2. To record substrate features at the point of sampling.
  3. To collect sufficient otolith samples suitable for survival analysis studies.
  4. To collect sufficient genetic material to investigate issues relating to stock structure.

Scientists will join the vessel on the morning of 2 September. Weather permitting, Alba na Mara will depart on the same day, heading for the first survey site. IMPORTANT NOTE: It is essential that the wet lab freezer is completely empty before embarkation.

Survey Work:
The survey will be split into four distinct activities – demersal trawling, fish trap work, baited camera work, and a survey of the substrate – which will be performed at each station.

1. Demersal Fishing Survey
The demersal survey (30 minute tows) will assess the abundance, length-frequency-distribution, and weight-at-length of juvenile gadoids at 14 fixed stations within the Firth of Clyde (Figure 1- Trawl_Trap_Cam). Otoliths of five individuals per 1 cm size class will be retained for analysis at a later date. Occurrences of invertebrates and other fish species will be recorded and measured.

Scanmar units will be fitted to the wings and head line of the BT158 trawl to ensure the net is fishing correctly.

2. Fish Trap Survey
A fish trap survey at all demersal survey sites (Figure 1- Trawl_Trap_Cam) and within the NC MPA (Figure 1- Trap_Cam) within the Firth of Clyde will be carried out during 1519A. Traps (up to two fleets of four traps) will be deployed in the first half of the day and collected in the afternoon after a soak time of approximately six hours. Species composition and length frequency distributions of fish caught will be determined. All samples will be weighed and, where appropriate (cod, whiting, haddock), frozen. Occurrences of invertebrates and other fish species will be recorded and measured.

3. SBRUV baited cameras
In addition to demersal and fish trap survey sites (Figure 1- Trawl_Trap_Cam and Trap_Cam), stereo Baited Remote Underwater Video Camera (SBRUV) frames will be deployed in the No Take Zone (Figure 1 Cam) during daylight hours (2-3 units will be available). These will be left in the water for approximately 1.5 hrs before being retrieved. The deployment of baited cameras will happen at the same time as that of the fish traps and at distances sufficient to avoid any interaction with either the fleet ground gear or the other baited system (recommended minimum is 500 m). Footage will be downloaded to external media at the end of each working day. Species type, relative species densities (MaxN) and substrate type (assessed visually) will be classified post-survey.

4. Substrate Classification
To further aid the classification of the substrate at each sampling site, 1519A will also acquire RoxAnn records of the surveyed area and a Day grab will be deployed. Sediment samples will be collected from each grab and stored in the freezer. These will be analysed on return to the laboratory to determine particle size distribution in the sediment at each sample location.

Survey operations will take place between the hours of 07:00 and 19:00 (all times BST). Stations will be surveyed depending on the prevailing weather conditions i.e. if wind strengths or wave heights are adverse, a precautionary approach will be adopted and those with adequate shelter from the weather will be selected. Alternatively, in poorer weather the trawl survey may be prioritised over other activities.

A half landing will be provisionally booked for a suitable port on 11 September to comply with working hours and to allow planned changes to the scientific crew.

Alba Na Mara will leave the study area in the morning of 20 September to allow sufficient time for the vessel to transit to Oban. Unloading will occur in Oban on Saturday 21 September. Scientists will disembark at this time.

Figure 1. 1519A: 2019 survey sites within the Firth of Clyde














Further Information:

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Celebrating Merchant Navy Day

Tue, 2019-09-03 09:00

Today is Merchant Navy Day.

For those of you who may not be aware, since 2000 Merchant Navy Day has honoured the brave men and women who kept our ‘island nation’ afloat during both World Wars, and celebrated our dependence on modern day merchant seafarers who are responsible for 95% of the UK’s imports, including half the food we eat, plenty of the fuel we burn and many other products and goods.

This year we wanted to bring you a blog from one of our marine colleagues, First Officer Safety Alexis Lee. In May this year, Alexis took over as Officer in Charge for a three-week trip on one of our Marine Protection Vessels, the MPV Minna.

It’s fair to say it was an interesting three weeks….


I found out  early in spring that in May, I was going to be asked to step up to be Officer in Charge of the MPV Minna in May – effectively, being put on temporary promotion for three weeks and acting as Commanding Officer, or Captain, for the three- week trip.

Having worked continuously towards this goal for the past 10 years of my life, taking countless exams and spending many, many months at sea I jumped at the opportunity. MPV Minna’s Commanding Officer, Captain Andrew Sutton would be travelling to Africa to volunteer on board African Mercy, a hospital ship operating all around the continent of Africa. And that would leave me in charge of the MPV Minna.

So what does it actually mean when you are Captain? Well it means I am ultimately in charge of every operation that takes place on board the vessel. From galley to engine room to navigating on the bridge- ‘the buck stops with me.’ As captain you are available 24 hours a day on board and must be ready to deal with any eventuality. Something I would quickly appreciate within 12 hours of sailing from Glasgow.

At 0400 on my first morning at sea, I received a call from the first officer executive to inform me that Belfast Coastguard had just called the vessel via VHF radio to ask for assistance. A fishing vessel and a tanker had just collided approximately 8 miles from our position and we were the closest vessel to the incident. Extra engines were put on line and emergency preparations were commenced. We began making our way at best speed. Thankfully arriving on scene we could see the fishing vessel was still afloat with no reported injuries on board- but with some significant damage. The damage suffered by the tanker was minimal. We were thanked by the coastguard and stood down after carrying out a damage assessment of the tanker. The fishing vessel was escorted back to port by the RNLI. It was certainly not a morning I will ever forget. And we made the BBC website!

The remainder of the trip was still to present quite a few challenges. However the support I received from the officers and crew on board was unquestionable. In addition to that I am very lucky to have some great colleagues from around the fleet and ashore, including other commanding officers, who gave me some fantastic advice.
As I type this, I am now back on the MPV Minna and back to my substantive rank. My Commanding Officer is safely back from Africa and life on board has returned to normal.  I’ve had chance to look back at that first trip and reflect on my experience.

A lot has been written in the media recently on the subject of imposter syndrome- I can certainly empathise with a lot of it. Despite knowing that I was ready to take this opportunity – quite literally having it written in black and white on my master mariner’s licence, there was still that nagging fear that maybe I wasn’t good enough or ready enough to take this on. It think it is very important to acknowledge these fears, but ultimately at sea you have stamp on them and get on with the job.

As well as that I was the first female officer in charge in the history of Marine Scotland Compliance. That was very much at the forefront of my mind throughout the trip and it comes with its own pressure. Rightly or wrongly, I felt an added responsibly to do the best possible job I could. And now 6 weeks later I am very happy to say that I feel I did that. And if I am lucky enough to be asked to do it again I would not hesitate.

Alexis Lee

Further Information



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Prey Species across Smith Bank

Fri, 2019-08-30 14:49
MRV Alba na Mara

Survey: 1419A Programme

Duration: 27-30 August 2019

  • Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Limited (BOWL);
  • Moray East Offshore Windfarm (MEOW);
  • Moray West Offshore Windfarm (MWOW).
Objectives Primary Objectives:
  1. Study the distribution of prey species (fish schools and zooplankton patches) across Smith Bank in relation to data available from BOWL post-construction digital aerial surveys and University of Aberdeen (UoA) Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) surveys of top predators.
  2. Compare the distribution of schooling sandeels in summer with data on their presence in the sediment from the BOWL/MEOW winter sandeel monitoring.
  3. Recover two Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) devices deployed in the BOWL area.
Secondary Objective:

Collect hydrographic data to further validate the Scottish Shelf Model (SSM) and incorporate its outputs into assessment of drivers of predator distribution.


Alba na Mara will conduct an acoustic survey at an average speed of 8 knots along key transects between wind farm turbine rows (see Figure 2), to capture data on mid-water feeding sandeels using all available frequencies from the EK60 echo sounder.  Concurrent seabird and cetacean visual surveys will collect predator data during the transects.

Pelagic sampling for sandeels using the PT154 will normally be conducted early on in the day. Sandeel dredge tows or Day grabs will be deployed as a back-up if required.  Fishing haul positions will be chosen along the survey transects but not necessarily in the same orientation.

Plankton sampling will be conducted using the dual “bongo” net, fitted with mesh sizes of 200 and 68 µm. Collected samples will be preserved in each of: 70% alcohol, 4% formaldehyde and frozen in vital stain neutral red.

Sampling positions have been selected to cover the southern part of the BOWL area based on the survey transect lines. Three of the selected positions will be prioritised and the two remaining ones will be done if time allows. Figure 3 shows all plankton sampling positions.

The two ADCP devices will be retrieved during the survey when possible, Figure 4 shows the locations of these devices.

This survey continues the work undertaken during Alba na Mara survey 0919A.

Survey Activities During Turbine Piling Activities

The Alba na Mara will survey around any turbine piling activities should these start at the MEOW site. Alba na Mara will collect biological samples at a predetermined safe distance from piling activities. Daily contact with the MEOW operation team will ensure that the Alba can sample soon after piling events begin.

Conductivity Temperature Depth (CTD) and water sampling (seabed and mid-water) will be simultaneously undertaken at each plankton station, with data collected for the Scottish Shelf Model. See Figure 3 for locations.

Figure 2: Proposed transects for fisheries acoustic surveys (grey dots represent wind turbine locations, both built and planned).

Figure 3: Hydrographic and plankton sampling positions (grey dots represent wind turbine locations, both built and planned, cyan dots represent sampling locations from 0919A).

1419A Figure 4 ADCP locations. These will be collected during 1419A


Further Information:

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We’ll be back! Our Return to the West Shetland Shelf

Fri, 2019-08-30 08:00

MRV Scotia

Survey: 1219S Programme

Duration: 26 August – 11 September 2019


The survey plan outlines the monitoring survey requirements for West Shetland Shelf (WSS) Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). WSS has been identified for monitoring survey effort following discussion between Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Marine Scotland Science (MSS), taking into account the 2019/20 JNCC MPA monitoring survey prioritisation process, (McBreen & O’Connor, 2018), the Scottish MPA Monitoring Strategy (Scottish Government, 2017) prioritisation principles and logistical considerations.

In addition to WSS, Pobie Bank Reef (PBR) Special Area of Conservation (SACs) is also considered as a contingency site but will only be visited in the case that it is not possible to survey WSS.

MPAs and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) are designed to meet conservation objectives under the Marine (Scotland) Act (2010) and EC Habitats Directive (1992) respectively. These sites will contribute to an ecologically coherent network of MPAs across the north-east Atlantic, as agreed under the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the north-east Atlantic, or Oslo-Paris Convention (OSPAR) and other international commitments to which the UK is signatory.

Main Objectives West Shetland Shelf:

Seven survey boxes have been positioned inside and adjacent to WSS MPA (Figure 1). For each box the priority is to:

  1. Acquire full coverage multibeam.
  2. Collect drop-camera video and stills from 25 stations (station position will be determined based on processed multibeam).
  3. Collect and process a single Hamon grab sample from a subset of the 25 stations (only stations deemed suitable for grab sampling will be revisited with the Hamon grab).
  4. Increase replication at drop-camera transects (four additional camera transects) and grab samples (two additional grabs) at a subset of one drop camera stations and three grab stations.
Pobie Bank Reef (Contingency Survey Site):
  1. Acquire multibeam.
  2. Collect drop-camera video and stills from selected stations.
  3. Collect and process a single Hamon grab sample from selected stations.
Secondary Objectives:
  1. Collect additional drop-camera video and stills and/or Hamon grab samples to ground-truth the multibeam data.
  2. Collect Hamon grab samples for the purpose of DNA analysis.
  3. Collect Van Veen grab samples at a subset of Hamon grab stations for the purposes of a gear comparison study.

The survey will be undertaken from the MRV Scotia with 16 days at sea. Two 12-hour shifts will be used to cover each 24 hour period. The night shift (00:00-12:00) will primarily be used for drop-camera sampling and the day shift (12:00-00:00) will primarily be used for grab sampling and multibeam acquisition. However, both shifts will be capable of using the multibeam and grabbing gear if necessary.

Due to the large area and depth range of WSS (4,083 km2 and 70-150 m, respectively) the site will be monitored using a nested box approach, to make the best use of the survey time available, and to increase the power to detect change within each survey box. The seven boxes are labeled A-G (A being the highest priority and G lowest priority) and have been positioned inside and outside WSS, each box has dimensions of 5 x 10 km (see figure 1).

Following main survey objectives for WSS, each box will initially be sampled to acquire 100% multibeam (bathymetry and backscatter). Bathymetry and backscatter data will be processed while at sea and the outputs used to target sampling stations.

Sampling Stations

All sampling stations will be visited to acquire 150 m (~15 minute) drop-camera tows. At a subset of one station per survey box drop-camera tow replication will be increased.

At these increased replication stations, the vessel will move 10 m perpendicular to the direction of the first transect, and complete a shorter 50 m (five minute) tow and repeat this process until there are five approximately parallel transects (i.e. as parallel as is possible bearing in mind logistical constraints in terms of maintaining desired direction of travel along the five parallel transects due to potential changes in conditions (e.g. tidal direction and prevailing weather)).

These increased replication drop-frame camera stations will consist of five transects of 50 m length (the video from the single 150 m transect will be truncated post survey) placed within a 50 m radius bullring surrounding the station.

Video collected at each station will be assessed for suitability for grab sampling. A subset of stations which are deemed suitable will be revisited to collect a single Hamon grab sample. A further subset of three stations per survey box will be increased replication stations. At these stations a total of three replicate Hamon grab samples will be collected. Hamon grab samples must have a volume of 5 L or more to be considered valid for monitoring. Up to three attempts will be made to acquire a valid sample for each grab replicate.

A sub sample for particle size analysis will be taken from each grab sample, and the remaining sample will be processed using 1 mm sieves and fixed in formalin solution.

Pobie Bank Reef SAC is a contingency site. If this site is surveyed a similar sequence of multibeam acquisition, drop-camera transects, and Hamon grab samples will be followed.

At both sites additional grab and camera stations may be planned to address the secondary objectives.

Further Information:

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Scotia’s Hunt for Organic Carbon

Wed, 2019-08-21 14:22

I am a second-year PhD student at the University of St Andrews and was recently very fortunate to be one of the research scientists aboard the Scotia 1019S survey that took us across Scotland’s seas at the end of July. Following an unpredictable summer, we weren’t sure of what to expect weather-wise at sea. However, we needn’t have worried, we were treated to clear blue skies and calm seas for most of the 10 days!

The researchers on board all had the common goal of improving our understanding of how organic carbon is cycled and stored within the marine environment and this was done via sampling the seabed and water column.

My PhD research is focussed on understanding the spatial distribution of organic carbon within seabed sediments on the Scottish Continental Shelf. It is understood that the seabed is a long-term store of organic carbon (that originated from the atmosphere as carbon dioxide), however there are gaps in our knowledge of more specifically where this carbon is found. Understanding the oceans’ role in storing carbon is important when considering this environment in terms of climate mitigation strategies.

I had two main aims for this data collection opportunity aboard Scotia. The first was to sample the seabed over as large a spatial range as possible. My project aims to generate a spatial inventory of organic carbon on Scotland’s Continental Shelf to build a picture of where carbon hotspots might exist.

As I am interested in the surface seabed, I used a Day Grab, which is lowered to the seafloor and triggered, to collect a large ‘scoop’ of sediment. Over the course of the cruise, I was able to collect over 130 grab samples from different locations on the shelf which I will analyse in the lab. This dataset will form a key part of my research to map the spatial distribution of organic carbon on the shelf.

The second objective was to test a novel mapping method using multibeam backscatter data (acoustic data) to predict where organic carbon is stored. The seabed is a challenging environment to sample because we can’t ‘see’ it unless we employ some form of technology. Multibeam echosounders are used to map seabed substrates because of the relationships between how sediments reflect sound. If we can use sound to identify muddy sediments, we might be able to predict that these areas will also be enriched in organic carbon. To test this theory, I ground-truthed a multibeam dataset from the Moray Firth on the east coast of Scotland by collecting multiple surface grabs. I also collected larger, and deeper seabed samples using a box core in different sediment types to understand relationships between sediment type and organic carbon with depth. In the lab, I will analyse this sediment to characterise its physical properties and organic carbon content. This information will be used to understand the links between sediment type, acoustic backscatter data and organic carbon.

Mapping carbon hotspots in seabed sediments is the first stage in building a marine carbon inventory and acknowledging seabed sediments in their role as long-term carbon stores and natural capital assets.

By Corallie Hunt

Further Information:

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Nephrops on the East Coast – An Update

Tue, 2019-08-20 14:35

MRV Alba na Mara Programme

Survey 1319A

Duration: 8-24 August 2019

The annual Alba na Mara East Coast Nephrops Underwater TV survey returns once again.  A very busy week has been spent in the Firth of Forth working under challenging conditions at times, but despite 40kt easterly gales plenty of headway was made with the planned stations.  Poor water visibility, which was down to a mix of tide, commercial fishing operations, marine traffic stirring up the sea bed as well as increased fresh river water input from recent heavy rain, meant additional stations were undertaken where necessary.

Fishing operations were undertaken within each sediment type of the Forth.  A range of biological and morphometric data was collected from each Nephrop caught.

The next week will be spent in the Moray Firth where the survey will continue to obtain estimates of the distribution and abundance of Nephrops burrows using towed underwater camera systems.

Further Information:


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Coring the Scotia on-board the Scotia

Fri, 2019-08-16 10:00

Charting a course to the Scanner SAC

It is 0300 in the morning and the MRV Scotia is steaming to the eastern section of the Fladen ground, in the central North Sea. We have received the go-ahead to run a short survey over the giant Scanner and Scotia pockmark complexes. These large conical shaped depressions found occasionally in the North Sea and on the seabed around western Scotland form through the release of gas produced within organic rich sediments or deeper hydrocarbon stores. They represent an important pathway for the cycling of carbon from the seabed to the ocean – sometimes known as ‘blue carbon’. These particular pockmarks are some of the largest within Europe and have been sporadically studied, since being discovered in 1983. But are they still actively releasing gas? This region has been designated by the European Commission as a Special Area of Conservation due to these gas seepage structures, of unknown age, and the presence of rare Methane Derived Authigenic Carbonate (MDAC). Very few marine sites are recognised at this level on the basis of their geological significance.

The ship carefully cruises over the Scanner pockmark at half speed, five knots. Within one of the containers on the hangar deck that serves as our lab, we observe the precise shape of the seabed.  The screen shows live data from the ship’s single-beam echosounder – acoustic reflections from the seabed and within the water column. Typically these include fish, clouds of plankton, turbulence from the ships thrusters, and bubble plumes. The Scanner pockmark looms into view, its profile clearly visible as a pronounced depression on the seabed – but there is no trace of any unusual acoustic signals within the water column, no sign of any gas. As the ship maintains its course north towards Scotia pockmark, over the flat ground of the North Sea, tension grows as I eagerly hope for any signs of activity. The data on the screen moves painfully slowly – each second seemingly longer than the last. Then the depths begin to increase. One hundred and fifty metres, one hundred and fifty one, one hundred and fifty two – this must be Scotia. And there, projecting like an ‘acoustic pillar’ on the seabed, is the clear signature that can only be associated with gas erupting from the seabed. A 50-m high, flame-shaped cone on the echogram, like nothing else we had seen on the cruise, originating from the pockmark. “That’s it. It has to be. It’s gas. It’s still active!” I exclaim. “Are you seeing this?!”, Tom Bradwell, my supervisor, says as he comes smiling into the lab – having just watched the same footage from the bridge. We take a few more phone pictures of the plume and do some celebratory backslapping before the hard work begins.

Image from the ER60 echosounder showing the plume of gas from Scotia

We have been given permission to sample the seabed within the Scotia pockmark, onboard the MRV Scotia, providing we do not disturb any of the rare MDACs. First we lower the CTD on a cable to measure the physical properties of the seawater five metres above the pockmark and collect a sample – to be later analysed for methane content. Then we carefully lower a multi-corer rig with a HD video camera and lights attached. The beaming light slowly descends into the darkness of the sea. Its eerie glow like the lights of captain Nemo’s Nautilus in 20,000 leagues under the sea. Once safely recovered, we excitedly look at the footage. The video shows no MDAC within this locality, and no clear signs of bubbles, but there seem to be unusually strong bottom currents as sediment particles flow hypnotically across the screen. With no signs of precious MDAC, the gravity corer is prepared and dropped in exactly the same location – using the ship’s precise dynamic positioning thrusters to full effect. The gravity corer, a 3-m long metal pipe with a lead weight, weighing over a tonne, collects a sediment core from the deepest part of Scotia pockmark. As it is brought back on deck, I immediately remove the core liner to see what has been collected. The muddy sediment is dense, sticky and yet doesn’t really smell; I would have expected a gas-rich core to smell sulphurous or eggy. We cap the core, measure its length and store it away. The Scotia does a second pass with the echosounder, this time perpendicular to the previous track. The results again show a clear gas flare billowing from the centre of the pockmark. There is no doubt that the Scotia pockmark is actively venting gas! It remains to be seen what the sediment core will show.

The lights of the multi-corer being lowered into the sea

Before the cruise, we knew that these giant pockmarks existed, we had their exact coordinates – and yet tonight’s discovery of active venting feels like a real discovery – real exploratory science. I’m sure that this late-night experience will stay with me, echoing throughout my PhD research and perhaps beyond. It’s this deep sense of exploration and adventure miles out at sea that is pushing me further into my academic research in the search for answers. What is the history and formation mechanism of the giant Scotia pockmark and others like it? How much gas does it produce and what is its fate? And how does it impact life on the seafloor? Answering these questions will shed light on the complex carbon cycling process currently ongoing from seafloor to ocean and atmosphere. Until then, I would like to thank the crew of the MRV Scotia, my colleagues on the ‘Blue Carbon 2019’ cruise and Marine Scotland for making such an endeavour possible.

by Allan Audsley

Further Information:

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Vacancy: Mechanical Engineer, closing date 16 September

Wed, 2019-08-14 10:00

We are currently seeking applications for a Mechanical Engineer within the Directorate for Marine Scotland based in Aberdeen. This is a permanent and pensionable appointment and new entrants will normally start on the minimum of the pay range. Candidates with a disability who meet the essential criteria below will be invited to the assessments.

The Engineering Group would like to employ a B1 Mechanical Engineer in a business critical service area of Marine Scotland Science. This will allow us to continue to deliver the group’s objectives and the support provided to MSS in areas of work including:

  • Management of Marine Protected Area conservation objectives;
  • Fulfil our EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive requirements for Descriptors 1 and 6;
  • Renewables installation and interaction with the marine environment;
  • Commercial fish stock assessments; and
  • Consequences of oil and gas infrastructure decommissioning.
Qualifications Required:

Candidates must hold a Mechanical Engineering qualification or equivalent.

Other qualifications equivalent to these may also be acceptable, if you are in any doubt please contact to discuss.

Please note: If you fail to demonstrate how you meet the minimum qualifications as stated above, your application will be automatically sifted out.

Essential Criteria:
  1. Proven, practical, time-served workshop experience in Mechanical Engineering
  2. Candidates should have proven experience in working effectively within a team of mechanical engineers, with the capacity to work independently in the workshop if required
  3. Demonstrate familiarity with all aspects of a Mechanical Engineering facility, including use of machine tools, welding, fabrication and basic materials technology.
  4. Effective communication at all levels
Further Information:

For further information on this vacancy please download and review the “Person Specification and Further Information for Job Applicants” which you will find below. To apply, you must fully complete and submit an online application via this website before the closing date. To learn more about this opportunity, please contact Neil Collie who can be reached at or 0131 244 3669 or Brian Ritchie at or 0131 244 2866.

If you experience any difficulties accessing our website or completing the online application form, please contact the Resourcing Team on 0131 244 5739 or via

Further information for this job:

Person Specification and Further Information for Applicants

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Vacancy: Offshore Chemical Risk Assessor – closing date 10 September

Tue, 2019-08-13 15:00

We are currently seeking applications for an Offshore Chemical Risk Assessor within the Directorate for Marine Scotland based in Aberdeen. This is a 18 month fixed term and pensionable appointment and new entrants will normally start on the minimum of the pay range. Candidates with a disability who meet the essential criteria below will be invited to the assessments.

The post-holder will work within OEEAG at MSS to contribute to the requirements of the SLA. This will be achieved through the provision of recommendations, and the assessment and evaluation of chemical permits relating to offshore oil and gas exploration and production with regards to their physical and chemical impact on the marine environment

To underpin this advice, the post-holder will ensure that the best available information is included in assessment decisions, through maintaining a working knowledge of best practices and technologies developed in the oil and gas sector and by application of appropriate modelling techniques.

The post-holder will need to be able to maintain and develop good working relationships with relevant staff in external organisations, including BEIS, Cefas, and the Oil & Gas Industry and consultancies. There will be a requirement to ensure that the post holder continues to develop their skills and knowledge through understanding the relevant literature and continuous professional development. This will be a varied and interesting post in a highly applied scientific field, which will be suited to someone who has the ability to successfully handle competing priorities.

Qualifications Required:

Applicants must hold a scientific based degree or equivalent

Other qualifications equivalent to these may also be acceptable, if you are in any doubt please contact to discuss.

Please note: If you fail to demonstrate how you meet the minimum qualifications as stated above, your application will be automatically sifted out.

Essential Criteria:
  1. Demonstrable ability to interrogate and assess information provided in applications to identify discrepancies and provide solutions.
  2. The ability to work independently with good organisational skills and the ability to prioritise workload.
  3. Excellent written and oral communication skills, including the ability to explain scientific concepts to varied audiences, maintain good working relationships and proactively support colleagues.
  4. Experience of reviewing and summarising environmental data/information with a good working knowledge of standard scientific computer packages (e.g. Microsoft Office) and spreadsheets.
Further Information:

For further information on this vacancy please download and review the “Person Specification and Further Information for Job Applicants” which you will find below. To apply, you must fully complete and submit an online application via this website before the closing date. To learn more about this opportunity, please contact Margaret McCann who can be reached at or 0131 244 2623.

If you experience any difficulties accessing our website or completing the online application form, please contact The Resourcing Team on 0131 244 5739 or via

Further information for this job:

The post Vacancy: Offshore Chemical Risk Assessor – closing date 10 September appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Scotia and Carbon

Tue, 2019-08-13 10:00

The 1019S Scotia cruise (21–31 July) was a 10 day long oceanographic research cruise focusing on the role of carbon within the marine environment, primarily within the water column and marine sediments. I took part in this cruise in order to gather samples for use in my PhD research project from hot spot fishing grounds around Scotland.

Removing pore water from a core

There has long been research focusing on the influences of bottom trawlers on the biodiversity of seabed communities (e.g. how does trawling change what kind of marine species we can expect to find in an area); however a research gap remains in terms of understanding how long term carbon stores might be influenced. For my PhD research project, I am focusing on how bottom trawling and seabed disturbance might influence the amount of carbon that is stored within marine sediments.

Due to my research interests, I wanted to collect samples from areas which we know are active fishing grounds. The first stop on our cruise for my research was in the North Minch which is an active Nephrops fishing ground. I collected samples from two sites in this area. We deployed a CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) profiler, collected a grab sample, and deployed the multicorer. The multicorer was set up to allow for 4 short cores to be collected at a time. Of the multicores collected in the Minch at my sites, one core was sliced up and frozen for analysis back in the lab, while the other was taken into the ship lab where I could then remove the pore water (the water that makes the mud wet) for future analysis.

Multicorer out at the Fladen grounds

The other main area for my research was the Central Fladen fishing grounds out in the middle of the North Sea. Here, I had 4 main research sites – two in the north of the Fladen grounds and two in the south of the grounds. The sample sampling routine was done at these sites as was done in the Minch, with the exception of an extra core for pore water removal at each site.

Now that we are back on dry land, the real work begins! Over the next few months a lot of time will be spent in the labs processing and analysing my samples for my thesis.


by Kirsty Black


Further Information:

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Nephrops on the East Coast

Fri, 2019-08-09 10:00

MRV Alba na Mara Programme


Survey 1319A

Duration: 8-24 August 2019



  • To obtain estimates of the distribution and abundance of Nephrops burrows in the Firth of Forth and the Moray Firth using underwater camera.
  • To use the TV footage to record the occurrence of other benthic fauna and evidence of commercial trawling activity.
  • To collect trawl caught samples of Nephrops for comparison of reproductive condition and morphometrics in each of the different survey areas.
  • If time permits, deployments of the sledge followed by the drop frame will be carried out on the same ground to compare Nephrops burrow density estimates obtained by using the two different methods.



Where possible, a random stratified approach will be adopted to investigate Nephrops burrow density in different regions of the study areas.  A list of proposed stations for the survey will be made available to the ship prior to sailing.


  1. TV Observations: At each station a video camera mounted on the TV sledge will be towed across the seabed, into the tide and for approximately ten minutes at approximately one knot.  Nephrops burrow abundance, other benthic fauna and signs of anthropogenic activity will be recorded on to DVD.  Distance traveled by the sledge, the depth at which the sledge is at and camera height from the seabed will be monitored and recorded automatically.
  2. Trawling: Fishing trawls of approximately 60 minutes duration will be made within each sediment type and within each survey area.  A range of biological and morphometric data will be collected on Nephrops caught.
  3. Drop Frame: The drop frame will be used where conditions are not suitable for using the TV sledge, recording similar data as to that of the TV sledge.
  4. Comparative work: Following on from work carried on previous surveys, on known Nephrops grounds the sledge will be towed along parallel tracks approximately 200 m in length (ten minutes towing time) and 100 m apart.  Video footage and all observed data will be recorded as usual.  Following this, the drop frame will then be drifted across the same area at 90o to the sledge tracks.  The frequency of this operation will depend on the weather and available time.



TV work will normally take place during daylight hours.


There will be a requirement for trawling to take place in the evening.  On days where trawling will take place, work patterns will be arranged so not to exceed WTR recommendations.


It is proposed that work will initially commence in the Moray Firth and then the Firth of Forth.

The exact date of the half landing will be weather, location and work dependent.


Further Information:

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Scotia Amongst the Fjords

Mon, 2019-08-05 09:00

1019S Blue Carbon Loch Nevis

I was one of 11 scientists on-board the MRV Scotia seeking to better understand carbon dynamics in the sediments and water column around Scotland. My personal goal was to sample sea lochs (fjords) around the northern and western coast of Scotland. Fjords are globally recognised as hotspots for the burial and storage of organic carbon over long periods of time and provide a climate buffering service by locking away carbon; which might be converted to carbon dioxide (CO2) and released to the atmosphere compounding the global climate emergency.

The first stop for my research was Loch Eriboll the most Northern fjord on mainland Scotland to undertake follow-up sampling at sites sampled during a survey on-board the MRV Alba na Mara (Survey 1118A). Last year we collected a number of grab samples and short multi-cores (2m). In total we collected four gravity cores; which will be used to reconstruct regional carbon dynamics over the Holocene (the last 11,000 years).

The second phase of my sampling was focused on collecting seabed sediments from the fjords around Skye. We collected surface samples (day grabs) and short cores (multi-cores) from Loch Eishort, Loch Nevis, Loch Hourn and Loch Na Dal.

In total I collected: four gravity cores, three multi-cores and 41 grab samples from across four fjords adding to the sample set covering seven fjords from the Alba na Mara survey last year. 

Now it’s time to get back to the lab and start analysing a lot of mud.

By Craig Smeaton

Further Information:

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Productive Crossings – A Guest Blog

Fri, 2019-08-02 10:45

Marine Scotland Communications Team is hugely excited to tell you about a recent collaboration we’ve been involved with.  As part of a research residency, supported by Edinburgh Printmakers and Creative Scotland, internationally renowned artist Sonia Mehra Chawla has been including some visits to our Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen to assist in the research for her latest work.

The outcomes from the residencies and collaborations will inform a solo presentation by Sonia in Scotland in spring 2020, in partnership with the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Sonia has kindly agreed to guest blog for us during the collation period where she explores the overlying relationship between science and art and reflects on the accumulated material whilst relaying her hopes and aspirations for her forthcoming installation.  We hope you enjoy getting to know Sonia and learning more about her project.


Productive Crossings On Art and Science Collaborations and Never-ending Possibilities by Sonia Mehra Chawla

As a visual artist and researcher working at the intersection of art and science, society and nature, economy and environment, I believe that interdisciplinary collaborations between the arts and sciences have the potential to create knowledge, ideas, and processes that are valuable and beneficial to both fields and society.


 “Science and art sometimes touch one another, like two pieces of the jigsaw puzzle which is our human life, and that contact may be made across the borderline between the two respective domains.” M.C.Escher



While art forms celebrate scientific accomplishments and create new forms of scientific data, they also offer a platform for critique. Interdisciplinary collaborations and conversations help to re-envision and re-contextualize the familiar, creating interesting juxtapositions, as well as developing metaphors that can influence and alter the way we think about our own bodies, and our world. In addition, the beauty we encounter in scientific research celebrates life, cultivates curiosity, and incites an appetite for discovery, while probing essential questions about purpose and ethics and imagining both fantastic and terrifying futures.

As individuals and communities, we have an impact on the Earth.  Today, there is an increased awareness that some of the impact is detrimental to the Earth’s systems – this includes our marine environment.  The criticality of marine to life on land is increasingly being recognised.  However, the impact of anthropogenically-forced climate change on our ocean will have consequences for both the habitats and species in the ocean and for life on land.  It is critical that there is an increased awareness of the impact that humankind is having on the ocean and the effect that this will have on humankind.


Above: Details from ‘Universe-In -Details’, archival prints from the artists’ ‘Critical Membrane’ series on the endangered coastal and mangrove ecosystems of India.


The enquiry, the process, and the product/creation, are three core areas in which both artists and scientists overlap in collaborative projects and processes.

The idea of just asking a question through an altered lens is imperative. While working on projects, I sensed a large gap between the scientific and cultural worlds. I feel that more often than not, scientific data is inaccessible and absent from our daily culture, and the general public .

Art practice can be seen as a form of intellectual and imaginative inquiry, which has the ability to inspire discourses, to envision ideas, to make the intangible tangible, to introduce and insert the issues into our mainstream culture.  Critical dialogues around art and science are often animated with these engagements and encounters:  self/other, nature/society, individual/society, nature/culture, reason/intuition, economy/environment, biosocial/biopolitical, technology/future imaginaries, aesthetics/functionality & purpose.  


“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”  Albert Einstein



Both scientists and artists are proficient at looking for the unexpected and the unforeseen. Both celebrate what they describe. That is an exclusive and exceptional shared skill each brings to the problem-solving experience. I think the significant question is, how can artists and scientists come together in collaborations that will benefit everybody, including the public? How can they offer an innovative space that can help rethink current notions of progress? How can art-science collaborations help us to notice, observe and appreciate our entanglements and enmeshment with our world? When both artists and scientists take a moment to step back from their disciplinary niches, they can comprehend and appreciate many approaches to understanding and unfolding our human experience.

Further Information on the Artist:

Sonia Mehra Chawla has an interdisciplinary practice as an artist, photographer, and researcher. Her artistic practice explores notions of selfhood, nature, ecology, sustainability and conservation. Her work spans across a variety of media including: photography, fine art printmaking, video, installation and painting. She often works in collaboration with non-profit institutions and scientific institutions.

Sonia is the recipient of the British Council India and Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarship for Visual Arts. (2014-2015). She received the International Art and Science Grant Award from Khoj International Artists Association India, and Wellcome Trust UK/DBT India Alliance for 2017-18. She has participated in exhibitions and projects at the Institut Fur Auslansbeziehungen in Stuttgart (Institute For Foreign Cultural Relations Germany), British Council, New Delhi, India, Essl Museum of Contemporary Art, Austria, Yinchuan Museum of Contemporary Art, China, Tate Modern, London, UK, Today Art Museum, Beijing, China, CSMVS Museum, Mumbai, India, Goethe Institut, Mumbai, India, ET4U Contemporary Visual Art Projects, Denmark and 10 Chancery Lane Projects, Hong Kong.

She has recently been awarded a Fellowship and residency from the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Germany for the Art, Science and Business Program for 2019-20.  The artist lives and works in New Delhi, India.  Website:

Picture credits:

Installation view of Sonia Mehra Chawla’s video, ‘Altered Growth’, from ‘The (Un) Divided Mind’, International Art+ Science residency 2018, Khoj International Artists’ Association, New Delhi. Project support: International Art+ science Grant award 2018, Khoj + Wellcome Trust UK/ DBT India Alliance. (Department of Biotechnology, Government of India). Main Image credit: Khoj International Artists’ Association.

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Clicking with Marine Mammals

Wed, 2019-07-31 15:29

MRV Alba na Mara

Survey: 1219A

Duration: 25 July – 05 August 2019


Retrieve and deploy a series of acoustic release systems (22 subsurface moorings) with attached acoustic recording devices (22 C-POD, 7 sound recorder) as part of the ECOMMAS (East Coast Marine Mammal Acoustic Study), JOMOPANS (Joint Monitoring Programme for Ambient Noise North Sea) and SSE Seagreen projects (see Tables 1 and  2 and Figures 1 and  2).


Alba na Mara will sail from Fraserburgh on the morning of 25 July and make for the first mooring position. The ultimate order in which the moorings are retrieved and deployed will be dictated by the current weather forecast and the likely shelter that can be provided by the east coast. Accurate position records will be kept detailing where the moorings are eventually replaced as this may differ from the planned position. If all the moorings have been retrieved and deployed before the scheduled end of the trip Alba na Mara will head to Aberdeen Bay to allow scientific staff to retrieve moorings with VR2 salmon detectors between Ythan Estuary and Findon Ness. (See Figure 3)

1219A Table 1: ID, name and geographic position of 17 ECOMMAS and JOMOPANS moorings


1219A Table 2: ID, name and geographic position of five SSE Seagreen moorings to be retrieved and redeployed


1219A Figure 1: Locations of the ECOMMAS and JOMOPANS moorings to be retrieved and deployed


1219A Figure 2: Locations of the five SSE Seagreen moorings to be retrieved and deployed


1219A Figure 3: Locations of the Aberdeen Bay salmon detector moorings to be retrieved. Locations marked in blue are the outer array; the inner array are marked in red.


Further Information:

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Marine Scotland Contributes to International Publication on Ocean Acidification

Thu, 2019-07-25 12:47

Concern is growing globally about the impacts of ocean acidification (OA) on the marine environment. OA results from a change in the carbonate chemistry of the ocean making it more acidic, primarily as a result of the increased uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This increased acidity of seawater may negatively impact many marine organisms that live in it, including plankton, shellfish, fish larvae, seaweed and seagrasses, potentially affecting commercially exploited species.

There is a great concern about the potential impact of OA on calcifying plankton, microscopic organisms with outer skeletons made of calcium carbonate. Examples of calcifying plankton include the larval stages of many shellfish such as mussels and scallops, and pteropods, which are small marine snails commonly known as the “sea butterfly” (e.g. Limacina sp.). Increased seawater acidity would create more corrosive conditions that may dissolve their calcareous shells and make it harder to build them (figure 1).

Figure 1. Schematic of potential impacts of OA on marine organisms with outer skeletons containing calcium carbonate (left), and pteropod Limacina retroversa observed under light microscopy (right).

In recent years significant efforts have been made globally to monitor and research impacts of OA. Pteropods are thought to be especially vulnerable to OA. Their shell mineralogy (comprised of aragonite, a more soluble form of calcium carbonate) makes this group more sensitive to changes in the ocean chemistry. As a result of this sensitivity and wide distribution in the world’s oceans, pteropods have been suggested as a good proxy for assessing biological effects of OA.  The lack of scientific consensus on thresholds at which marine life respond to OA hinders our ability to interpret monitoring data and model outputs, as well as future projections on OA. Thresholds are also needed as the basis for regulatory decisions on ocean water quality management.

Dr Pablo Leon Diaz from Marine Scotland Science (MSS) was one of the international experts invited in September 2017 to participate in the workshop “Development of pteropod assessment endpoints for ocean acidification” (figure 2). Sponsored by the California Ocean Protection Council and hosted by the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP).  This unique workshop gathered OA experts from around the world to synthesize thresholds of pteropod vulnerability to OA in response to US west coast Governors request. Specifically, experts worked on developing biologically-relevant management thresholds that could help the US west coast states to interpret monitoring and modelling data.

The MSS contribution focused on natural variability associated to some of the suggested OA indicators (e.g. seawater aragonite content), based on the data gathered at the Scottish Coastal Observatory (SCObs) monitoring site at Stonehaven (NE coast of Scotland), which is one of the few sustained monitoring sites of OA and plankton in coastal waters in the NE Atlantic.

Figure 2. Attendees at the “Development of pteropod assessment endpoints for ocean acidification” workshop.

The workshop outputs have been recently published in Frontiers of Marine Science (Bednaršek et al., 2019). This paper presents a global literature review and identifies descriptors (shell dissolution and calcification, growth, egg development and survival) and thresholds for OA impact on pteropods. MSS has recently completed a study investigating the impact of OA on pteropods at the SCObs Stonehaven monitoring site which will be published in the near future. Work examining the impacts of OA on plankton in Scottish waters is ongoing.

Further Reading:

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Funded Student Internships in Offshore Renewable Energy

Wed, 2019-07-24 13:08

Are you a postgraduate student interested in a research project on the environmental impacts of offshore renewable energy on fish ecology and commercial fisheries, to help inform government priorities? Then this funded internship programme with Marine Scotland might just be for you!

Marine Scotland invites postgraduate students (Masters and PhD), registered with any UK academic institution, to apply for a 3-6 month funded internship and undertake a research project addressing knowledge gaps in the fields of offshore renewable energy, fish ecology and commercial fisheries. You can come up with your own research idea or get inspiration from project suggestions in the provided documentation. Your internship can take place anytime between September 2019 and February 2020, and you can be based in Marine Scotland Science offices in Aberdeen, at your host UK institution, or at an affiliated third-party organisation.

Offshore renewable energy developments have an important role in helping to tackle climate change by contributing to the Scottish Government’s ambitious emissions reduction and energy strategy. However, these developments also have the potential to impact the marine environment and marine activities in the seas around Scotland. To improve understanding and assess the environmental and socio-economic implications of offshore renewable developments, and in line with the precautionary principle, Marine Scotland has established the Scottish Marine Energy Research (ScotMER) programme. ScotMER is an initiative that involves collaboration from industry, environmental NGOs, Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies, and other interested stakeholders, to facilitate the sustainable development of offshore renewable energy in Scottish waters.

As part of ScotMER, Marine Scotland has worked closely with stakeholders to map out the research gaps in scientific knowledge when assessing the environmental and socio-economic impacts of offshore renewable developments. Seven specialist groups were created, each focussing on particular impact receptors, including the Fish and Fisheries Specialist Receptor Group (FFSRG). FFSRG is made up of experts and stakeholders and has worked together to produce an “evidence map” that outlines and prioritises knowledge gaps in fish ecology and fisheries. More information can be found here.

We are now inviting postgraduate student applicants to propose a project idea in the fields of offshore renewable energy, fish ecology and commercial fisheries, addressing one or more of the ScotMER evidence gaps by the 29th of August 2019.

You can find out more about the University of Aberdeen, the host institution, and apply for this opportunity here.

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Blue Carbon in the Marine Ecosystem

Tue, 2019-07-23 15:05
MRV Scotia

Survey: 1019S Programme

Duration: 22-31 July 2019

  1. Sediment sampling in the Moray Firth (grabs and cores).
  2. Sediment sampling along transect from Moray Firth to Fladen Ground (grabs and cores).
  3. Sediment sampling on the Fladen Ground (grabs and cores).
  4. Sediment sampling along transect from Fladen to Pentland Firth (grabs and cores).
  5. Gravity coring in Loch Eriboll.
  6. Sediment sampling in North Minch and Sound of Sleat (grabs and cores).
  7. Sediment sampling in sea lochs east of Skye (Lochs Nevis, Hourn and Alsh).
  8. Water sampling at each grab/core station and on transit (surface and bottom).

This survey will carry out research affiliated to Scotland’s Blue Carbon Forum, a research area with significant ministerial support and referenced in the 2017-18 Programme for Government. The current focus revolves around measuring the ability for various habitats to sequester carbon, understand how it is stored for the long term, and builds an evidence base on the effects that human activities may have on these processes.

The majority of the work is seabed sediment sampling using grabs and cores, in various habitats and regimes of anthropogenic disturbance (e.g. fishing grounds, sea lochs).

Once the vessel has departed Aberdeen and, after all vessel drills have been completed, the vessel will head for the first sampling location in the Moray Firth.

The order in which each sampling location will be collected will be agreed each day with the Captain, Fishing Master, and Scientist-in-Charge (SiC).

Sampling will be undertaken as per the objectives above and as weather dictates.

Pockmarks – University of Stirling. Regions in North Minch and south of Skye are in range of this survey.

(Pockmarks represent an important marker for sites of blue carbon and act as gateways for it to re-enter the carbon cycle. More information about Pockmarks can be found on this blog.)



Further Information:


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Vacancy: Fishery Officer (closing date – 20 August 2019)

Tue, 2019-07-23 13:24

We are currently seeking applications for Fishery Officers within Marine Scotland Compliance, based at various coastal locations in Scotland.  This is a permanent and pensionable appointment and new entrants will normally start on the minimum of the B1 pay range. Candidates with a disability who meet the criteria below will be invited to the interview.

You must:

  • Be able to demonstrate a sound understanding of the Scottish fishing industry, such as how the Scottish fleet is structured, Scotland’s key fisheries, how they are regulated and the key challenges that they are currently facing.
  • Have excellent organisational skills to manage a varied workload and to meet targets in a flexible manner so to progress tasks with minimal supervision.
  • Show an ability to communicate effectively to colleagues and to a wide range of stakeholders

The post can involve significant office based administration work and use of a broad range of IT applications, including Microsoft word, excel and outlook in addition to some bespoke IT applications.

In addition, due to the remote locations of landing ports a considerable amount of driving is involved therefore a full valid driving licence that enables the candidate to drive in the UK is required. However, the Scottish Government will consider proposals put forward by the applicant to carry out the duties by other means.

Applicants should note that this role includes carrying out visits to various types of establishments in all weather conditions.  a willingness to carry out these visits is a pre-requisite for the posts.

Further information

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Getting to know the Herring and Sprat

Fri, 2019-07-19 15:21
MRV Scotia

Survey: 0919S Programme

Duration: 27 June – 19 July 2019

Sampling Gear:
  • Midwater trawls PT160 x 3
  • Demersal trawl (BT237)
  • Scanmar trawl eye sensor
  • SIMRAD FS70 net sonde x 2
  • RBR-Concerto CTD with Dissolved Oxygen probe
  • Water sampler for collecting water samples from bottom of CTD dips
  • GoPro cameras x 2 with underwater housings and lights and frame
  • Conduct an acoustic survey to estimate the abundance and distribution of herring in the north western North Sea and north of Scotland between 58º30’-62ºN and from the shelf edge to 2ºE, excluding Faroese waters.
  • Obtain biological samples by trawling with pelagic and demersal trawl for echosounder trace identification.
  • Obtain samples of herring and sprat for biological analysis, including age, length, weight, sex, maturity and ichthyophonus infection throughout the survey area.
  • Collect samples and data for stock identity determination of herring. Photos and otoliths for morphometric stock ID analysis for herring caught west of 4 ºW; tissue samples for genetic analysis from herring throughout the survey area.
  • Use GoPro cameras mounted in the net and on a drop frame to further aid in species identification in the echogram scrutiny process.
  • Obtain hydrographic data for comparison with the horizontal and vertical distribution of herring and sprat.
  • Obtain dissolved oxygen vertical water column profiles for comparison with occurrence of prominent 38kHz scattering layer as part of Aberdeen University Hons student project.
  • Collect near sea bed dissolved oxygen measurements for Marine Scotland Science (MSS) monitoring programme.

The vessel will depart Aberdeen and make passage to Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands, where calibration of all echosounders will take place (approximately 8-12 hours at anchor).

Following calibration the vessel will go to the first transect to the east and follow a pattern of parallel transects running east/west, at normal steaming speed (10.5 knots), progressing northwards. The whole survey area is bounded by 58º30’-62ºN and 02ºE to the 200 m contour. Transect spacing is 15 nm. This may be adapted during the survey to maximize area coverage given the time available. The proposed survey design is shown in Figure 1.Transects-to-be-completed-by-Scotia-0919S

Acoustic data will be collected at four frequencies (18, 38, 120 and 200 kHz) between two and four times per day at any time between 03:00 and 23:00.  Fish shoals seen on the echosounder will be identified using either a pelagic (PT160) or demersal trawl (BT237) in consultation between fishing master and scientific staff.

Samples of all species caught will be measured for length to partition the echo integral amongst species and size classes for target strength functions. Individual herring, sprat and mackerel will also be weighed to establish a length-weight relationship. Otoliths will be collected from a sub-sample of the herring according to the following length stratified scheme to determine age:

  • two per 0.5 cm class below 22 cm;
  • five per 0.5 cm class from 22.5-27.5 cm; and
  • 10 per 0.5 cm class for 28.0 cm and above.

For each herring in the sub-sample the state of maturity, gonad weight, liver weight, whole and gutted weight, presence of food in the stomach as well as the presence of Icthyophonus infection will be recorded. The maturity scale used throughout the survey will be the Scottish eight-stage scale.

Genetic sampling of herring for stock discrimination purposes will be carried out on selected hauls throughout the survey area.

Where sprat is encountered five per 0.5cm length class will be sampled for age, weight, sex and maturity.

In the area west of 4ºW, in addition to the above, random sampling of 120 fish above 24 cm length will be carried out for each haul with photographs taken for morphometric stock identification analysis and a tissue sample taken for genetic analysis. Otoliths from these fish will, subsequent to aging, be made available for morphometric analysis. After photographing them, and where possible, these randomly sampled fish will make up part of the standard sampling for herring. Additional fish will be collected to ensure the relevant numbers of fish are collected per strata for acoustic data analysis.

A GoPro camera and underwater lights will be mounted in the trawl to aid species identification by delivering additional information on composition of the catch. A GoPro camera may also be deployed manually on a small drop frame to investigate the feasibility of using this technique to verify species composition of echosounder traces in untrawlable areas.

A vertical hydro dip to collect temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen measurements will be carried out immediately following trawls this is based on the requirement to achieve one station in each ICES rectangle.

Bottom water samples for calibrating salinity sensors will be collected using water sampler attached to the CTD wire and surface water samples will be collected from continuous flow tap in Fish house.  Water samples will also be collected separately for calibrating the dissolved oxygen probe at selected stations.


Further Information:


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